Downton Abbey – Series Two, Episode 1 Review

*Contains spoilers*

So the beautiful, witty and emotional first series of Julian Fellowes’ latest offering left us at the brink of the First World War.  And where do we re-join the Downton inhabitants?  The Somme, 1916.

Two whole years later?  What schemes have hatched, what developments have been made?  Well, seemingly very few.  Thomas has indeed joined the medical corps, though finds himself infuriatingly on the front line.  The able-bodied young men have been shipped off to the trenches while Downton curiously houses an astonishingly high number of older or incapacitated young men.  Oh, and the kitchens now have electricity.

This is rather pleasant for us external voyeurs as we’ve barely missed a moment.  It’s like we’ve been brewing the longest ever cup of tea but are lucky enough to return from the kitchen before the end of the ad break (mind you, this is ITV).  So we return at the same time as Bates to delight in his wife’s reappearance and prospect of divorce.  We can share in Branson’s heartache as he tries for Lady Sybil’s affections.  And, frankly, we can be wracked with grief as we hear that Matthew has found himself a fiancée that is not Lady Mary.

The slight problem I have is that it seems all other life has been on hold just long enough for Matthew to have respectably found a second prospect while also fighting on the front line.  The bombshell can hit us (really not intending bad taste WWI puns) and the gentler stories can resume simultaneously.  Somehow it seems a little unlikely that Sybil would not have thought to join the hospital sooner or William and Molesley could pass so long undiscovered.

Now Mr Fellowes, should you come across these musings as you browse the internet, please don’t be angry!  I certainly don’t pretend to be an expert on the home front and bow to your superior knowledge.  As far as I’m concerned the acting was as impeccable and the writing as subtle as ever.  The heartache of Mary and Anna cut through me while the characteristic wit of Carson and the Dowager was uplifting.

I have hardly mentioned the enlistment dilemma because it’s too complex for my undeveloped morality – I just couldn’t pick a side if I tried and am happy not to have to.

If I had bothered with a Doctor Who blog I would end by counting the episodes that had passed where Rory remained alive.  In Downton that falls upon young Mr Crawley – Matthew 1, WWI 0!

Words by Claudia Rowe

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