While this post isn’t really spoilerly, it is long and really only for people interested in this series. So click at your discretion.
Downton Abbey Series 1 – I finally sat down and watched this. I am usually on top of my British period dramas. The plotting and the characters aren’t perfect, but it is a very good period piece. I like the look of it and there are some really great actors on it. I like Hugh Bonneville, Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith. Actually, I have a soft spot for Brendan Coyle. He was in “North & South” and he was one of the best things about “Larkrise to Candleford”. When he stopped doing that series so he could move onto this one, Candleford wasn’t the same for me. To be honest, I haven’t seen the last series of Candleford.
At times, the series reminded me of Remains of the Day and Howards End, but not as well written. I admit Julian Fellows has a sense of comedy, and I did like most of the ensemble of characters with a couple of exceptions. The villains of the story Thomas and O’Brien were over the top and redundant though. They seemed one note especially in their hatred of Bates. Thomas had no redeeming qualities. They schemed the same way every week smoking their cigarettes.
Of the three Crawley girls, I only really liked Sybil. Mary was a bit grating at times though. I was indifferent to Edith like most of the characters are towards her, but what she did to her sister was bad. Mary’s revenge was awful too. I didn’t feel particularly for her romances. I rather have watched Bates/Anna or Cora/Robert scenes than to watch Mary’s drama about her beaus. At times, the writing and acting did succeed at making her sympathetic, but it wavered. I enjoyed S1 quite a bit in the end, but for different reasons than I enjoyed S2.
Downtown Abbey Series 2 – Funny thing about this series, some aspects that I didn’t like in S1, I liked more by the end of S2. On the other hand, a couple of things I liked in S1 was less good in S2.
I liked Mary a lot more this season which is good since she is probably the female lead. There is a difference between liking a character who is fascinating, complex, and entertaining and liking a character who could be my friend. With Mary, it is mostly the former, but I finally felt by the end that I was rooting for her. Edith too because Fellowes gave her a sort of reformation of character.
I really liked the Bates/Anna storyline in the first series, but it got worse and worse as this series progressed. It was over the top and to be honest, it felt like they were always having the same conversation. I think both actors and characters deserve more than this, but oh well.
Sybil’s “romance” was a bit… half-assed. I am still rooting for the couple if only because I like Sybil and perhaps for purely for eye candy.
There was a sense of unevenness in the writing of this series more than in the first one. The latter felt more cohesive. I found out that Julian Fellowes was pressed to finish this series and he had years to slowly write S1. This sorts of comes off in the writing.
Downton Abbey is a melodrama and as such, it doe not always have smart or nuanced storytelling or characters. It has flaws, but there is a lot decent writing too, great acting and lovely visuals. I liked the ending of S2, and I look forward to S3 as a result.
Watched January 2012.