Jun 17, 2016

[TV] Downton Abbey: Series 2

It's been quite a while since I had posted my review of the first season of Downton Abbey, and in an odd way it's because we enjoyed it so much. Give the series has such limited episodes, my partner Tobie and I tend to stretch things out a bit as we hope to make the most of our enjoyment of a show before the season, or worse the show, comes to an end. So there are those shows that we enjoy that we end up slow-watching to the point that we start to fall a few seasons behind in order to ensure we still have episodes "in the bank" so to speak.

Downton Abbey is one of those show for us, as if that wasn't obvious enough at this point in the review. We've only just gotten through season 3 of the show and it's only now that I'm trying to catch up with writing the reviews for these seasons.

By writing these reviews, I'm also reminded that we have the other seasons sitting on the shelf, waiting for us to return to Downton. And every time the experience is both glorious and heartbreaking and everything in-between.

Synopsis: Downton Abbey is a British-American period drama series created by Julian Fellowes. The multi-awarded series follows the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who support Downton Abbey.

The season begins with World War I on-going and many of the able-bodied men off to war. Matthew (Dan Stevens) is now an Army officer and the season begins with the promise of him being allowed to go home on leave soon. But part of his return home is announcing his engagement to Lavinia Swire (Zoe Boyle), which affects Mary (Michelle Dockery) given her own aspirations to explore a deeper relationship with Matthew.

Meanwhile the house is terribly short-handed with Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) away in London and even the annoying Thomas (Robert James-Collier) serving as a member of the Army Medical Corps. This leads to some interesting temporary hires at Downton as they do their best to manage things but in time things just have a way of coming back. A big arc in this season involves Mr. Bates and his deepening relationship with Anna (Joanne Froggatt) but also the fact that he remains married.

The War is practically a character in the series as well even though they didn't exactly depict a lot of scenes on the frontlines of battle. Instead we were made witness to how the rest of England dealt with the war and how the folks left at home either tried to help or adhered almost blindly to traditions of a proper society of sorts. And with an aristocratic family like the Crawleys, there's a lot of strange moments that continue one as they carry on with their normal lives as nobles despite the hardships of war well beyond Downton.

Mary and Matthew's complex relationship given Matthew's engagement is your classic silent love triangle of sorts. And the silence of a sort is only there because of the aristocratic need to maintain appearances, follow decorum and favor image above all else. A lot of times you'll want to bash their heads together and somehow will the two to be together and yet because this is Downton, then decorum and the demands of nobility will win out. It's all frustratingly brilliant.

And that's really how Downton Abbey flows more than anything else - it's the virtual tug-of-war between personal goals and duty or the demands of their carefully ordered society and their wants and needs and all that fun stuff. And the colorful family of the Crawleys together with their domestic servants. Everyone is oddly dedicated their their lot in life and yet also eager to see beyond it even if only for a moment.

One thing I will note is how the show is pretty much defined by an odd balance between celebration and tragedy to an almost chilling degree that I've largely come to dread the final episode of any series or even worse - the Christmas specials! But hey, it also goes to show that the human condition is certainly a mixed experience and one that is full of both happiness and loss.

Downton Abbey almost feels like a guilty pleasure at times since as much as it seems to be quite the dignified period piece, it often feels like a telenovela or something similar. It's hard not to get involved in the lives of these characters whether or not you actually come to feel for or even love any of them. Thus the second series gets a good 4 odd plots involving Thomas out of a possible 5.

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