Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Downton Abbey: Season 2 Episode 1 Review

You know it’s autumn again when the ringing tones of Dame Maggie Smith are ringing out from the TV on a Sunday night. Yes, Downton is finally back on our TV’s – and oh my gosh have I missed it!

Yesterday saw the first episode of Season 2 grace our screens, and we’re two years after the announcement of war with Germany, and well and truly into the war.

I love that instead of going down the route of so many other war based dramas, Downton looks at the effect of war on those left behind, as well as those at the front. We see the frustration of Lord Grantham as he’s forced to the sidelines when he wants nothing more than to prove he’s still worth something in this war. William as he is forced to wait behind, his feeling of worthlessness of the first season compounded as once again he’s left to wait for the others to come home. The scene at the fundraiser where the women start to give out white feathers was truly heart breaking, and really highlighted the different attitudes of the men. Lord Grantham who isn’t given a feather, but feels as though he may as well have been, William who desperately wants to prove his worth, and Branson’s cavalier attitude that he’s already in uniform thanks.

There was a lot of love in this episode, to counter balance the tragic moments. Who cheered when Bates and Anna finally kissed and made up?? Things really were going far too well for them, so it was only a matter of time before everything went horribly wrong. Whilst I was expecting Mrs Bates to show up, I didn’t expect her to be quite so much of a pantomime villain. I’m hoping she fleshes out and gets better over time – because let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before the Bates’s are back in the picture again.
I have to admit, I am incredibly glad it was Mrs Hughes who was listening in rather than O’Brien – because given her track history of eavesdropping it seemed likely it might have been her. At least with Mrs Hughes we stand a chance of Bates being sorted out before the Mrs gets her claws too far into him.

None of the women of the household seem to really understand what’s happening to the world around them, they seem completely lost in the bubble of the world they’re used to. Edith is sort of going out there and learning how to drive, but the only one I really felt is coming to terms with the war is Sybil, who was fabulous to watch as she learnt with Mrs Patmore in the kitchens – in fact I think those were some of my favourite scenes – and eventually went off to nursing college. I’m so excited to see where her character goes this season, she has so much potential and room for development. And I really hope she doesn’t keep on brushing off Branson – he’s so sweet!

I’m not sold on this new maid yet – judgement will be reserved for at least another episode before I work out if I like her or not. She has potential given that final scene with Anna (who needs so many hugs right now it’s unreal.)
I’m also not completely sold on Lavinia, she seems altogether too sweet and nice to be convincing. Also the fact that she’s engaged to Matthew makes her immediately unlikeable as far as I’m concerned.

Matthew and Mary pretty much stole the show. I will freely admit I was nearly in tears throughout their entire goodbye on the platform. And the fact that he does take the dog with him for luck.

The scenes in the trenches were brilliantly done. Terrifying but brilliant. And Thomas! Ah for all his awful conniving ways, it was so good to see him! And again, he was so utterly broken it made me want to hug him and tell him everything would be ok.

All in all it was an action packed, brilliant first episode that leaves us with a ton of stuff to look forward to next week. 

Will the stress finally get to Carson? What will Newbie do just because O’Brien tells her to? Will Mrs Bates stop being a panto evil and actually grow a heart? How long before Thomas starts tormenting William back at Downton? And will the Dowager ever win one up on Isabelle Crawley? We’ll just have to wait until next Sunday…

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