Thoughts on Downton Abbey: Season Two Premiere Review and Response

Yeah. I know. Me and Downton Abbey–I didn’t really see this one coming. But I’d read so many positive reviews from my friends, that I finally caved and watched Season One a week or so ago with Denisa. Even with all the good buzz, I wasn’t expecting to like it. I thought I’d just get over 15 minutes or so, and then be able to dismiss it.

We finished the season in about three days. (Granted, this is a British production, which means the seasons are significantly shorter, but still–we were hooked.) What was it about the show that kept me captivated? The characters, or course. It’s almost always the characters that keeps me watching more. In this series, you have a great contrast with the lives of the nobility and the servants who keep them running. (Plus, Denisa and I can have an endless conversation wondering what exactly the nobility *do* each day to pass the time. No wonder some of them scheme so much. There was no Netflix.)

Better yet, season two started last night, and PBS is one of the two channels our antenna picks up, so we could watch this one “live” along with the rest of the country. So. If you haven’t seen season one, you owe it to yourself to go and watch it now. You also should NOT read the rest of what I’m going to write now, because it won’t make any sense, and it’ll spoil some of the first season for you, and we don’t want that.

If you haven’t seen episode one of Season Two, you also would be better served watching it and then coming back to read my comments, since I’m assuming that readers have seen it. Okay? So SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen 2.1.

My thoughts:

I like the WWI developments. It’s a way to keep the show fresh and new–so that it avoids just going over the same old same old in a tiresome treadmill. Yes, I still care about whether Bates and Anna get together or not, but it’s good to have a bit of a mix up to start the season. Jumping forward two years was also a great idea (though I find it a tad strange that more hasn’t changed in some of the side plots in the intervening time–though I’m happy to just smother that nitpick and move on.)

Seeing Thomas figuratively soil himself in the trenches of WWI was great fun, though if he’d been shot in the head instead of the hand, I might be a bit happier. Getting him and O’Brien back in the same town is nothing but trouble. (Seriously–why in the world is Cora so blind to the fact that her maid is the spawn of Satan? The woman’s a witch across the board. Also, remind me why in the world the Crawleys would do something nice for Thomas, who proved himself to be a Grade A Weasel in Season One? I suppose it’s just the Crawleys being all nice and good, which is what (some of them) do best.)

I don’t like the new redheaded maid as much as I liked Gwen, the last redheaded maid (what was the job announcement like? WANTED: A cute red head to be our maid. Ideally, she should be like our last maid (have dreams at bettering her station in life), just not as likable.) Still, one tends to think they’re developing a good subplot where I’ll end up liking her despite myself. It’s interesting to me though that the two characters are so similar, and yet my response to both of them is quite different. All in the attitude of the character . . .

Molesley is a grimy, yucky, icky man who I no longer care for at all. Of course, I wasn’t crazy about him in the first season–it was more of a neutral feeling. But with the one two punch of his cowardice and trying to go for Anna so soon after Bates’ departure . . . not sure if he can regain his standing in my eyes. Which is too bad. I feel like the whole “I don’t want to go to war” subplot could have been better handled. By sticking it with the guy who viewers will hate for trying to take Anna from Bates, the producers don’t even seem to give it a fair shake when it comes to making a case.

I’m curious to see what dark nasty secrets Lavinia is trying to hide, but I have little doubt that Mary and Matthew will end up getting together, just like I believe Anna and Bates will end up married, at some point. Why? Because Downton Abbey has to have a Season Three, and to have that, they need to still have fans, and if they did something as awful as permanently separating either of these couples, there would be mass hysteria among their fan  base. (So maybe I’m too cynical. But tell me I’m wrong.)

And Mary dating a newspaper tycoon? The girl sometimes makes the most self-destructive life choices I can imagine. What’s her thought process? “I’ve got this huge, terrible secret, and if it ever gets out, my family and I could be ruined. Maybe I’ll date the guy who’ll want most to print it, just to give him the best chance at finding out.” Silly rabbit.

Anyway–that’s all I have time for today. I loved the premiere, and I’m looking forward to watching the rest. How about you? Are you still hooked? Or do you think I’m silly for caring about a British costume drama? Do tell . . .

6 Comments

  • By Anonymous, January 9, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

    I think you’re missing a “not” in the sentence about reading the rest of this post.
    TEC

  • By Bryce Moore, January 9, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

    Good catch. Fixed. 🙂

  • By Curtis, January 9, 2012 @ 9:12 pm

    Katie and I loved 2.1, and we pretty much agree with you all the way. I heard Elizabeth McGovern say on NPR yesterday that they start filming season three in March.

    Have you seen the BBC’s Sherlock? We are also huge fans of that series.

  • By Bryce Moore, January 11, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

    I have seen Sherlock. Awesome reinterpretation of the classic. And for your trivia this fine Wednesday, Watson is playing Bilbo in the Hobbit, and Sherlock is voicing Smaug, which I find highly amusing. And cool.

  • By Becky Green, February 13, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

    I watched season 1 over the weekend (not exactly sure how I found the time amidst LTUE) based on your recommendation, and I really enjoyed it. I was surprised by how much I liked it. I was worried that it’d feel like a long Jane Austen movie, but it didn’t. You’re right that the characters make the series. I’m going to have to figure out how I can watch the episodes of season 2 I’ve missed.

  • By Bryce Moore, February 13, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

    You’re in luck–the whole season is up for free streaming over at pbs:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/watch/index.html

    Glad you’re liking it!

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