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Monday, January 9, 2012

Downton Abbey Recap: Season 2, Episode 1

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Welcome back to Downton Abbey. We hope we gave you enough time to read Friday's long-ass preview. The episode starts with a bang! Literally. It was crammed full of plot and we don't want to overwhelm you, so let's break it down character by character. It's 1916 and England is at war! What changes have come to Downton and its people? Will the title sequence still begin with that yellow lab's butt? Does the lighting still make everyone look like a million dollars? Let's find out!

Upstairs

  • Lord Grantham doesn't get to be a real in-the-army colonel -- like they'd send his old ass to the front to get everyone killed. He nobly throws out the basic bitches who invade the hospital benefit concert to give white feathers to the "cowards" not in uniform. Berate Bates' lack of loyalty for leaving; see, he thought of the two of them as friends. This is called "dramatic irony" and also serves to make Lord G. look like an oblivious upper-class dick. Further berates new and obviously shell-shocked valet, Lang; but allows Downton to become a "convalescent home" for wounded officers, at the Ladies' request/cousin Isobel's relentless haranguing. Solves the tragic mystery of Mrs. Patmore's nephew.
  • Lady Grantham spends the episode mainly concerned about all of her daughters' well being -- except for Edith, because who gives a shit about her? Not her family, not nobody. Is concerned about Sybil's eagerness to become involved in war efforts but is proud when she sees her youngest daughter baking a cake and being all self-sufficient. Is puppet-mastered by O'Brien to request that Thomas be moved to the hospital near Downton with Dr. Clarkson. Manages to make every one of her lines sound curiously insincere. Laura insists this is the bad acting!
  • You're not helping, Edith.
    • You're not helping, Edith.

  • Lady Mary has been in London, being wooed by Sir Richard Carlisle, the newspaperman, which grosses her family out. She is still clearly in love with Matthew, but pretends she's not. Gives him her lucky charm, which appeared to be a Beanie Baby circa 1998. Looks resplendent at 6 in the morning. Starts involvement with Sir Richard Carlisle, the creepiest creep.
  • Lady Edith can drive so "well" she gets a job driving a tractor for a neighboring farmer. She loves it, so naturally she fucks it up by being snotty to the farmer's wife, and getting to first base with the farmer. Oops!
  • Lady Sybil is all, "I'm tired of being a princess! I want to be in the trenches!" and Cousin Isobel goes, "How about being a nurse? And to do that, first learn to cook." Okay, sure. Leads the campaign to turn Downton into an officers' convalescent home because career before family, duh. Get it, girl.
  • The Dowager Countess is the best thing about the episode, as usual. If the aristocracy crumbles, she has a future on the vaudeville circuit: Maybe she and Carson could have an act together!? He's the straight man, she'll handle the hecklers, it'll be the greatest show on Earth (tm)!
  • You've been served, my dear.
    • You've been served, my dear.

  • Matthew Crawley braves bullets at the front and daggers at Downton, bringing his wide-eyed, innocent fiancée home to meet mother and the Granthams. Clearly becoming shell-shocked, as evidenced by the sudden quieting of background sound whenever he is asked to talk about the war. Makes nice with Thomas at the front, didn't get shot (yet?)! Probably still has a boner for Lady Mary but we're supposed to pretend he doesn't.

  • Isobel Crawley is super excited about the war, and doesn't try to hide it. She's like, "Finally, these assholes at Downton are gonna have to wipe their own butts." Totally narcs on the DC, who had tried to get both William and the Crawleys' butler Moseley declared medically unfit for service; if her only son has to risk his life, so does everyone else's!
  • Miss Lavinia Swire is either the nicest person alive or a sociopath. Rightfully, the Dowager Countess despises her.
  • Sir Richard Carlisle, baron in newspaper only, woos Lady Mary by mixing up people's titles and mysteriously threatening Miss Swire. Looks/acts like Scrooge McDuck mated with Dr. Claw. Proposes to Lady Mary in the least romantic way possible. She hasn't accepted -- yet.
  • Downstairs

  • Oh, Mr. Bates. Returns dramatically, all, "Let's always be together, Anna!" and then his psycho wife invades Downton, threatening to out Lady Mary's indiscretion with the Turkish diplomat if "her Batesy" (shivers!) doesn't leave with her at once. Suffers through two breakups -- Lord Grantham, Anna -- without telling anyone the real reason he's leaving, because the writers love to see that noble frown of his.
  • O'Brien: Schemes, plots, is super mean to everyone, especially the new girl, Ethel, who was an idiot who pretty much deserved all the pranks O'Brien pulls on her. Well, Ethel definitely does in the beginning and then it's like, "Damn, chill out, O'Brien." Connives to get Thomas first transferred to the hospital closest to Downton, then prove she has a heart by caring for Lang, who reminds her of her dear departed brother. Growing on us because if we were in her position, we'd be all, "Fuck this noise, we're burning this house of cards to the GROUND."
  • Where's Thomas? Oh, shit, he's at the fucking front! Good luck with that, boyfriend. Manages to avoid the court-martial and execution that many soldiers suffered as a result of their self-inflicted wounds. And then, he's back with a hook for a hand (he wishes!), working in the hospital. Has his heart broken by a suicidal patient. Yes, Thomas has a heart. Also, handsome!
  • Carson furiously buttles, trying to keep the house running as usual, while everyone else is all, "Dude, the world's on fire." "SORRY," he says, "I'VE GOT THESE CANDLESTICKS TO BUFF!" Suffers a heart attack from the stress of having no footmen and his inability to stop buffing; remains the biggest snob in the house.
  • For Anna, see Bates, as her only plot lines involve that depressing fuck. Moseley tries to hit on her by starting a book club, party of JUST THEM. Too bad he didn't get to Anna first, because she's got a thing for old-man sad-sacks.
  • William's all, "I should be fighting in the war! Daisy, be my best girl! Now I've been called up, you won't see me the rest of the episode!" Mrs. Patmore's all, "Man this Ethel is the worst and now I have to teach Lady Sybil to cook and my nephew was executed for treason?! Maybe I should've stayed blind!" Daisy's all, "I've got to make cheese straws! I can't deal with this! Let me kiss you, William, as though I am not a preteen incapable of the complete range of human emotions! Now I will feel guilty about kissing you because you're going off to war thinking I love you like a grown-up!"
  • Branson, crazed after driving lessons with Lady Edith, confesses his love to Lady Sybil, who totally shoots him down because she's a career girl now. Is brash in the face of the white feather bitches because Irish anarchists don't give a fuck about England's war.
  • Could you love an Irish chauffer?
    • Could you love an Irish chauffer?

  • Ethel, the new maid, thinks she's gonna be the next Marilyn Monroe or whoever. Wants to eat crêpes, gets lamb stew. O'Brien is mean to her but nobody really cares because she's a bit of an idiot. AN IDIOT WITH DREAMS.
  • Lang, the new valet, is obviously shell-shocked, not a very good valet, looks uncomfortably a lot like old Moseley, confuses us.
  • We've talked a lot, but so much happened! What do you all think so far? First impressions of the second season? Did we miss anything? If you haven't seen it yet, or are dying to see it again, check out all two hours here!

    Notable Quotes

    The Dowager Countess on Miss Swire: "Well, looks aren't everything."

    "Sir Richard Carlisle? The one with all those horrid newspapers?" -- Lady Edith, who has no friends.

    "When heroes are giving their lives every day, it's hard to watch other men do nothing." -- Edith, at her full-service dinner in her giant house.

    "If she's threatening to ruin me then let her. It's nothing to me! The only ruin that I recognize is to be without you." -- Anna to Bates. ANNA DAMMIT YOU'RE BREAKING OUR HEARTS.

    "I just can't talk about it." Bates to everyone about everything important, forever.

    "She wants us to invite a hawker of newspaper scandal to stay as a guest in this house?! It's lucky I have a sense of irony." -- Lord Grantham, who really doesn't.

    "But what about my dress?!" -- Lady Edith, while Carson is collapsed with a heart attack, from his nonstop, footmanless buttling.

    "This is a house, not a hospital! If there are relapses, what then? Amputation in the dining room? Resuscitation in the pantry?" The DC does not approve of Isobel and Sybil's big plan.

    Daisy sure understands a certain kind of electricity. Ow!
    • Daisy sure understands a certain kind of electricity. Ow!

    Laura Beck and Meave Gallagher are ladies and writers living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow Laura on Twitter at mrpenguino, follow @ExhibitionistSF on Twitter and like The Exhibitionist on Facebook.

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