Downton Abbey 201

“War has a way of distinguishing between the things that matter and the things that don’t.” (Matthew)

Well, we’re back. The year is 1916 and we’re in the middle of the first World War. The stakes are high but still everything has its usual casual charm in Downton Abbey’s second season.

The first episode mainly acted as a set-up of most of the plotlines we’ll be seeing through the second season. Upstairs, there’s more marriage stuff. Downstairs, it’s the usual as well. Only now there are the trenches. Trenches, which serve a powerful purpose: to further shatter the whole upstairs-downstairs principle that runs through the series. Matthew said it perfectly to Thomas.

Speaking of Thomas, I was actually surprised to see him. It was obvious he was there, of course, but it took a moment to register whether it was truly him. A helmet and a severely creeped-out look on your face can do so much. I hope they can use the war to bring something good to the character. He’s obviously the weakest-willed of all of them and is in dire need of a positive light.

I like the idea that, even though a war is raging, life must go on. It’s like there’s a chasm running through everyone’s lives and they’re trying to make the most of it. Some of the characters are affected only marginally: Edith and Mary are still trying to come to terms with their love lives. Others want to be affected, but aren’t: William, Robert or Sybill come to mind. And some of them find themselves smack in the middle. It’s a nice dynamic I hope to see explored further throughout this season.

Thoughts and things

  • Gwen 2.0 – also known as Ethel – is a real piece of work. For the first time, I was on O’Brian’s side as she pulled her pranks. But I did end up liking her in the end, and her naivité suddenly started feeling more credible.
  • Bates’ wife is another real piece of work. Only I hated her more and more with every work she said. I liked how Bates felt like a different man next to her. Good scriptwriting right there.
  • Daisy feels a lot less stupid now. Which is a good thing. She and Sybill share a cute synergy – what a shame Sybill is out of Downton now.

In all…

What an exciting start to the second season. I’m surprised to see the hand camera, which was so present in the downstairs scenes, has been lifted. But that doesn’t ruin the fact that Downton Abbey is as strong as ever, with its wonderful characters, exciting plotlines and strange, British poetry running through. The war is used as realistically as possible while also serving as a dramatic backdrop. I want more!