Posted: 12/29/2011


Downton Abbey, Season 2

by Del Harvey

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The Primetime Emmy® Award winning series from Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) returns to Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, January 8th, 2012. Starring Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Dan Stevens, and a host of remarkable actors, we return to this turn-of-the-century period piece just as World War I intrudes upon the lives of our favorite characters.

As we re-join the idyllic world of Downtown Abbey, we find the Granthams and their family of servants have already weathered scoundrels, scandals, and a momentous succession crisis. But by November, 1916, the Great War has rendered everything — and everyone — forever changed. Even Downton Abbey itself, like its residents, has risen to the call of duty and transformed.

At the war front, life intensifies for Downton’s young men in the face of untold horrors. Meanwhile, at Downton, war makes new and often unjust demands. Some rise to its call for a stiff upper lip and a useful turn, and others see change as an opportunity for either growth or exploitation. Far from the trenches, there remains no shortage of scheming, meddling, and dangerous attractions.

As other great houses crumble, a diminished Downton Abbey struggles to prevail into a new era with its residents and its honor intact. Maggie Smith (David Copperfield, Gosford Park), Elizabeth McGovern (A Room With A View), Michelle Dockery (Return to Cranford), and Dan Stevens (Sense and Sensibility) return with an all-star cast to season two of Julian Fellowes’ Emmy Award winning drama, Downton Abbey.

At first, I was afraid that taking this much-loved cast of characters and their world into the grim depths of war might cause a shift of such tremendous and insurmountable proportions as to forever alter the spirit and mood of the show and possibly render it unwatchable. But upon viewing the first extended episode I knew they had made the right decision.

If anything, Season 2 has proven to be even more intriguing and exciting. Many of the characters have grown and changed in surprising ways, but also in ways which expand upon their stories and draw us further into their world. And the series brings some very important historical elements to bear upon their world with some unexpected outcomes.

All of this makes Downtown Abbey, Season 2 the must-watch program of the new year. Once again, Masterpiece Classics have outdone themselves. The series premieres Sunday, January 8th and runs through February 19th, 2012, airing at 9:00p.m. Eastern Time on PBS. Check your local listings for exact air times in your area.

For more information on the new season, visit PBS’ official Masterpiece page for Downtown Abbey here.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.

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