Sunday, January 08, 2012

Downton Abbey Season 1 Review

Please talk about Downton Abbey with me. Jeremy and I recently re-watched Season 1 in preparation for the legal release of Season 2 on iTunes/PBS.org this week. Ask me about my self control in resisting the YouTubed and pirated versions that I know have been out there for months. It took a lot.

So, what do you think? (No Season 2 spoilers allowed. I have been studiously avoiding any headlines or promos or articles or reviews or anything so that nothing is ruined.)

I think Downton Abbey is brilliant. I realize it's essentially a soap opera that takes place in the olden days (the surprise pregnancy, the indecisive fiancee, the backstabbing, overlooked middle child) but good heavens, is it well-acted and lovingly produced. How do they even find these delightful actors and actresses, and how do they play their parts so naturally? It's marvelous. My favorite straight-up character is Sybil (the youngest daughter) because she is a gem of humanity. I appreciate the nuance and unabashed cynicism of Mary even as I recognize that she is a flawed, flawed person. I loooooooooove Thomas as a villain. I love that O'Brien is a villain too, but I was moved by her transformation in the final episode - don't we all have the occasional "O'Brien, you're better than this" moments when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror?



Lady Violet (aka Maggie Smith) has the best lines, of course, with my personal favorite being "Well, we can't have [the Turkish ambassador] assassinated...I suppose." Mwahahahahahahahaha.

I do have one quibble with the show, and that is the way it deal with the Kamal Pamouk plot. The show wanted us to take Kamal seriously, like he was a really genuine guy who showed Lady Mary how exciting life could be. But then it also wanted us to giggle when Lady Mary and her mom and her maid were shuffling his dead body down the corridor in the middle of the night. But then it wanted us to feel sad with Lady Mary that her One True Suitor was dead. But then also, it really WAS hilarious when they were dragging him down the hall, am I right?!!?!??

Also, I feel like that scene in Lady Mary's bedroom danced uncomfortably close to that "Yes means No" misconception. When it was all over and done with and Lady Grantham asked Mary if Pamouk had "forced himself" on Mary, I honestly expected her to honestly say yes. Because he totally did! At least in the scene we were shown. In all the conflicting elements of that awkward plot, I was rendered incapable of feeling genuine grief for Mary at the loss of her "lover" (because I felt he was not voluntarily taken), and also unable to feel jolly amusement at his death because wasn't it creepy that he basically raped her?

I think it would have been better/funnier/less creepy if Kamal Pamouk had burst into Lady Mary's bedroom, propositioned her, and then died suddenly before anything could happen, preferably right after Lady Mary said that her reputation would be ruined if anyone even knew he was there. Then it could have been ha-ha funny, potentially damaging to Mary's prospects, and a scandalous adventure for her to look back on, all without the creepy overtones. I'm just saying.

That aside, I am a proud member of the Downton Abbey is AWESOME club. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts, but no Season 2 stuff allowed!

13 comments:

Señora H-B said...

I am giddy about watching my DVRed Downton Abbey tomorrow morning.

I completely agree with you on the Pamuk story line. It was just kind of bizarre. The rest of it, though? HOLY COW. As a rule, I strongly dislike period dramas. They just are not my thing. This one, though, has stolen my heart.

Crys said...

I'm so excited about season two. I was just commenting to Jason on how depressing it is that we get everything British 1/2 a year to a year behind. So there are spoilers all over the place. He looked at me and said, "You watch too much British TV." He's probably right. So I thought the dragging of the body was funny. Mainly because I have zero sympathy for Mary and so I just don't mind bad things happening to her. Two because I didn't see it as a rape scene...I saw it as a, I'm telling you this because it's what I should say, but I really want you so please continue. Yes I realize there is a problem here....but her subsequent actions prove that was the truth. Lady Sybil is my favorite, because she is sweet, beautiful, and obviously progressive. I love John Bates, how can you not. Obviously a man with deep wounds just trying to make it. The interactions between him and Robert Crawley are really interesting. You want to just say put your own coat on, but then if he did what is the point of having a personal valet. Anna if my favorite house staff...obviously Bates and Anna are going to be married this next season. Also a huge fan of Tom Branson. Keeping my fingers crossed for a little Tom lady Sybil love and zero Matthew and Mary love. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Bridget said...

Oh no, I really want Matthew and Mary to end up together! I was sad that went unresolved at the end of Season 1. I think you are the only one who feels that they don't belong together. :)

Katie said...

Yeah! I'm excited for the 2nd season as well, but need to re-watch the 1st, since I hardly remember anything at all. How do you get Jeremy to watch these movies with you? Sometimes I wonder if he and Scott are truly related. :)

Jen said...

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh nooooooooooooo. Not Matthew and Mary. No, no, no, no. Mary tends to fall under the category of "Lydia Bennett-like People" and therefore she must not get Matthew. Especially after what she did to Edith at the garden party.

Jill said...

I rewatched season one with my family over Christmas and only then did I realize how much better season two is. Your moral rectitude is costing you the most blissful television experience of your life.

robin said...

matthew and mary all the way!

i love it, too, bridget. love it. i love sybil as well. i wish i had her raspy, sexy voice.

Bridget said...

Katie, this is not your usual period drama. Scott should try it!

But Jen, what about what EDITH did to Mary re: the Turkish Embassy??!?!?

Jill, it's not so much moral rectitude as a fear of viruses/getting really excited to start watching it and then having a part missing, or the quality is bad. That stuff drives me crazy. Also, I enjoy a good long wait sometimes.

Thank you, Robin!

Jeremy Palmer said...

I agree with Bridget's analysis o f the Pamuk subplot. I also agree that it is a great show! There are so many wonderful characters and actors that I can't name one single favorite. It is refreshing that this series is based on fabulous acting and nuance rather than explosions and an MTV-like pedestrian script. I do love a good explosion, don't get me wrong. But this is classical acting at its finest.

Crys said...

Just finished watching the first episode of season two. I could maybe be ok with them getting together ;)

Jessie said...

Late to this party, but just wanted to say I'm team ANTI Matthew and Mary.

Lark said...

I know you posted this almost a week ago, but I wanted to be part of the "discussion" too!

Love Matthew and Mary and I feel like she might actually be growing up a little in Season 2. I hate that those sisters sabotaged (sp?) each other during season 1... I basically finished watching season one so depressed. Those sisters were so mean to each other and it felt like their lives were over. Then with the start of WWI you know everyone's lives are over!

I too loved the scene of dragging the Turkish guy down the hall.

And Anna and whats-his-face-from-North-and-South are so cute together in season one. I am totally rooting for them. But then season 2 has quite a twist that makes me sad.

Its amazing how in Season 2 there are so many unexpected changes to so many relationships... I am quite enjoying myself!

I also heard that this series is so popular in England that the locals say, "That's so Downton!"

On another off topic subject... Have you been watching "Once Upon a Time"? I usually catch past episodes on abc.com.... Its Lost meets fairy tales... just waiting for your blogging thoughts on that one ;)

Bridget said...

Lark, I saw a few episodes of Once Upon a Time and I wasn't terribly impressed. It was so uneven - good at times and horrible at others. I really like the idea of it, though, and maybe it will get better. I miss Lost. :(

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