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As I am sat waiting for the school's Open Evening to begin, I decided to make productive use of my time, ignore my marking pile and write a review! I think the time has come to review the second season of Downton Abbey, considering I have just rewatched it for about the fifth time! A couple of my friends have been watching the whole series (1-3) on Netflix for the first ever time, and sending me a running commentary. It's been lovely to hear some comments about it that I thought the first time I ever watched it, and made me feel like I was watching it for the first time again.
To sum up for those who may have never seen it, Downton Abbey is a period drama set in a country estate, looking at the lives of the Crawley family and their servants. The show charts the lives of the characters through several key periods of history, and how they respond to these changes - especially those that affect their lives and the social hierarchy they have been used to.
Season two begins a little later than season one left off - in the midst of the Great War, about 1916. The family are just as affected by the war as other houses; not only have two of their footmen gone to war, but Matthew Crawley (the heir) has also gone to war, although he does spend a large amount of time visiting the house! But the war doesn't just effect the men of the family; Sybil, Lord Grantham's youngest daughter, is fed up of just sitting round and waiting, and so, with the help of Matthew's mother, she sets out to become a nurse - which may have more repercussions than the family first envisaged. The war even manages to bring Mary (the eldest) and Edith to a form of truce, and really highlights how people seemed to learn to work together to keep going throughout the war. All three Crawley girls carry out tasks and come across challenges that only a few years ago they would never have dreamt of facing (although I have a feeling that Sybil may have dreamt for something different than her life). And when disaster strikes (in more ways than one), can the family adapt again, or will it all fall apart? Is romance in the air for a member of the family, or one of the servants? And will the war have a greater effect on their lives than anyone realised?
My historical knowledge of this era is a little light, but from what I know (and from what I have come to expect from the writers of Downton), it is rather accurate. The Great War changed a great many things, both during and after, and families had to adapt to survive. It also indicated that the 'old' traditions that those at Downton Abbey followed may not be able to survive the changes the war caused - it did seem to have a social effect as well as a more drastic effect on human lives. It is fascinating to see how the younger generation were more ready to adapt to the changes the war invoked, and how willing most were to 'muck in', no matter what their background. It is here that you see the subtle shifts in social standings. The elder members of Downton (whether family or servants) seem much more stuck in their ways, and a little unsure of the paths the younger members are heading down; I think this can pretty much be said for now as well as then!
I love the storylines in Downton, as they encompass a lot of the possible events that could have happened to families in those times. It doesn't seem to be afraid to see what would happen if a certain event or two happened, or if a certain family member got their own way (I won't be more specific). It obviously picks some of the more dramatic storylines, but it makes the show feel very real. You very much feel like you are there, experiencing the same things as the Crawley's and their servants. It also gives me more of an understanding of the limitations on even the Aristocracy, and how the Great War touched everyone's lives, even if they weren't fighting in it. I think this series looks at more complex storylines, and perhaps slightly more controversial storylines than in the first series - it's stretching it's legs and seeing how far it can take things, as well as giving the viewer a more realistic (and perhaps dramatic) impression of what that era was like.
This series allows you to learn more about the characters we met in season one, and their lives. It also allows them to learn more about their own characters, as there are a lot of challenges for them to face. We are also introduced to a few new characters - some more likeable than others! These have a pivotal role later on, and although their appearance may be frustrating at first, just wait it out, because in true Downton Abbey ways, it all works out in the end (pretty much anyway). I would advise two things for this series - have some tissues ready, and have the Christmas episode on standby! The season ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I promise you will be wanting to find out what happens as soon as you can!