The first season of DOWNTON ABBEY invited viewers back to the Edwardian times at an aristocrat estate in England just as the Titanic sank in 1912. The subsequent story followed the ripple-effects of the loss of the estate’s current heir and the rise of an unknown succeeding heir – as lineage and the question of “who would inherit” were absolutely vital.
When a young barrister, Matthew Crawley, was discovered to be the next in line to inherit the vast estate of Downton Abbey, the current occupants, the Earl and Countess of Grantham as well as the rest of the Crawley family, were surprised and unsure how to welcome their newly discovered cousin. Because the Earl and his wife had only daughters and no sons, it was thought that the estate’s heir should marry their eldest daughter to keep the estate in the family.
But, as this was 1912 and the world was on the verge of a new era, women were no longer content to be bartered as chattel and were exploring the world and their sexuality on their own. After a quickly hushed-up scandal involving Mary Crawley, the eldest daughter, the road to a peaceful negotiation of matrimony between Mary and her cousin Matthew became a hotbed of emotions, mixed signals, and star-crossed timing during a two-year period. It was as if fate itself was conspiring to keep them apart and just as they were on the verge of reconciling, the unthinkable happened: World War 1 broke out.
Season 1 ended just as the Crawleys and their loyal staff found out the news. Season 2 picks up two years later in 1916, where we see that the war is taking a toll on everyone, staff and gentry alike. For war does not discriminate by title or position, it calls everyone and spares few. Surprisingly, Matthew Crawley has joined the war effort and is on the front lines. Back at home, his mother and the rest of the family fret over his safety and wonders who will be called next to serve.
Like the first season, the show focuses simultaneously on the lives upstairs involving the lords and ladies of the house, and downstairs where their staff are embroiled in lives of their own. Unlike the first season, when the wants and desires of the staff were frequently at odds with their employers, war has united them. They all live in fear of whether those they love and care about will survive and return home.
Another significant change is how the war has spurred everyone into relationships, some wise and some foolish. Matthew and Mary find themselves still separated by fate, as do the gentle Mr. Bates and Anna, the valet and lady’s maid who fell in love in Season 1. Funny enough, in a heartwarming story, the kitchen assistant Daisy inadvertently catches the eye of a beau. Love is elusive but still sought as the war reminds everyone that life is short.
Similarly, war not only inspires fear and declarations of love, it also changes the landscape of social positions. No longer barred from pursuing a profession, the Crawley daughters seek to find ways to aid in the war efforts, and the obstinate youngest daughter, Sybil, taxes her family to no end with her head-strong desire to be more than just a young lady in society.
To say that things are changing rapidly in this new world is an understatement. The Crawleys and their loyal staff shall soon discover that their lives are going to be irrevocably changed – for better and worse.
The second season of DOWNTON ABBEY maintains the lush landscape and mesmerizing glamour of a declining era of gentry. It also preserves the intoxicating and addictive qualities that led fans to clamor unanimously for another season. The characters are the heart-and-soul and we cannot take our eyes off of them. We fell in love with each and every one of them and are waiting breathlessly to find out where their lives have gone in the two years time since we last saw them. Did they have their hearts-broken? Did true love prevail? Have they escaped the ravages of war? Are they willing to cross the social divide and embrace a future that their hearts yearn for?
To find out the answers to these questions and more, and to fall back under the spell of a captivating story of the interwoven lives the Crawleys and their staff, be sure to tune in for the premiere of the second season on Sunday, January 8th at 9PM on PBS Masterpiece Theater. Prepare for the shock-and-awe of a gentler kind, but with the same powerful impact.
Tiffany Vogt is the Senior West Coast Editor, contributing as a columnist and entertainment reporter to TheTVaddict.com. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).