Tag Archives: Downton Abbey series 2

Downton Abbey Season 2, episode 2 recap

Tensions ran high on Downton Abbey this week (but then, when do they not?).  The house is turned upside down as it is prepared as an officers’ convalescence home, leading to all sorts of trouble.

Mrs. Crawley overstepping her bounds.

Mrs. Crawley and Lady Cora butt heads over the running of the household and which rooms should be sectioned off for the convalescents.  We already knew Mrs. Crawley could be assertive, but she seems to forget her place here and the family has to remind her with some force.  O’Brien, who has become Cora’s protector after the bath tub debacle of last season, conspires with Thomas to make sure that Cora is put in charge of the household alongside Mrs. Crawley, much to the latter’s chagrin.  O’Brien also uses her pull over Cora to get Thomas assigned as the household manager, which Carson is none too happy about.

Sybil busies herself with setting up beds in the various grand rooms of the house, with Edith watching on, feeling she has no purpose and is only in the way.  Sybil gives her some kind advice which Edith takes to heart, telling her everyone has a purpose, she just needs to find hers.  Edith does so by making the newly arrived officers feel at home, getting to know them, and helping them write letters to loved ones.  She shows compassion (something I wasn’t sure Edith possessed), and many of the soldiers note this to General Stratt when comes to visit the house, garnering her recognition at the dinner given for the general that evening.  Mary’s face was priceless in this scene, though I’m not sure if it was envy that I saw, or once again that sensation of feeling somewhat out of place, not knowing what her role is exactly now that the war is here.

Sybil bears the brunt of Branson’s anger when the army rejects him due to a heart murmur and he cannot make the public protest he hoped for when he is called up.  Sybil does not understand the source of his anger and tells him as much.  Branson informs her his cousin was gunned down by an English soldier during the Easter Rising in Ireland (which took place in 1916).  Branson later comes up with a new way to make his voice heard, concocting a special “soup” for the general.  Carson, Mrs. Hughes and Anna stop him before he has a chance to spill the disgusting concoction over the top of the general’s head.  With such anger and conviction, this won’t likely be the last of Branson’s attempts to make his views known.

Anna has a glimmer of hope when she believes she sees Bates in the village.  Mary offers to help her find out about him using the services of Sir Richard.  As she explains to Anna, “he works in newspapers, a world of spies, tip offs, and private investigators.  I promise you he can find out whatever he likes.”  I’d say this offers some fairly significant foreshadowing as to what’s going to happen to Mary.  No doubt Sir Richard is going to find out about the Mr. Pamuk scandal and use it against her so that he does not lose her.  We see his power over Lavinia Swire; no doubt he could do the same to Mary.

Sir Richard does indeed find Mr. Bates’s whereabouts, and Anna goes to visit him.  Bates left his wife so the divorce proceedings can take place soon, and is confident he will be able to pay his wife more than any newspaper would for the story she has on Mary.  Why do I get the feeling it isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds?

Granny and Lady Mary have a chat about Matthew.

In the meantime Mary learns another interesting tidbit, this time about Lavinia Swire.  Her aunt learns that Lavinia gave information to Sir Richard which led to the Marconi scandal of 1912, and that the two were lovers.  Lavinia soon confesses the former to Mary, but insists that the two were never romantically attached and she only did it to save her father from financial ruin.  Mary tells her she believes her, and Lavinia informs her that Sir Richard “threatened to tell you all about it, but now I’ve done it anyway.”  I have two theories on this one: either Lavinia hasn’t told Mary the whole story and wanted to beat Richard to the punch so Mary would believe her over him, or this is an example of how Sir Richard uses the vast amount of gossip he can dredge up to control people.  But regardless, Mary does not say anything to Matthew about Lavinia’s secret, though she certainly could have used the story that her aunt had procured.  Again, we see that Mary’s former pettiness has been replaced with actual compassion, even towards a woman she could consider her rival.

Lavinia reveals her secret to Lady Mary.

Downstairs, Daisy’s in over her head, no thanks to Mrs. Patmore, who insists that she must accept William’s proposal before he goes overseas.  She tells Daisy she can go back on it when he returns home, and Daisy accepts against her better judgment.  Mrs. Patmore isn’t the only one who is trying to look out for William.  Lord Grantham asks Matthew if he will take William on as his servant, to which he agrees, but says he cannot guarantee his safety.

This episode also saw Lang’s mental state deteriorate further due to shell-shock.  He wakens the entire servants’ quarters with his screams during a vivid nightmare, and begins to break down when the general and the other officers leave Downton, afraid that they might send him back to the front.  Carson and Mrs. Hughes agree that he is not ready to come back to work, and Lang agrees.

The episode closes with Lord and Lady Grantham, who are still adjusting to the new role their house is playing.  Lord Grantham states one of my favorite lines so far: “The world was in a dream before the war.  But now it’s woken up and said goodbye to it, and so must we.”  He realizes that change is inevitable, and to continue fighting against it will do them nothing but harm.

It looks like the action heats up next week with a scandal involving Ethel, Branson asking Sybil to run away with him, and the news that Matthew is reported as missing after he returns to the front.

Missed the first episode?  Read my recap here.

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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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Downton Predictions

If you are a Downton fanatic like me, you are anxiously counting down the days to January 8, the premiere of Downton Abbey’s second season.  I’ve been good, I really have.  I’ve resisted the temptation to read the spoilers out there, which are incredibly easy to find given that the show’s already aired in the UK.  All I know is what the promotional material has given away.

So, here are the burning questions I have that I hope season 2 can answer, as well as some predictions.

Will Mary and Matthew reunite?

It all seemed wrapped up.  Mary and Matthew kiss, Matthew proposes, Mary accepts–perfect ending, right?  But then Mary hesitates thanks to her aunt’s meddling and her mother’s pregnancy announcement.  In her hesitation Matthew begins to doubt her reason for marrying him, and she ends up losing him.

Both Mary and Matthew are opinionated and headstrong, so I can’t see this relationship easily patched.  But I have a feeling we haven’t seen the end of their romance.  The war will undoubtedly bring about a sense of “carpe diem” that will make them put aside their past differences and remember what really matters is their feelings for each other.

Will we see a relationship develop between Branson and Sybil?

It certainly seemed to be going that way at the end of the first season.  The youngest Crawley daughter and the chauffeur both share similar progressive views, and Sybil does not have the same concern for rank and circumstance as her oldest sister.  However, I can’t see this going over too well with the Crawley clan, and some heavy consequences will come along with such a match for Sybil and for Branson as well.  As Mrs. Hughes warns him at the end of season 1: “Be careful my lad, or you’ll end up with no job and a broken heart.”

Who is going to die?

This season takes place during World War I, and given the high British death rate during the war (close to 20%, and that’s not including the wounded), one of the characters will likely die.  I don’t think it will be Matthew; he’s too important to the overall plot, though he’s likely to be injured (nearly 30% wounded rate for British troops during World War I).  So that leaves Thomas, and potentially William and Branson, if they sign up or are drafted.  Branson’s death would certainly cause an abrupt and tragic end to the possible romance with Sybil.  But I could also see William being the one to die, since he is so well-liked among the staff.  I don’t think it’ll be Thomas though, because well, he’s a bad guy, and everyone would be happy to see him go, and that’s not what Downton Abbey’s about.

Will the skeletons in Bates’s closet keep Anna away?

Ah, Bates.  Lord Grantham’s valet with a mysterious past.  We know from the previews that Bates’s wife is going to reappear, so it will be interesting to see if we get the full story.  And will it turn Anna away from him for good?

Will the sibling rivalry between Edith and Mary continue?

In season 1 we saw some pretty vicious vindictive behavior go down between sisters Mary and Edith.  Mary dashed Edith’s chance at a fine match, and Edith spilled the beans about Mary’s covered up affair, tarnishing her reputation.  Something tells me that with a war on, there won’t be as much time for plotting and scheming, but I will be interested to see if the two sisters call a truce or if there are still lingerings of the old rivalry that come into play.

What are your Downton Abbey season 2 predictions?

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