Downton Abbey: Series Blog

By Biondino

The best thing since sliced bread. Er, not that they slice bread of course: they have servants for that sort of thing.

So, Downton Abbey, eh? Marvellous. With its high budget dwarfed by the boost it gives ITV’s share price, we’re going to see a lot of this programme (the Christmas special, set in 1919, is in the works), and series 2 is already showing the kind of warm fidelity to the theme that makes Sunday nights all homely and nostalgic instead of the chilly harbingers of doom we all, deep down, know they truly are.

Last week’s 90-minute leadoff episode, set halfway through WWI, can be swiftly glossed over because, er, I wasn’t around to review it. But everything is recognisable. Who am I kidding, it’s a clone of the previous series, with the war providing a ready-made plot that allows darling Lord Sir Julian to indulge in whims, follies and, dare I say, fripperies while not really telling a story, as such.

The household is essentially the same. A new maid who’ll presumably be given a sub-plot or two (a mouthy dreamer who feels menial drudgery is below her, but apart from that we have nothing in common), and new romances for Lady Mary and Matthew. Matthew, a twinkle-eyed VC-in-waiting, has advanced so far into Mr Right territory he’d make Norman Tebbit blush, but he’s chosen a slip of a fiancée who’s being set up as Downton’s whipping girl. Mary’s gone the other way, courting a man so odious he could only be cast as a gutter press baron. Art imitating life etc.

And in her own way, she’s symbolising the theme of series 2. While series 1 made us deal with a lawyer, of all people, becoming heir to Downton, series 2 is about the rise of the common man. Since half of the common men, Matthew and the exiled Thomas among them, are at the front, the lack of workers back home means toffs and – I can hardly spit it out – women are doing the work of the serving man. Hilarity ensues!

Not everyone can serve king and country, of course, and Lord Grantham’s frustration at the lack of opportunity to be eviscerated in the face by mustard-flavoured shrapnel is demonstrated by his slightly alarming (or arousing, if that’s your bag) uniform fetish. One of the highlights of the series will be seeing what outfit he’s sporting each week – beefeater, maybe? Swiss guard? Was there a soldier in the Village People?

At least the patriarch is secure in his relationship. Everyone else is either struck by the fancies of spring, or the fear that the war will put an end to honest British lovemaking forever. Above stairs, it’s every daughter for herself;  Lady Mary doesn’t actually seem to either like or touch Piers Morgan, but they are at least an item. Lady Sybil is too busy having Sociopolitical Feelings to engage in any saucy gearstick manipulation with her lovelorn chauffeur chum; so  it’s up to Lady Edith, who enthusiastically tups a doughty yeoman farmer in his hayloft. I didn’t know she had it, as they say, in her.

Below stairs, Anna and Bates continue to personify tragic love. I feel like a bad man even suggesting this, but other than being impossibly upstanding, what exactly is it about Bates that heats up the underskirts? Because I’ve always cultivated a mixture of feckless and creepy and I need to know if I’m missing a trick.

Unusual casting decision of the week: Samantha Bond. Shoehorned into ep 2 as everytoff,  we’re supposed to warm to her. Didn’t they realise they cast Samantha Bond? Meow.

Personality exaggeration of the week: Lady Grantham’s simpering has reached dangerously unstable levels. If they could weaponise her, Kaiser Bill wouldn’t stand a chance.

Morally dubious plot strand of the week: Thomas is gay. Which is fine. But whenever he pursue this avenue – which, non-coincidentally, is the only time he can be “good” – the gods of narrative crap on him from a great height. Admittedly, his choice of men – rampantly hetero Turk, suicidal blind posho – haven’t helped. But it would be nice if being gay didn’t automatically make him the victim. I’m getting an uncomfortable flashback to my film degree here.

Claire Rayner of the week: Carson the Butler, who suffers a collapse in the dining room (Lady Edith’s dress was simply RUINED) and then, while convalescing, doesn’t just abandon etiquette, but stuffs it in a sack, fills it with rocks and chucks it in the river. “Lady Mary, if you love Matthew you must tell him”. Well yes, but there are six more episodes to go first!

And so the second episode disappears into the night, leaving us all expositioned out. Hopefully by now the scene has been sufficiently set and Sunday will bring DRAGONS and JETSKIS and LESBIANS.

God save the king!

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

5 Responses to Downton Abbey: Series Blog

  1. It’s Bond, Samantha Bond.

    Not moon-faced Samantha Morton.

  2. I get Hugh Bonneville and Laika, the first dog in space confused. So future Downton posts could get a bit messy!

  3. jscottu says:

    4 more days until the beginning of Season 2 (here in Indianapolis). Can’t wait. O’Brien is a tragic figure.

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