Downton Abbey: Season Two (2011): Episodes One and Two


Finally, finally the return of Downton Abbey is back on our American screens. In the promotion of this second series of an Emmy-award winning series, it didn’t take an astute observation to recognize that this would take an altogether darker approach. Logic suggests this is because of a war but it also might have something to do with the changes for the characters. Be aware, many fond ramblings are ahead in this Downton Abbey Season two episode one recap.

Downton Abbey Season Two Episode One Recap

Downton Abbey: Season Two (2011) - Episodes One and Two. Gushing over Downton Abbey season two episode one. © Rissi JC

The date is November 1916 and the world is locked in a horrible war that is changing the lives of everyone, and not a soul is untouched. Lives at the stately country house Downton Abbey already feel the affects. Heir apparent, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) is fighting with the rest of his fellow countryman, and this leaves the woman whose heart he holds in a conflicted state. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) wouldn’t have ever suspected that she’d fall so hopelessly in love with cousin Matthew, the man she loathed for barging into their lives with a claim to the estate. After rejecting his marriage proposal, she soon realizes Matthew won’t wait for her change of heart. After months apart, the relationship between them is strained, and Mary hopes to move on.  

Current master of Downton, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonnville) isn’t happy in his latest role. He wants to be fighting next to the men on the front lines but instead has the courtesy title of colonel. Youngest daughter Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) finds her world shatters more each day as she receives news the young men of her acquaintance are dying in the war. This forces her to question her purpose, and with the help of cousin Isobel (Penelope Wilton), she inquires about a nursing position. Her American mother Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) begins to realize her girls are growing quite independent.

Life continues on in a similar way until some months later while home on leave, Matthew visits with his fiancée Lavinia (Zoe Boyle) in tow. Meanwhile William (Thomas Howes) struggles over not being able to fight; little does he know the matriarch of Downton, the Countess (Maggie Smith) plays a part in William’s rejection. Also returning from an absence is Bates (Brendan Coyle). His tender reunion with head housemaid Anna (Joanne Froggatt) is short-lived when Bates has an unexpected visitor in the form of his wife Vera (Maria Doyle-Kennedy). She brings with her threats of blackmail to the Crawley household.  

Downton Abbey S2, E1 Thoughts

Since I did read so much about this leading up to its debut, I’m somewhat surprised by the beautiful start the second series gets off to. There’s too many beautiful scenes and memories from the first hour to recount, so we’ll just jump right in, shall we? First things first is the characters, who are instrumental. Flaws or no, they are one of the most engaging cast’s ever! Creator Julian Fellowes creates each with a great deal of care while the actors who bring them to life seem to understand them on a personal level. Probably the two things that are integral in this episode (the premiere covers two episodes) is the series giving us THE reunion we most likely were waiting on. Secondly is the adorable relationship between Bates and Anna.

Mary and Matthew’s reunion is much less confrontational than I may have guessed. They’re civil, and even seem to find friendship in one of the most touching train station good-byes you’ll see. Mary is something of a horrid, selfish girl in series one but she’s softer now. She still maintains her proud demeanor, but she’s definitely come a long way. This is something I’ve a feeling that will only strengthen in future. Watching the lovely Anna and stalwart Bates talk of their dreams made me happier than I can say.

If I don’t mention a favorite character in my synopsis, never fear. Everyone is back, including Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes and Daisy; and Lady Edith played by Laura Carmichael. (And, yes, even the wicked Thomas is still around. Although I am not a fan of this dude. *shudders*) It’s also worth nothing that this wouldn’t be a typical installment of Downton Abbey if Edith and Mary weren’t still at each other’s throats. They are! I’m not a fan of the newcomer, Vera, but I do have to admit, Maria is an excellent actress who makes detesting her wonderful fun.

What’s best about this series is, not just the ensemble of these characters, but also each individual story. I have come to love how alike dear friends they come to be. One new face I do find myself curious about is Sir. Richard (Iain Glen), Mary’s new love interest (99% sure this won’t end well); we also get a good laugh at the expense of Ethel, the new maid, and her antics. But moving on from the characters, his wouldn’t be a proper review if I didn’t mention the costuming! Oh. My. Goodness. Is it ever lovely; the designers are at the top of their game with this production. By the time the “next time” preview ran and credits roll, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by new information. Instead the writers build easily off what still lingers from the finale the previous year. 

I already find each of my visits to Downton charming, and yet I was even more so this time around. The show doesn’t relay on cheap gimmicks (for the most part) to better things but rather the tenderness of a mother’s pride or the beauty that comes with realizing love. And that, my friends is the crowning achievement of Downton Abbey.

As most of you probably know, generally, I wait and review the series as a whole but the start to series two was so good, I couldn’t resist reviewing episode one. So, readers, I am asking you all: which would you prefer, rambling episodic reviews or a series two review in its entirety? Fill up the comments with your first impressions of Downton Abbey season two episode one recap. Or anything else that may be on your mind. 

Thank you for visiting Finding Wonderland

find us on social media: MeWe; Instagram; or Pinterest – and join the NEW reader group on MeWe!

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Maria really is a wonderful actress — she isn't used very much this season (unfortunately) but she does make a delicious villain! Even so, my liking for the actress made it hard for me to hate Mrs. Bates, particularly considering Bates gets himself into these messes in the first place by being such a pushover! ;)

  2. Rambling about it is amazing…..that is what friends of mine and I are doing on Facebook =) Even though we are watching it a second time. LOL

  3. Ruth – well, from one fellow "Downton" rambler to another let's keep up the loving rambling, then, shall we!? LOL. ;D

    Natalie – me, too! So far, it is just as I'd have hoped. Hopefully I'll get more of an idea if I am going to be disappointed in it or not when I see E3 tonight; so excited!!

    Charity – so far, I don't mind Maria… as a villain, mind you. Her character is not likable but I think the actress makes it a lot of fun to detest her.

    Bates is trying to do the upstanding thing and protect the people who mean the most to him, so thus far, I am not placing the blame on him (other than the fact that he should't have ever married her in the first place).

    Ella – well, if anything deserves this much credit and praise, it is Downton Abbey. It is a beautiful production. My mother loves it. I love it, and I am thinking one of these days I need to loan S1 to my aunt who still hasn't seen it – she doesn't know what she's been missing. =)

    Watching it a second time is still fun. I just re-watched S1 in December and had to ask myself: what took 'me' so long!? =D

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

Optimized by Optimole