Tag Archives: Downton Abbey season 2 review

Downton Abbey Season 2, ep. 4 recap

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Last night Downton Abbey did not end with a cheery song and the return of an unscathed missing man.  Instead viewers were hit with one piece of depressing news after another.  This was the darkest episode yet (except for a few light spots with the Dowager Countess, such as when she calls the telephone an instrument of torture.  Oh Granny).

Two of my Downton Predictions proved accurate in this episode.  During the battle of Amiens (which was the beginning of the end of the war and was a major success for the Allied forces), Matthew and William are wounded by a nearby shell explosion.  William sustains a serious lung injury that will slowly kill him, while Matthew’s injury leads the doctor to suggest that he will never walk again, and will never have a “proper marriage.”  Now the future of the entail is called into question again, as well as Matthew’s engagement to Lavinia.  He tells her to leave, refusing to tie her down to a cripple who won’t be able to give her any children.

Lavinia pours her heart out to Lady Mary, then promptly departs for London, leaving Mary to care for Matthew.  Given Lavinia’s meek and mild nature, someone with Mary’s strong resolve is probably what Matthew needs (and of course I’m rooting for them to reunite).  Mary devotes herself to Matthew’s care, and seems to finally have found her place among all the change occurring around her from the war.

But Mary has other problems to tend to.  Vera Bates returns (thanks to O’Brien) and has every intention of revealing Mary’s secret, and plans to bring Anna down along with the Crawley name.  Anna tells Mary, who goes to see Sir Richard about the matter.  You know you’ve made a mistake in your choice of fiancee when he says he’s happy to help, but it also pleases him to know that he’ll have something on you and you’ll be in his debt.  As we can see from next week’s preview, it looks like Sir Richard plans to play the “Pamuk card” to get what he wants.

Mrs. Bates is paid off by Sir Richard, who then promptly announces his engagement to Mary (again, not a good sign, given that Mary had no knowledge that he would do so).  This news infuriates Vera, and she swears that she will get Bates back another way.  This woman is on an entirely different level than O’Brien and Thomas in her one-dimensional vendetta against Bates and Anna.  O’Brien and Thomas can be nasty, but who knows to what lengths Vera will go to get back at Bates.

Meanwhile William is dying at Downton (after a few strings are pulled by Lady Violet to get him there) in the largest bedroom he’s ever slept in.  Daisy is basically peer-pressured into marrying William in order to receive a widow’s pension.  You can’t help but feel badly for her, and I know the guilt is going to eat away at her as that pension starts coming in.  The marriage, quickly followed by the death of William, left us reaching for the tissues (if Lady Violet is allowed to shed a tear, so are we!).

There were a few odds and ends tucked in throughout the episode.  Lady Edith quietly nurses William, keeping him comfortable during the final days of his life.  A  few short scenes between Lady Sybil and Branson show that he seems to be chipping away at the barrier she’s put between them (really, this relationship grows creepier each week, like Sybil is some sort of trophy that Branson’s trying to win).

Lord Grantham is being ignored by Lady Grantham, who is busy running the convalescent home, and like some sort of spoiled child he pouts with his newspaper, and then takes an all-too keen interest in the new maid (did anyone else notice that lingering look he gave after she left the room?).  Mrs. Hughes has been looking out for Ethel and her illegitimate child, who the father wants nothing to do with (is it just me or does this thread fall somewhat flat–I didn’t have enough time with Ethel to become emotionally invested in her).  And Isobel Crawley returns at last, and the look Matthew gives her before breaking down when he sees her was enough to make me bring out the tissues again.

So what next?  Nothing was resolved in this episode, and it looks like several story arcs are getting ready to hit their critical peaks.

What did you think of this week’s episode?

Miss any of the other episodes?  See my episode 1, episode 2, and episode 3 recaps.

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Downton Abbey 2, Episode 1 recap

Mary, left behind to wait

I, along with millions of others, tuned into PBS last night with great anticipation, ready for the new season of Downton Abbey.  And I’m happy to report it did not disappoint!  The first episode flew by at a fast clip, almost too fast at times.  I was still digesting what I’d learned in one scene when it darted to the next.  But the episode did an excellent job of setting up numerous plots I look forward to following in the coming weeks’ episodes.

Warning: Spoilers below

Matthew during the Somme Offensive

The first episode begins at the Somme in 1916.  The Somme Offensive was launched by Britain and France on July 1, and did not end until mid-November of that year.  A total of 6 miles of ground were gained from the Germans, at a cost of approximately 420,000 British casualties, 200,000 French, and 500,000 German.  This is where we find Matthew Crawley, covered in mud, surrounded by death and destruction.  Inside a trench bunker that is constantly shaken by exploding shells, Matthew states that when he thinks of his time at Downton, it seems like another world.

This set the tone for the episode.  The world we came to know in season 1 is slowly crumbling under the weight of the war.  Some members of the household staff are coping with the change better than others.  Carson is determined to keep up the superior standards he sets for running the house, even though he is losing footmen right and left and Mr. Bates is replaced by a valet suffering from shell shock.  Mrs. Hughes attempts to make him see reason, that things must change because there’s a war on, but Carson fights it so fiercely he is forced to take bed rest after he collapses in the dining room.

A new face arrives at Downton

The atmosphere among the other staff members has certainly changed since the first season.  Anna and Mr. Bates are briefly happy until his wife returns, bringing with her the secret of the infamous scandal involving Lady Mary and the late Mr. Pamuk, using it as leverage to take Bates away from Downton.  Ethel, the new housemaid, has an air of headstrong confidence and big dreams for a life beyond service.  O’Brien, without her partner in crime Thomas, works on her own to put Ethel in her place.

Edith puts her new driving skills to use

The same sort of conflict over change takes place upstairs among the Crawleys.  Ladies Edith and Sybil jump at the chance to do real work for the first time in their lives.  Edith volunteers to drive a tractor on a nearby farm, and Sybil becomes a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse.  Meanwhile Mary carries on much as she did before, enjoying the society of London and inviting one of the men she met while visiting there to Downton.  When Edith discusses her work and Sybil is packing to attend her nursing courses,  we see Mary off to one side, feeling out of place in this transforming world.  Her sisters are moving forward, and she is getting left behind.

Sybil doing her part in the war effort

Amidst all this change, we still have quite a bit of character drama.  It’s been two years since Mary and Matthew last saw one another when they reunite at the beginning of the episode.  Despite the concern of their family, the two (surprisingly quickly) put the past behind them, and Mary is nothing but gracious towards Matthew’s fiancee, Lavinia Swire.  The war seems to have subdued her to some degree, and the pettiness that we saw in the first season isn’t there anymore.

Mary gives Matthew her good luck charm before he returns to the front.

Mary is currently preoccupied by the pursuit of Sir Richard Carlisle, a “self made man” in the newspaper business, who I can only assume will bring trouble to the family.  Something tells me he’s going to find out about Mary’s dirty little secret.  And what does he know about Lavinia Swire?

Mary's old and new love interests meet

Meanwhile  Branson declares his love for Sybil, which isn’t exactly reciprocated, and Edith kisses the married farmer she’s been helping.  Downstairs, Anna nurses a broken heart after Mr. Bates’s departure, while Daisy unintentionally loans hers to William before he goes off to France.

I greatly enjoyed the first episode and was intrigued by the changes many of the characters have undergone since we last saw them (Thomas for instance–I actually feel a bit of pity for him, something I never thought I’d have).  The war penetrates every corner of their lives, so one can only expect that it will leave its mark on their outlooks.  The new season looks like it will not disappoint in the area of plot twists either (again, I want to know what Carlisle has on Lavinia!  And Ethel’s bound to get herself in trouble with her headstrong attitude, right?).  This is a very different Downton than the one we visited before, and it has captured my fascination once again.

Next week the casualties of war come to Downton Abbey, which has been volunteered as a convalescent home (despite the Dowager Countess’s protests).

What did you think of the first episode of the new season?

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