If you haven’t heard of Downton Abbey, you must know it was all the rage last year as the first season gathered 9.2 million viewers in England alone (and achieved success in the US as well when it was broadcast on PBS).
In a nutshell, the plot concerns the life of a landed family and its household in Edwardian England. Featuring amazing actors such as Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Penelope Wilton, the show had immediate appeal to my and my roommate back in Edmonton, as we were both Victorianists.
Critics have raved about the show; it snatched the title of most critically acclaimed show away from Mad Men.
As period dramas go, Downton Abbey is near perfect: gorgeous costumes, absolutely wonderful acting and beautiful writing. However, it has been criticized for being overly conservative and for celebrating passé British values such as imperialism, status quo and the old idea of “everyone in his place”. It does sanitize and beautiful a rather ugly period of history where the aristocracy was desperately trying to keep its ascendency over the new commerce and liberal classes. I admit that I see a lot of this; the big problems of the late Victorian period are sugar coated by putting the setting in the countryside instead of the city.
Last year, the show ended rather dramatically as England declares war on Germany to start the First World War. The first episode starts with scenes of the trenches in the midst of a battle.
Mary’s situation has worsened now as a marriage with Matthew, the heir to the Grantham estate, is out of the question. He shows up at Downton with his new fiancée, a lawyer’s daugther from London. Sybil decides to become a nurse and participate in the war efforts in an attempt to relieve her family of taking care of her financially.
There wasn’t much about Edith this week, except her usual bitchiness and her inept driving. There are new domestics and the usual upstairs-downstairs shenanigans. O’Brien is still the same old bitter lady’s maid hungry for power, even without Thomas who’s gone off to war.
I hope this year’s season keeps up with the quality television we had last year. I’ll keep up with the show and post reviews from time to time!