I'm not quite sure why I took a liking to Downton Abbey, a British-American period drama about the Earl of Grantham, Lord Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), and his family—his wife and Countess of Grantham Lady Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), and their daughters Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), and Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), including his mother, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Lady Violet Crawley, played by the always magnificent Maggie Smith.
|Watch it for the sole reason of her acting prowess.|
But not only do we follow the story of the Crawleys, but also the people who work at Downton Abbey. We see who are up to no good and those who are loyal to the family and their jobs. The carefully crafted intertwined stories of the upstairs and downstairs is, I think, one of the series's great strengths. Though these people are not equal in stature, their troubles and joys are of the same weight.
|News of the heirs' demise presents a severe complication.|
We start the morning after the Titanic's tragedy and Lord Grantham's two heirs are lost to the sea. And since his eldest daughter Mary cannot inherit the title or the estate, her marriage prospects are vague. But Granny will have a say on it.
Also, Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle), the new valet has arrived and is instantly picked on because of his "disability". And the ambitious first footman Thomas (Rob James-Collier) has a knack for trouble more than he can handle.
|Getting ahead was still the point of the game even before.|
|Upper-middle class people with proper values can fit in nicely in first class.|
We finally meet the new heir, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), who realizes that a lot will change in his life, but only a bit in his own person. His mother, Mrs. Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton), is just the perfect arch rival nemesis to our Dowager Countess, who doesn't know what a weekend is.
Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), Downton's butler's secret is out. He was once one-half of a comic act, to put it lightly. Mr. Moseley (Kevin Doyle), Matthew's butler and valet, has his life's work affirmed.
|What was it again, Mr. Carson? "Dancing Charlies"?|
|Mr. Pamuk was well-loved by everybody, even the ladies downstairs.|
Edith tries to woo Matthew but her efforts are unfruitful. He's busy feeling jealous of the attention Mary is giving the gentlemen guests. But Mary's and the family's reputation is muddied because of an aggressive, somewhat modern Turkish gentleman, with the help of a very assuming footman.
Housemaid Gwen (Rose Leslie) wants to leave service and be a secretary, and Lady Sybil is all for it. Mr. Bates tries self-medicating his leg, with unsuccessful results.
|It's not illegal for a maid to own a typewriter, is it?|
|They see eye-to-eye on loving a good argument.|
Mrs. Crawley and the Dowager Countess are head-to-head again, this time about Moseley's rash. There's no point challenging Matthew's right or Mary's inheritance. The easy solution is to have them married; that's if they'd have each other. And Sybil has taken an interest in women's rights.
An Irish socialist chauffeur, Branson (Allen Leech), is in. Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), the housekeeper, makes a difficult life choice. Plus, a lot of romance brewing downstairs, some true and some just for pretend to annoy others.
|Thomas is an asshole. Poor William (Thomas Howes, second footman);|
kitchen maid Daisy (Sophie McShera) is naive.
|Sibling rivalry of the elite in the 1900s: interesting.|
There's a flower show and the Dowager Countess succumbs to Mrs. Crawley's point. It also seems like what the first daughter throws away, the second daughter picks up. But love, attention, and position may not be enough to make up for the angst of being a middle child.
Thomas is a thief and he plots for Mr. Bates to take the fall. Head housemaid Anna (Joanne Froggatt) wants to fight fire with fire but Mr. Bates takes a higher road. Mrs. Patmore (Leslie Nicol), the cook, is going blind.
|"A blind cook, what a joke".|
|She's very empowered and in position to champion women's rights.|
Sybil is treading deep into women's politics and her father isn't all for it. Edith seems to pick up Mary's "trash" well, but with good outcome. Love may prove sweeter the second time around for Mary and Matthew. Now, if only the rumor mill on Mary's virtues will quiet itself.
Thomas and ladyship maid Ms. O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) continue plotting against Mr. Bates. Good thing Daisy came clean, realizing her ultimate crush is a no-good man. Mr. Bates gives in but Anna's not waving the white flag yet.
|The nasties are at it again, scheming and covering their tracks.|
|I'm curious if O'Brien will earn redemption from her evil deed?|
The Lady Cora is pregnant, so Matthew's inheritance of the estate or the title is threatened if the baby is a boy. Stupid Mary listened to her aunt Lady Rosamund Painswick's (Samantha Bond) advice that marriage isn't as simple as "I love you" when you're high-born. A good opportunity lost there, and an unfortunate accident happens.
Mrs. Patmore receives treatment while Anna meets Mr. Bates's mother to clear his name. Thomas gets ready for the war, and Gwen finally gets a job as a secretary.
|Alas, the telephone has arrived in Downton Abbey.|
And so we end with the announcement that England is at war with Germany. You might find what I have written boring, but I assure you, it's interestingly worth the time—and that's quite surprising for me to say about a period drama. My theory is that these people's lives, issues and scandals and all, were given a British treatment, which resulted in a classy, tasteful show. Just ignore some weird awkward video and sound transition edits.
Note that an interesting aspect of the series, aside from the lives of the people in Downton Abbey, is the emergence of technology and how they embraced it slowly, such as electricity early in the series and the telephone in the last episode. Another one to note is how we breezed through the years, each episode moving in a fast pace. Each episode is definitely not your everyday, same old story.
Somehow, watching Downton Abbey makes me wish to live in an era where honor and respect are still highly valued. But then again, if I had lived in their era, I'd be a topic of gossip more than Lady Mary was, and a source of headache for my father like Lady Sybil was. But really—and this is the best part of the series—what I'd love to be able to do is be a regal bitch like the Dowager Countess; excuse my word but it's just the perfect term for it.
Downton Abbey Series 1 gets an eight out of ten, for showing us how very real and relatable these characters can be and for giving period drama a very dignified touch.
*screencaps by VLC
You may also want to read the review of Downton Abbey Series 2.