TV series review: Downton Abbey: Series 2 (2011)
Series one ended with a war being declared on Germany. Series two picks up with World War I. Sweet William (Thomas Howes), sneaky Thomas (Rob James-Collier) and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) go off to war, leaving Earl Robert (Hugh Bonneville) at home frustrated that he can’t join in too.
Downton Abbey is turned into a recovery hospital for wounded soldiers, and both Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) find ways of being useful. Sybil becomes a nurse, and her rebellious ways also means that she has the audacity to fall in love with the equally rebellious Irish driver, Branson (Allen Leech), who, unlike everyone else, definitely doesn’t want to go to war. At least not if he’s having to fight in the British Army.
There are other romances brewing. Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) finally do something about their mutual admiration, but trouble is brewing. Could it be that Mr Bates has a wife (Maria Doyle Kennedy) now living?
Matthew has found himself someone else, namely Lavinia Swire (Zoe Boyle), because Mary (Michelle Dockery) wouldn’t have him. Mary, in turn, finds herself betrothed to a newspaper magnate, Sir Richard Carlisle (Iain Glen), who might or might not decide to keep her secrets. Another one keeping secrets is kitchen maid Daisy (Sophie McShera), who ends up in a scheme that makes her deeply uncomfortable, poor thing.
Meanwhile, such new-fangled things as telephones happen to Downton, as well as maids (Amy Nuttall) having it off with convalescing officers, and to top it all off, once they all think they’re safe from the whole war business, Spanish Flu breaks out and threatens everyone.
Also starring Jim Carter as Carson, Phyllis Logan as Mrs Hughes, Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Lesley Nicol as Mrs Patmore, Siobhan Finneran as O’Brien, Penelope Wilton as Isobel Crawley, Robert Bathurst as Sir Anthony Strallan and Samantha Bond as Lady Rosamund Painswick.
The biggest criticism I’ve heard with regards to this series is that the pace is too high. It spans the whole of World War I, and it makes it a little hard to keep up at times. I wasn’t too bothered by it, because I was more interested in what was going on with the characters. Not all of them make it back from the war in one piece, shall we say?
Anna and Bates wanting to get together was great. Mrs Bates was very much like Mrs Melllors in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, from a “I ain’t gettin’ no stinkin’ divorce!” perspective. What a bitch! Sadly, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with sweet Mr Bates. I hope super sleuth Anna will help.
Matthew’s miraculous recovery was perhaps a little on the eye-rolling side, but it does pose some interesting questions for series three, especially if you take the Christmas special into account.
Sir Richard is another one of those characters that you wish were just round up and shot, for lack of a better term. Not a nice man. Then again, considering the actor’s participation in series 9 of Spooks, I’m not too surprised.
Daisy and her dilemma is one of the sweetest, yet saddest, plot points. I really feel for her, and you can really see how torn she is with her own conscience and “what’s right”. As a contrast, I had no sympathy at all for Edith to begin with, but as things developed, really came to care for her. Hopefully things will work out for her, but as far as I can remember, good things are moving in her direction.
For a show that spans several years, I think we do need to see a little more happening. The end of this series is six years after series one begins, and to keep up credibility, we need a bit more happening. Either that, or be less brutal with elapsing time. We’ll see how it goes. I just hope everything works out for the better.
5 out of 5 bottles of rat poison.