Unless you live under a rock or are somebody who exclusively enjoys diversions like The Expendables, you must have heard of Downton Abbey, the Masterpiece mini-series (now a full-fledged, regular “series”) that airs first in the UK, then here on the usual treasure trove of awesome (that’s right) that is the Public Broadcasting System.
I became aware of this series last year, before it aired, and since it had such positive buzz, and Minerva McGonagall, I made it a point to watch. I quickly became immersed in the lives of the Crawley family and their servant staff. The story begins with the sinking of the Titanic, which takes the life of the heir to their family’s home, Downton. The Crawleys have three daughters only, and at this point in time, women cannot be heirs, so things get a tad complicated. The show follows the upstairs/downstairs dynamic and each episode has that slow burn feel, which reminds me of Mad Men, where it seems like not a lot’s happening but in actuality, there is so much subtly going on, when something huge happens, you feel it even more.
I really love the entire cast, which is made up of a great mix of legends, unknowns, and popular character actors. I have a mad DILF-crush (as usual) on Hugh Bonneville, who plays the patriarch Lord Grantham. He’s a perfect “dad” figure, getting exasperated at his daughters but still showering them with love, caring for his wife, losing it, when ahem, something really fucking sad happens to them in the last episode. Maggie Smith is marvelous as the Dowager Countess (I wish I had the opportunity to say that more often), for which she rightfully won an Emmy earlier this year. She has so many fantastic one-liners, you will be lol-ing, I’m sure of it.
I have an absolute “couple crush” on Bates and Anna, the quiet, stoic, kind, completely adorable valet and housemaid. I believe these two are a definite fan favorite, as there are loads of YouTube videos dedicated to them already (and gifs galore, as evidenced here to your left); almost double the amount for Downton’s other popular couple, Matthew and Mary (Have I ever mentioned how much I love the internet? This one in particular is quite lovely, although beware if you click – spoilers for season 2 abound). They are always showing each other such generosity, courteousness and respect. Anna sticks up for and is continually trying to help the man she loves, who she actually pursued. She’s definitely my favorite female character – competent, not psycho (unlike several of her co-workers), and cares about her employers. Bates is so kind and honorable, and such a sympathetic character, how could you not root for him? If these two don’t get together in season 2, I am going to be really, really devastated. However, Mr. Bates has quite the complicated past that still hasn’t all been revealed, so I fear for their happy future 😦 😦
But there are plenty of characters and storylines, something for everyone, really. Servants – loyal and kind ones, villanous ones, pitiful ones, Maggie Smith – being awesome, sisters – being deliciously treacherous to each other, love stories, war stories, health drama, status drama, baby drama, – it’s all here, in an excellent, elegant package.
I was delighted to discover that PBS’s website has tons of little featurettes to watch, about the costumes, Highclere Castle in England where about half of the show is filmed, Q&As with the cast – if you’re hungry for material, it’s all there. They’re taking full advantage of the serious popularity of this show – hell, they’re even doing a “twitter event” for the season premiere. Yeah, I’m definitely going to go to there. I took this goofy quiz to find out which character I am and got Mary. Boo. Although, I do feel like a spinster-in-training, dissatisfied with my circumstances, so maybe it’s right on the nose.
My love for this show even extends to the soundtrack, which is just a lush, beautiful score that completely evokes all things English, and is so terribly beautiful and sad-sounding, it almost makes me want to cry every time I hear it. In fact, you should click that link and have it playing while you read this post. 😉
I got season 1 as a Christmas gift, (yay!) so I have recently watched everything again, to familiarize myself with the plot for season 2’s premiere on January 8th. It was totally better the second time around. Maybe it’s this time of year, but British drama is so comforting during the winter months. Look, if you hate period pieces or costume dramas, by all means, skip this: It’s not for you. But if you’ve ever swooned over Pride and Prejudice or Remains of the Day, get yo’self to pbs.org (or Netflix, where all seven episodes of series 1 are available to stream – you have no fucking excuse!) and watch this now.
~Annie (a.k.a. Mary Crawley)