I was on a waiting list for quite a while before it was my turn to check out the DVD’s for Season 2 of Downton Abbey from the library. It was worth the wait. A day flies by when you spend it with the Crawleys and their downstairs staff. Season2 was even more delicious than Season 1 because now I know all the characters and I am caught up in their lives and their interactions with each other. Lord Grantham married Cora, an American, for her fortune. They usually get along quite well but the First World War has upset Mr. Crawley (Lord Grantham) who wants life to return to the way it was before the war, but who can sense that it probably will not. He’s trying denial, but he keeps getting hit over the head with new realities. The three Crawley daughters; Mary, Edith and Sybil are better at dealing with the war than their father. Sybil trains as a nurse and works in the hospital with cousin Matthew’s mother, her Aunt Isabel. Matthew, who is the heir to Downton Abbey, is away at war. The manor is converted to a convalescent home for soldiers who don’t need to be hospitalized, but who are not ready to go home. Mr. Crawley is not happy to see Downton Abbey repurposed. Mary, the oldest Crawley daughter, who loves Matthew but who turned him down before she realized how she felt, is planning to marry, horror of horrors, a capitalist, Richard Carlisle. Sybil is in love with the Irish chauffer, which daddy would never have accepted before the war. Will he accept it now?
Downstairs, war has affected the staff by taking away all the young men who served as footmen and valets. Servants have to pinch hit for each other and do jobs they were not hired for. Again Mr. Crawford finds this frustrating and looks forward to restoring the standards at Downton Abbey when the war ends. Thomas and O’Brien, the two baddies among the servants have calmed their shenanigans down a bit, but they haven’t given up. That O’Brien is definitely a piece of work. Cook has a hard time making great meals because of rationing and she bullies her young assistant Daisy into a relationship with another servant, William, then she persuades Daisy to marry the dying young servant turned soldier, William so he will not die unloved and so Daisy will get his soldier’s pension. Anna and Bates are still very much in love, but the terrible two, Thomas and O’Brien, have located Bates’ wife, who is a nasty woman, and who promises to cause lots of trouble for Bates and Anna. Things go so wrong for Bates that, just after marrying Anna, he is convicted of the murder of his wife and hauled off to jail.
Cousin Matthew is returned home to the Downton Abbey hospital when he is wounded by an explosion. He has a spinal cord injury and he may never walk again. He is seeing a woman named Lavinia who nurses him and agrees to marry him although she knows they will never have a normal life. When Matthew learns that he will walk again he begins to get back in touch with his old feelings for Mary. Someone’s heart will be broken or worse. We almost lose several people to the Spanish flu and we join the Crawley’s for a very eventful Christmas.
War seems to always wreak havoc on social hierarchies and that is certainly the case in this wonderful Masterpiece Theater series. There is a certain snobbery in Lord Grantham and his family that is getting gradually ground away by the upheaval of wartime and their emotional connection with the servants who have become a part of their family. We can see that this way of life is coming to an end, not yet, but soon, and we are there at the exact time that these social changes begin. Even Mr. Crawley is beginning to see the writing on the wall. Onward to Season 3! Will this be the last season or will Downton Abbey last as long as there is another season to be aired on TV? History doesn’t leave room for many more seasons I’m afraid.
If you’re really a Downton Abbey fan you might enjoy going out to the newsstand to buy the January 21stedition of the New Yorker. On page 32 you will find the feature column called Shouts and Murmurs. The guest writer for January 21 is Billy Kimball who calls his article “Our Own Private Downton Abbey”. This is a very funny article but you can’t see it on-line unless you pay a fee because it is a locked article. A single copy of the magazine would probably be less expensive. Here’s a little taste of Mr. Kimball’s confection:
Are we ready for the new season of “Downton Abbey”, you ask? Well, here at Ranch House, we have been polishing the stainless steel and Swiffering around Ikea heirlooms since Boxing Day.
So much has happened here since the end of last season. So much and yet so little. In many ways life at Ranch House continues as it always has, with the leisure class pursuing leisurely activities. In one room, you might find my young son and heir playing with model cars handcrafted for him in far-off China and shipped all the way to Los Angeles at what must surely be vast expense. Nothing but the best for my little boy!
In another room, you might come across my daughter watching television, just like her mother and grandmother before her. Often, in fact, they’ll all be watching it together. What are they watching? Well that would be up to Her Ladyship, the Countess. Ranch House is by no means a democracy (hideous word!) My wife sees it as her primary responsibility in life to find a suitable match for our daughter, especially when it come to choosing television programming.
Speaking of suitable matches, my eldest daughter, Lady Sienna, is now eighteen and ready to be married and to start a household of her own. We have been scouring Debrett’s and the Almanach de Gotha and prepared lists for her of potential beaux whose rank either equals or, in certain rare cases, exceeds our own and whose family fortunes have not been depleted over the generations. I don’t mind saying that a husband with a decent income would not be unwelcome, if only to assist us with the upkeep of our magnificent home.