‘Downton Abbey,’ Series Two (2011). Review of the second series with Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, and Michelle Dockery. Text © Rissi JC

‘Downton Abbey,’ Series Two (2011)

January 16, 2012 13 Comments

Can you all believe that finally the long-awaited return of the Emmy winning Downton Abbey is back playing on our American screens? Knowing that the time frame for the second series, it didn’t take an astute observation to see that this series 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 the characters traverse and the lessons that bring them this far.  

For those who might not have seen series two, just now, there will be some minor spoilers herein.

Downton Abbey, Series Two (2011) ITV TV Show Review

The date is November 1916 and the world is locked in a horrible World War that changes the lives of those caught in it. Lives at the stately country house Downton Abbey are already affected. Heir apparent to the estate and title, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) is fighting with the rest of his fellow countryman. 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. After rejecting his marriage proposal, she soon realize Matthew wasn’t going to wait for her change of heart. Now, going months without seeing one another, the relationship between them is strained.

Current master of Downton, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonnville) isn’t happy in his latest role. He wants to be out fighting right next to the men on the front lines. His American wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) becomes overly distracted by the task of turning their home into a convalescent hospital, which drives Robert into another’s arms.

The youngest Crawley, Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) receives news daily that all of the young men in her acquaintance die on the battle field. This makes her feel that her purpose in life is idle. She’s restless to do something good. With the help of cousin Isabol (Penelope Wilton), she finds her place helping broken soldiers. All the while feelings for their revolutionary chauffer, Branson (Allan Leech) confuse her.

Life continues on the same until months later while home on leave, Matthew visits with his fiancée Lavinia (Zoe Boyle) in tow. Meanwhile William (Thomas Howes) is not allowed to join the fighting because his father forbids it; all while the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) helps back his father’s decision. Ever the perfectionist, Carson (Jim Carter) has had to make do with a much smaller staff. Away on leave following the death of his mother sees Bates (Brendan Coyle) return from London and a happy reunion with Anna (Joanne Froggatt). Their plans are interrupted when Bates has an unexpected visitor in the form of his wife Vera (Maria Doyle-Kennedy). With her, she brings the threat of blackmail to the Crawley household.

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It might not be the only thing to find at fault in series two, but before I can begin this collection of thoughts in earnest, one thing about this second series annoys me. And when I say that, I mean it annoys me: big time. I detest (for about… two episodes) Robert for his unfaithful behavior to his wife. Whether it is or isn’t physical matters not. At the very least he’s emotionally unfaithful. No matter how distant she became, it still gave him no cause. Prior to this, I found him probably the most likable character. What has been this series strengths is not just the merit its characters have but also each of their individual stories; their moral character. The way everything relates and comes off is impressive even without complicated love triangles cluttering up screen-time.

I have come to love how effortlessly the entire production comes together until it becomes like a group of dear friends. Apart from the revolving plots that sometimes seem as if they will never go anywhere productive, I’m curious about Sir. Richard (Iain Glen), Mary’s new love interest. Something that does surprise me is that I never do detest the man. He isn’t exactly my favorite person either but I never really hate him. All of the little things that combine to “make” Downton Abbey just prove why it is still being nominated for awards. I knew this series was popular but I think the impact of how popular struck me with this second series.

All of the cast save for the dreamer Gwen is back and even if a tad worse for the wear, they’re still spectacular. (And, yes, even the wicked Thomas is still around. Although how anyone could like him, I haven’t a clue! *shudders*) There seems to be a wonderful relationship between the Crawley sisters (subtle as it may be). Mary reaches a better place for which I’m extremely appreciative. She still has a regal demeanor and pride but she’s less horrid. But it wouldn’t be a typical season of Downton Abbey if Edith and Mary weren’t still at each other’s throats! And then if all of that weren’t enough, there is the newcomer, the evil Vera Bates. We also meet a new valet who, although past the age of drafting cannot handle the pressures of another war.

If the characters and stories aren’t enough of a draw, then the actors who bring them to life should be. Critics particularly seem to praise Michelle Dockery as the reason this series enjoys such success. I don’t entirely agree with this assessment. Everyone is worth their weight in gold while the nasty O’Brian is desperate to atone for a sin that is unforgivable. My mother and I spent six nights watching the nine episodes and fell a little bit more in love with this Downton Abbey, series two. When the last scene rolls in the exquisite 2-hour Christmas special. Still, I see its few mistakes (namely by not resolving the fate of a beloved character) but to hope that these installments would be as light-hearted as the first is unreasonable. Given the time frame, it’s only logical to assume changes would be aplenty. And they are.

At the end, this receives no lesser of a ranking than the first did with me. It was beautiful. The costuming is gorgeous, and a long expected ‘yes’ to a question fans will only be too pleased to finally see properly asked. I can hardly wait to discover what writers have in store for this family in series three – the roaring twenties at the Crawley household could either be very good or a disappointing letdown.

(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you to anyone who makes a purchase through these links. Read the disclosure page for details.)

You can purchases, digitally, Downton Abbey, series two on Amazon Video

Content: we see a married couple on their wedding night in bed; one girl kisses a married man, another still becomes pregnant out of wedlock. Implications tease an extra-marital affair. Battle scenes are few but there are a few that sees men shot [some of who are loved characters]; one man gets injured purposefully, another commits suicide after he is in recovery; one man is vehemently against the war.

About Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

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13 Comments

  • Charity January 17, 2012 at 12:38 am

    I enjoyed season two, but overall found it rather a disappointment; it is nowhere near as well-written as the first season, primarily because everything this go-around is so PREDICTABLE. I always knew where it was going and it never really surprised me. The total behavioral switch with Robert was particularly annoying and inconsistent with the first season. It was just… well, a letdown.

  • Rissi January 17, 2012 at 4:36 am

    I thought it was still marvelous! Perhaps some of the writing is predictable but honestly, to hope that the 2nd season was going to be the same would have been… unrealistic.

    Couldn't agree more with you about Robert – that was a real pity. I wish that hadn't been a factor because it degraded his character – and I was so fond of him beforehand. =)

    Anyway, overall, it was just as charming, just as lovely and just as wonderful as S1. Cannot wait to see what S3 brings!

  • Charity January 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I don't think it's unrealistic to expect the same caliber of writing in the second season as the first, particularly when most shows improve their writing in later seasons. All I was asking for is a little consistency and conclusions that I couldn't foresee six episodes ahead. =P

  • Rissi January 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Very true. No, it wasn't too much to hope that the writing might have been the same but to expect it to be as lighthearted was not logical.

    For me, I just enjoyed it so much that I didn't even think about it's predictability or knowing where a plot would go in advance – it was just simply charming. =)

    Love chatting with you, Charity – no matter our differing opinions. =)

  • Mia January 17, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Oh goodness, I'm almost unhealthily obsessed with this show. Finally, intelligent drama! I've been watching it on PBS, so I've only seen the first two episodes. I was wondering, where did you purchase season two? I've heard rumors about an "American" version going around that cuts out several hours, and if I did purchase it I definitely want to make sure I get the original, British one.

    Anyway, great review! I'm excited to see how this season unfolds.

  • Rissi January 18, 2012 at 1:23 am

    You and me both, Mia! I am definitely "obsessed" with this series – but I can also "deal" with the time away from it.

    I've purchased S1 from Amazon and have S2 on pre-order from Amazon. (A friend shared S2 with me.) As I recall, the first series is not cut – and Amazon claims that what they sell is the "original, unedited U.K." version. So… I am taking them at their word. =) That is who I'd use if you decided to order it – or the ITV/Masterpiece Theatre store sells it.

    Enjoy the rest of series two – it is brilliant, in my humble opinion. =)

    So glad you stopped in, Mia. =)

  • Trinka January 18, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Okay, I feel weird, but I don't really know what this is…all I know is that a lot of girls are obsessing over it…{oh, but not YOU, darling Rissi!} ;)
    From what you've written, though, it sounds interesting :)

  • Rissi January 19, 2012 at 4:17 am

    It's true: this show has a HUGE fanbase… and I'll admit, I am among them. =)

    It is beautiful and charming, so you should check it out sometime, Trinka – especially if you enjoy Jane Austen or Elizabeth Gaskell, or even Little Women. I will just say that S1 has more "issues" in the content than S2, so be on the look-out for that. =)

    So happy you are back to blogging and commenting, Trinka – you have been missed. =)

  • Anonymous January 21, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    I am watching season two on PBS but I have read the spoilers. I'm not a fan of surprises. lol I can enjoy it more when I know what's going to happen.

  • Rissi January 22, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Isn't it fabulous, Jen!? I thought it was perfectly wonderful.

    I love my spoilers, so it didn't matter to me whether or not I already knew "everything" in S2 before seeing it, but some people prefer to watch it without knowing a thing and enjoy watching it unfold in its own time. =)

  • Anonymous January 28, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Now I want to know some spoilers for season three. ;-)

  • Rissi January 30, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    I know – me, too! It will be awesome when they start coming out in news stories. =)

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