Over the weekEND (that mysterious new concept that has eluded the Dowager Countess), I jumped onto the Downton Abbey bandwagon and watched the full first season in anticipation of last night’s second season premiere on PBS. Who would have ever thought I’d be clamoring to turn on Masterpiece Theatre? Well, I am. I love this dusty, fussy, and altogether repressed series, even if every scene pretty much features one person saying something cutting, followed by another throttling his or her emotions as they say “Very well” or “Please make my excuses to your mother” or “Forgive me. I’d like to write some letters before dinner” or — most common of all — “HEAVENS!” Naturally, the scene ends with pesky O’Brien lingering in the door, listening in so she can report back to the servants, who are invariably dodging the blustery commotion of Mrs. Patmore yelling at Daisy (a commotion that ends with the sudden arrival of Carson or Mrs. Hughes who brusquely shut down any gossip or horseplay with a terse, dismissive line).
Yes, it’s business as usual at Downton; although, as the second season begins, World War I has caused many upheavals at the estate. First and foremost, many of the gents have gone off to fight for Mother England. Chief among them is Matthew, who not only has been making a name for himself on the front, but has found a new lady to burrow into his man-trenches. Her name is Lavinia Swire, and she’s about as plain as melba toast. She also harbors some sort of dark secret, one that she shares with Sir Richard, the self-made man (ghastly!) who is the latest suitor for Mary.
Poor Mary has seen her romantic options decline ever since her scandal with Mr. Pamuk (or “PaMOOK”, as they seem to say). To think she thought she could do no worse than Matthew when now she’s about to sing herself over to this ribald slinger of magazines and headlines (insert Dowager Countess look of disdain here). It’s Mary’s fault, really. She should have accepted Matthew’s proposal when she’d had the chance, but now here she was, swallowing her longing and feigning friendship with her former lover. And cousin, I might happily remind everyone. (At least he’s a third cousin, unlike Patrick, Mary’s deceased fiancé who was but a mere FIRST cousin.)
Luckily for Mary, she receives some sound advice from Mr. Carson and then Anna, whose heart has been recently broken by the quiet Mr. Bates. You see, the two were going to run away into the countryside together, but then Mr. Bates’ wife surfaced and threatened to sell the story of Mr. PaMOOOK to Sir Richard unless Mr. Bates took her back and shared his new and abundant inheritance with her. Now Bates is gone and Anna is looking like ever the sad chipmunk. Thankfully, she’s loyal to her love, which is bad news for Molesley, the oft trod-upon valet whose idea of a good pickup line is “Might we discuss our views on that book sometime?”
As for the other Crawley girls, there’s Sybil, who has taken a liking to playing nurse at the hospital (under Isobel’s tutelage), and there’s Edith, who has amusingly decided to slum it as a farm-worker, much to the dismay of everyone around her. Poor Edith. The girl just can’t find happiness. First Mary scares away Edith’s would-be fiancé. Then she gets fired from the farm after the farmer’s wife catches him kissing Edith. Tough breaks all around. I just hope we get to see her heart broken every week. It’s so sad yet thoroughly entertaining.
Speaking of unrequited love, our favorite scheming gay of Downton has returned. I speak, of course, of Thomas, who discovered that life in the trenches wasn’t any fun. He managed to get a bullet through the hand and sent back to the Downton hospital where he now ambles about, staring at the wounded soldiers. Thomas soon develops a crush on a blind hottie, who he helps nurse back to health. We’re not sure if the blind guy is gay too, but he does put his hand on Thomas’s knee, which is about as close to oral sex as one can get in 1916 Downton.
Yes, it seems as though there are romantic prospects for Thomas, but alas, when the blind would-be lover learns he’ll be shipped off to a faraway convalescence home, he throws a fit and kills himself. Sorry, Thomas. Another one bites the dust (let’s not forget the Duke who broke Thomas’s heart and of course Mr. PaMOOOOOOOK, who rejected Thomas’s advances even though he was totally giving the “Come hither and butter my man-scone” eyes).
The odd outcome of the soldier’s suicide is that Isobel and Sybil are now eager to turn Downton Abbey into a convalescent home, a horrid idea that infuriates the Dowager Countess (who frets resuscitation in the pantry). But alas, it IS wartime and things ARE changing, as many people are quick to say on this show. Convalescence home it is! Heavens!
Here’s the photocap:
Cora: “Welcome to our home. Do come in for sandwiches in the parlor.”
Isobel: “The parlor? I was hoping to turn that into a CONVALESCENCE HOME!”
Cora: “We mustn’t talk about this now.”
Robert: “It is wartime, you know.”
O’Brien: “Look at ‘er. Fresh one she is. She should be seeing to the crease in Her Ladyship’s robe, not staring at the wall like she’s just seen the ghost of Mr. Bates.”
Ms. Hughes: “Heavens!”
“I just passed gas. Heavens.”
Mrs. Patmore: “Slow down with it, DAAAAISY. You’re liable to send Her Ladyship to the hospital with a BURN.”
Sybil: “Oh, that’s alright. I’d like a burn. Times are changing.”
Daisy: “Are the times really changing? Will I get to see Thomas again?”
Mrs. Patmore: “DAISY keep your mouth shut. Her imagination knows no bounds.”
Sybil: “Daisy, there’s hope for us all. Except Edith. She wants to be a FARMER. Hahahhahahahaa.”
“Matthew, did you hear about Edith?”
“Don’t you mean, FARMER EDITH?”
Robert: “I thought this was to be a concert, not Edith demonstrating how to milk a cow.”
Cora: “We mustn’t talk about this here.”
Dowager Countess: “Talking during a performance? Are we in Southern Italy now?”
“Please don’t be alarmed by the electricity.”
“Oh, Matthew. But the vapors! I’m petrified!”
“Sometimes I think to myself that I just am too busy of a man. All the daytime walks, the writing of letters, the getting-into of tuxedos. It’s a miracle I can even stand on two feet anymore.”
PBS Presents: Dueling Philharmonics!
“Oh, but if only this smoke didn’t remind me of the Turkish fumes Mr. Pamuk emitted just before he expired. In my bed. My WHORE bed. Heavens…”
Anna: “I am so HOT for Mr. Bates right now.”
“Well, this is great. One daughter is a frigid slut. The other fancies herself a nurse. And the ugly one wants to be a farmer. Fan-bloody-tastic.”
What did you think about the season premiere? *And if you’ve seen the second season already, PLEASE no spoilers.