I’m something of a trollop when it comes to TV viewing, hopping into and out of bed with any show that tickles my fancy, getting my giggles here and my drama there and my love and whimsy and gravitas every other elsewhere. I’m insatiable. Unable to be wholly pleased. Or at least I was until Downton Abbey‘s first season made its way across the pond and into my heart forever. Yes, I said forever. Extravagant English settings, delicious Edwardian costumes, sumptuous intrigue, blossoming romance, immortal zingers from Dame Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery’s face. Entail schmentail! I was ready for marriage!
Last night season two premiered on American television, and still I am ready for marriage. Me to Downton Abbey. Lady Mary to Matthew. But oh ho, no! Not so quick! Two years have passed since the Archduke Franz Ferdinand fell victim to the Black Hand and Cora Crawley fell victim to Ms. O’Brien’s soap. Class warfare has been traded in for actual warfare. You thought Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen was a battle zone? Welcome to The Somme!
Let’s exposit. Do you want to exposit? Julian Fellowes thinks we should exposit.
There seems to be no end to the advantages of being Matthew Crawley. Sure, he’s serving on the front lines of one of the bloodiest military operations in the history of, well, history, but at least he gets to pop home to Downton for a few weeks for a holiday. Matthew says he scarcely remembers his life at Downton, which is for the best, I guess, because life at Downton has never been less Downton-y (despite the panic attack-inducing efforts of Carson the Butler). Our favorite gay Slytherin Thomas is off being a member of the health corps in France; Bates is off burying his mother in London; and Gwen is off having a fancy new secretarial career with the telephone company. Other changes: Lady Edith is learning to drive, presumably so she can run Mary over at her earliest convenience; Lord Grantham has taken to wearing his army uniform everywhere, even the bath; and Sybil has decided to become a nurse, much to the delight of Isobel, who is apparently trying to take over for Madam Pomfrey as Britain’s most eager healer.
You know who hasn’t changed, and thank the Lord above? The Dowager Countess of Grantham, who stops by Downton first thing in the morning — “War makes early risers of us all!” — to help everyone get ready for the evening’s fundraiser. She is no less committed to her war duties than Matthew, promising to battle Cora’s “Lost World” floral “monstrosity” for King and for country.
The drama downstairs goes like this: Bates’ mother left him a chunk of change in her will, which he thinks will free him up to get a divorce from his nimble-fingered wife and marry the angel named Anna. They’ll buy an inn, have some kids, take turns trying to out-noble each other for the rest of all eternity. Unfortunately, the wayward Mrs. Bates comes calling as soon as she hears the jingle of coins in Mr. Bates’ pocket and she explains that she, like every other person in the United Kingdom, has heard the tale of Poor Mr. Pamuk. Only she’s got an extra inside scoop: Anna helped Mary and Cora drag that dead bloke’s body halfway across the county. She holds out a sword and Bates, of course, falls on it, even as Lord Grantham shouts down his departing carriage all the way out of Yorkshire. That unnecessary uniform isn’t going to button itself, Bates! God, you’re a selfish prat!