How is it possible that I’ve waited until now to watch this wonderful period drama? I definitely knew of it when it was airing a couple months ago. Did I just not think it would appeal to me? I actually think I just didn’t pay attention to it because I’ve been spending all my free time reading…Whatever the reason, I finally decided to watch it this week and marathoned it all in two days. I was hooked from the first minute.
It’s set pre-WWI and focuses on both the family of Downton Abbey and its servants. The series takes place over two years, which can be a bit confusing, as months pass from episode to episode. It starts after the sinking of the Titanic (and death of the heir and his son) to the outbreak of WWI in 1914. It’s basically a soap opera, with some of its almost melodramatic storylines. I hate soap operas, but I loved Downton Abbey because, unlike the former, DA has good acting and production values!
The whole cast was excellent. My favorite was Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham. From the previews I expected her to just be an uppity snobby bitch used only for comic relief. But really, she wasn’t. She was a snob, yes. But she had a heart even in the beginning, showing it more as the series went on and was a well-rounded character. I was also surprised by Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery. I thought I would hate her after I saw the first episode, but while she got on my nerves a lot, she grew on me.
I can’t forget the “downstairs” characters either.It was interesting to watch all the goings-on “behind the scenes”, so to speak. I went into this expecting to go ga-ga for Dan Stevens as Matthew, the new heir. But instead I found myself falling for Mr. Bates, the lame valet. The villains, lady’s maid O’Brien and gay footman Thomas, seemed a bit over the top to me in the beginning but I liked how in the end, O’Brien wasn’t as evil as even she thought herself. Too bad she realized it too late.
I don’t want to be too spoilery, but Lady Mary’s “seduction” in episode 3 really made me uneasy. To me, the whole situation seemed at best a coercion, and at worst a rape. Yet afterward, Mary was racked with guilt about it, claimed it was not forced, and referred to her seducer as her “lover.” That’s not what I saw! Was this intentional on the part of the writers, showing the double standard of the time? Maybe that’s the whole idea and I’m over thinking things. Still, I loved the series despite this issue.
My Rating: 8/10