Triumphant Return of Downton Abbey

Last night ITV’s drama series Downton Abbey returned to grace our screens. Series 1 ended last year with the announcement of WWI at Downton’s summer garden party. Series 2 begins two years later, at the Somme with gentle hero, and heir to Downton Abbey, Matthew Crawley in the trenches, longing for home.

Back at Downton, there had been many changes: poor old Carson had been left short-staffed, there was no Thomas to made snide remarks with Miss O’Brien, and a new housemaid, Ethel, had ideas above her station. It looked as if Anna and Batesy were going to get their happy ending when he proposed (sort of) and she accepted. But wait! Poor Bates and Anna may have to wait a while before they get to say ‘I do’ because here’s why: Bates’s estranged wife, Vera, showed up and blackmailed him – he could either return to her, abandoning Anna and Downton or she would go to the press with the Pamuk story and cause a scandal. Yep, the sleazy Turkish git has come back to haunt us all again. Excellent. Bates, being the noble martyr he is, agreed, leaving Anna in tears and Lord Grantham practically the same.

(Maria Doyle as Vera Bates)

Meanwhile, change had also come to the upstairs folk. Sybil decided to become a nurse, and so took cooking lessons with Mrs Patmore and Daisy so that she could learn to fend for herself. Chauffeur Branson declared his feelings for her when he dropped her off at the hospital. Sybil said she was flattered, but Branson replied, “flattered is the word posh people use when they’re about to say no.” So Branson left with his tail between his legs.

(Lady Sybil (right) at her cooking lesson)

It was inevitable, of course, that Mary and Matthew would meet again, and at a charity concert held at the Big House, they did. Matthew arrived with a fiancée, Lavinia, in tow. Ouch. It was clear that Mary still harboured strong feelings for him and there was an emotional railway station scene between them, as Mary tearfully sent him off to war with a lucky mascot (a small toy dog from her childhood) to keep him safe. I really hope it works out between them in the end. Lavinia, though nice enough, is rather bland and there’s really no spark between her and Matthew. But with Mary and Matthew? Well that’s another story completely: so much was unsaid in their conversations and it seemed that both of them longed to break the invisible barrier between them.

(Dan Stevens and Zoe Boyle as Matthew Crawley and Lavinia Swire)

Maggie Smith’s character, Violet, was much the same, although she and Isobel Crawley seemed to be on marginally better terms, as Violet now referred to her as ‘Cousin Isobel’, rather than ‘Mrs. Crawley’.

Back at the Front, we saw Thomas struggling as a stretcher bearer in the Medical Corps. Eventually, at the end of the episode, he cracked and held up his cigarette lighter above the trench so that his hand got shot. Although I loathed Thomas with a passion in the last series, I couldn’t help sympathising with his desperation to get away from the Front by any means. No doubt his plan is to get shipped home and either invalided out of the war, or transferred to a hospital in England to continue working in the Medical Corps. I think I could hazard a guess at his preferred option. I fully expect Thomas and Miss O’Brien to be partners in crime again soon…

General observations and predictions:

  • The costumes, once again, were gorgeous and I look forward to seeing how the fashions evolve over the series.
  • Mary (played by Michelle Dockery) seemed ‘softer’ so far this series – no doubt heartbreak Matthew-related knocked off some of her edges.
  • I sincerely doubt that all of the Downton men will survive the war, so the subject of who will die is open to much speculation. I hope it isn’t Matthew or William – especially now William and Daisy are finally an item (aww!) Still, I don’t think it’ll be Matthew, as Dan Stevens let it slip that he’s in the Christmas Special which is set in 1919. Go figure.
  • The trailer for next week’s episode shows Edith kissing a man who looks rather like a farm-hand, while a blonde woman looks on. I have a feeling that the man could possibly be the man whom Mrs. Crawley helped to cure from dropsy in series 1, as the woman watching looked like the man’s wife. If so, naughty Edith for getting involved with a married man!
  • I liked the juxtaposition of the frantic, violent trench scenes with the relative calm at the Big House, showing the massive contrast between the lives of the soldiers at the Front and those back home.

I thought the episode was an excellent start to the new series and I will be waiting on tenterhooks for each new episode over the course of the autumn.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brooke
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 22:59:57

    PBS cut out the part of Matthew holding his hat out of his window. That part was one of my favorite little moments in series two. I liked Mary much better in series two than I do now in series three.
    I have to say that I prefer the costumes in series one over the ones in series two and three. One exception is Mary’s gold and black? dress. I can’t remember if it was black or some other color. The burgundy one she wore at the ball is one of my favorites too.

    Reply

  2. qwertqwert
    Dec 04, 2012 @ 18:08:11

    zoe boyle is REALLY beautiful!!!

    Reply

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