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Customer Review

210 of 233 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "War makes early risers of us all.", November 7, 2011
This review is from: Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey Season 2 (Original U.K. Edition) (DVD)
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 my taste.

Season two has taken a lot of heat from critics and audiences alike for its predictable storylines and rampant clichés. Much of this criticism is deserved, since while some of the character development is believable (such as the transformations of Mary and Edith) other departures are completely unexpected and unlikely. The series hits all the right emotional notes but doesn't quite have the spark of its predecessor. Gone are all the wonderful conversations and moments that were used to build character and humor and forthright plot-driven exposition is in its place. Even so, there are some terrific one-liners from Maggie Smith and the happy ending to one couple's crisis is more than enough to redeem any of its mistakes.
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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 4, 2011, 11:26:57 AM PST
jcp says:
Thanks for the update Charity! I watched the entire 1st season when I took a sick day. I really got "sucked" in to the series & was somewhat upset when it ended with so many cliffhanger storylines. I am happy to find out that there is a second season & look forward to February when I can get the second season on DVD.

Posted on Dec 20, 2011, 3:09:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 1, 2012, 5:29:26 PM PST
Le Stryge says:
Charity, I agree with your comments regarding the cliches and the utter predictability of the storyline. Fellowes is NOT the most creative of writers, and you always feel as if you are about three pages ahead of the script. And yes, .....you're right. It's NOT as good as season one.
You rate it a four, ....I thought only a three. I played a game during this series, writing down my own anticipation of the script of each show. Now I'm no clairvoyant, but I was correct nine times out of ten, so that's some indication of its predictability.
The whole narrative does seem Downton bound, ......never really going far from "The House", ...but then it IS called "Downton Abbey".
Again I agree that Fellowes really only writes character "types", rather than fully formed three dimensional entities. The evil grasping wife; the devious footman; the resentful ladies maid; the naive kitchen girl; the heart of gold cook; the dinosaur dowager; the upper class stalwart, the old faithful retainer and the breakaway suffragette etc.
I watched the deleted scenes in my edition and some of them explained quite a lot more. Why they were removed is a bit of a mystery.

Posted on Jan 1, 2012, 5:10:40 PM PST
Cricket says:
I appreciate Charity's sense of detail, but after reading her review, I can almost tell the story myself. Downton is a fantastic drama and I want to enjoy Season 2 without so much information.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 1, 2012, 5:32:10 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 1, 2012, 5:37:58 PM PST
Le Stryge says:
That's probably NOT so much a fault of Charity's most excellent precis, .....it most likely has far more to do with Fellowes' almost total lack of innovation or originality in his storytelling. You always get the impression he's just cobbling together previous existing plotlines he's seen elsewhere rather that creatively writing anything original.
Having seen series one, you yourself could probably map out a quick predictive scenario of series two and it wouldn't be all that far from what actually happens.
I'm afraid the word cliche does come to mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2012, 2:39:41 PM PST
Rereading through it, Cricket, you're right... I was a little too verbal with the first episode! I'm revising the review so that is more obscure, for other readers. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2012, 4:31:55 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 6, 2012, 4:33:39 PM PST
Le Stryge says:
Hey, I loved your original summation Charity, ...a great piece of writing!
Reviews are surely done AFTER having seen the material?
(Although one does occasionally get the hint that SOME in their haste here on Amazon rush into print before ever having viewed the subject at all!)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 12, 2012, 7:46:16 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 12, 2012, 7:46:47 AM PST
not Bridget says:
Long ago, when I heard Matthew was going away to war, my first thought was "have we met the gamekeeper yet?"

Well, I've heard his services will not be required next season--but it was a close thing!

Worth watching for the pretty...

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 22, 2012, 4:24:59 PM PST
dudnpad says:
WARNING PLUS TIP!!!
Cricket, I quite agree with you that those who get on these pages & re-hash the story line comprise a thoughtless and annoying collection whose motives for doing so I have never quite understood. For what it is worth, however, it seems to be rampant the higher up the stars go. So, if you do not want to know what took place during an entire season in three easy paragraphs, read only the cranky group of oneers and twoers.Works every time !!!! remember that. {Also their writing style, though abominable in a "Twitteresque " sense, is usually more enteertaining.}

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2012, 4:47:25 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 25, 2012, 4:48:41 PM PST
Le Stryge says:
"In three easy paragraphs" dudnpad??? Three???

Surely with anything Fellowes writes as this series lumbers into muddy multiples would only take just the one? (And a short one at that!)

Posted on Nov 20, 2012, 12:01:06 PM PST
"Gone are all the wonderful conversations and moments that were used to build character and humor and forthright plot-driven exposition is in its place." I agreed with everything up until this statement. I actually find MORE conversations, albeit one liners, becoming too redundant and recirculating the plot sequence of the first season. I pay attention and listen; maybe other viewers don't. I felt like the second season was dumbed down to catch up the viewers who hadn't seen the first season in its entirety or watched it too quickly. Once a character says a line, move on. Don't recycle it. EVER. (I realize this discussion is old but I am looking foward to season 3 and hope I won't be disappointed in the writing.)
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