Downton Abbey, Season 2 (2011)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Considered one of the most successful “darlings” in the history of television, the first season of Downton Abbey achieved international success and a worldwide following. Its second season includes the same likable (and some not so likable) characters, but in an entirely new world…
When last we left Downton, the house was in turmoil at the recent news that war has begun with Germany. Some time later, the inhabitants of the great old estate have seen their lives immensely changed. Robert (Hugh Bonneville) feels inadequate and wants greatly to once more go to battle rather than staying at home and raising the morale of the women, and his wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) is too distracted to take much notice of his melancholy mood. Each of his daughters have embarked on individual quests to be of some use: Mary (Michelle Dockery) is both pining and praying for her beloved Matthew (Dan Stevens) at the front, Edith (Laura Carmichael) is learning to drive a tractor (among other things), and Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) is hoping to become a nurse at the local hospital.
Downstairs, Carson (Jim Carter) is attempting to contend with a limited staff and even scarcer resources. Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) is confronted with the antics and perils of a brand new maid with ideas above her station, and the would-be-romance between Anna (Joan Froggatt) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) is put on temporary hold when his wife (Maria Doyle Kennedy) arrives with a startling proposition.
While each of the characters
confronts their fears and struggles to
find a way to fit into a world that is
altering all around them, the second
season powers forward with purpose and
sentimentality... although it does
sometimes stray into convenient clichés
and predictable outcomes.
One of the more remarkable things about it is
how this series manages to involve us so completely in the lives
of its many protagonists, whether we love or hate them,
find them irritating or are frustrated
with their bad choices. This season
finds a dramatic change in Lady Mary for
the better, makes us feel sorry for
Thomas (I never thought it possible!),
and invokes tears of both joy and sorrow
as each installment comes to a close.
The writing is sometimes magnificent and
sometimes subpar, its main problem in
moving too quickly through situations
(in some instances, I would have
advocated slowing down) and not
permitting the audience to really spend
much time on some of the romantic
relationships. It also on occasion
suffers from "telling" rather than
"showing," which is a shame. Some moments are very,
very good (such as
an attempted assassination, the return of a missing
soldier, and the final ten minutes of the finale) while others are
downright cringe-worthy – Mrs. Bates in
particular is too conveniently evil for
Our Rating: 3 out of 5
A woman offers to become a man's mistress; twice, we see unmarried couples in bed together. A man kisses a woman who isn't his wife several times and considers having an affair.
Mild abuses of deity and a few profanities.
Wartime scenes (a man is shot in the head, another in the hand; explosions go off and there are a number of badly injured soldiers wandering around Downton).
Drinking. The finale features characters playing with an Ouija board; a spirit speaks to them through it.