I’ll be the first to admit that I came to this show late. I’ll also admit that currently I am only two episodes into the first series. I do know that I’m going to fly through it pretty quick!
As we know, or maybe we don’t, I love my British television.
I had heard a lot of talk about this show for a while, in fact it came up in our chat with Kate Hewlett, wherein I told her it was on my short list of things to get through. So I started it last night.
There are few shows that could be its equal, the writing and acting are top-notch, and the dialogue simply crackles. But it’s not only the things that are said, it’s also the looks and the weighty silences of all the things that aren’t or can’t be said.
The first episode begins in 1912, the morning the world learned of the Titanic disaster.
Word is sent through telegraph cables around the world to notify family and next of kin. One of which ends up at the impressive looking Downton Abbey (actually Highclere Castle). It is here that we begin to meet the huge cast of characters who will populate our tale.
We are introduced to the house staff, and the family proper, and become aware very quickly that not only does the class system seperate them but there are distinct classes within them as well.
It’s unsual to come across an ensemble cast that seems to click right from the first episode, though I’ve seen a few of late (Bomb Girls for one), but everything about the series (well the first two eps so far anyway) just works. It’s well thought out, enjoyably paced, and is truly engaging.
It’s tough to go through the list of characters and pick favorites already, as I’ve already learned that prejudging a character before you learn more about them is kind of wrong, the Abbey’s butler Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) is a fine example of this. I thought he and his staff were quite untoward, when the new valet Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) joins them, but then in the second episode we learned some secrets about him, and it allowed me to see him in a new way. I love when a show can do that!
We get to watch the story from both sides of the divide, and amongst the Crawley family proper, I quite enjoy the Earl, Robert Crawley (played by Hugh Bonneville), he’s a man who realizes that times are changing but still lives by the structured ways he’s learned, even if he did marry an American heiress (Elizabeth McGovern).
With the loss of two of his cousins aboard the Titanic, one of which was seen as a potential fiancee for Crawley’s eldest daughter Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Downton is sent into a financial spin as they are now without a male heir and that Downton, and all it’s assets (including Cora’s fortune now tied into the estate) may end up in the hands of a perfect stranger, through Lord Crawley highly doubts he’ll be perfect.
Crawley arranges for a third cousin, Matthew Crawley, to move to the village accompanied by his mother, former PM Harriet Jones (not really, but I was delighted to see Penelope Wilton from Doctor Who) with the intention of marrying him to Mary, therefore keeping Downton in the family.But sadly Crawley’s mother, brilliantly played by Maggie Smith is constantly sparring with Wilton’s character, Isobel.
Watching Matthew get used to the idea of servants and his ascension to a ‘higher class’ is entertaining. There’s a few great moments in episode two when the Earl asks Matthew if he would deny his staff the right to earn their living, which allows him to see his butler Molesely in a different way.
I won’t go into too much more details than that, as I have yet to get deeper into the series, but we know that the First World War is looming on the horizon, and that there are intrigues aplenty amassing within the walls of Downton.
I’ll be honest though in addition to the Earl, I like a lot of the staff, I very much like Mr. Bates, Anna, Mrs. Hughes and now that I know a bit more about Mr. Carson, I quite like him.
I’m quite looking forward to flying through the rest of the series in the days ahead!
If you’re like me, and haven’t gotten around to viewing any of this series yet, find the time, Downton Abbey is a fantastic period drama that engages its viewers and is brilliantly entertaining!