|Downton Abbey (series 2)|
Region 1 USA DVD cover
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||8 + Christmas special|
|Original release||18 September –|
6 November 2011
The second series of the British historical period drama television series Downton Abbey aired from 18 September 2011 to 6 November 2011, comprising a total of 8 episodes and one Christmas Special episode aired on 25 December 2011. It was broadcast in the United Kingdom on ITV, and in the United States on PBS, starting on 8 January 2012. Series 2 explored the lives of the Crawley family and servants during and after the First World War.
Series 2 received widespread acclaim, with critics praising its cast, historical depictions, and story's arc. The viewing figures significantly increased compared with series 1, with an average of 11 million viewers per episode. The series was nominated for several industry awards, and won the TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials. Maggie Smith received critical praise for her performance as Violet Crawley, which earned her the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
The second series covers the last two years of the war and the first year of peace. Events mentioned or directly affecting the Crawley household include the Battle of the Somme, the Easter Rising, the Russian Revolution, the Battle of Amiens, the Armistice, and the Spanish flu epidemic.
On the domestic front there is a serious shortage of able-bodied men for home front jobs. Matthew Crawley and William Mason go off to fight, while Thomas Barrow joins the Medical Corps. Tom Branson, as an Irishman, won't fight for Britain. Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) returns to uniform, but is refused active service due to his age. Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown Findlay) defies her aristocratic position and joins the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse.
In the biggest development, Downton Abbey becomes a convalescent home for wounded officers.
A 46-minute documentary compiled in anticipation of the Christmas 2011 two-hour special broadcast, Behind the Drama features behind-the-scenes footage from the filming of the series and short interviews with Julian Fellowes, the writer, actors (Elizabeth McGovern, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Jessica Brown Findlay, Laura Carmichael, Penelope Wilton, Phyllis Logan, Thomas Howes, Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Allen Leech), and other members of the team that produces Downton Abbey. It was shown in the United Kingdom at 7:30 pm on Wednesday 21 December 2011 and narrated by Hugh Bonneville. 4.5 million people watched the show.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK viewers|
|8||1||"Episode One"||Ashley Pearce||Julian Fellowes||18 September 2011||11.41|
|September 1916. Matthew is returning to Downton during his upcoming leave and informs the family he is engaged to Miss Lavinia Swire. Lady Mary announces that she has invited Sir Richard Carlisle, a ruthless, wealthy newspaper mogul to Downton. The servants prepare for a concert to help fund the local hospital. Bates tells Anna that he may finally be able to get a divorce and proposes. Vera Bates, Bates' estranged wife, arrives at Downton and demands that Bates return to her or she will expose Lady Mary's indiscretion with Pamuk. Bates gives his notice without explanation. Mrs Hughes tells the story to Mr. Carson, and he informs Lord Grantham. Sybil enrolls in nursing training. Branson reveals his feelings before Sybil leaves. Matthew arrives with Lavinia. He and Mary reconcile. Matthew meets Thomas in the trenches. Thomas intentionally gets wounded to be sent back to England.|
|9||2||"Episode Two"||Ashley Pearce||Julian Fellowes||25 September 2011||11.77[nb 1]|
|April 1917. Lord Grantham informs Mrs Patmore that her nephew was shot for cowardice. Thomas goes to work under Dr Clarkson at the village hospital along with Lady Sybil. Downton becomes a convalescent home. Matthew is unhappy about returning to England for a recruitment drive. Lavinia is confronted by Sir Richard Carlisle, an old and unwelcome acquaintance. Lady Edith volunteers to drive a tractor and help with the work as her bit to help in the war effort. She does this for Mr Drake, a Downton tenant farmer. She and Mr Drake kiss, and are seen by Mrs Drake, who quietly puts an end to Edith's job.|
|10||3||"Episode Three"||Andy Goddard||Julian Fellowes||2 October 2011||11.33[nb 2]|
|July 1917. Downton becomes a convalescent home for wounded officers, over Violet's outspoken objection, with Isobel taking charge. Cora gets Acting Sergeant Thomas Barrow assigned to run the military side of Downton. Violet believes that Mary and Matthew are still in love. She and Rosamund try to end Matthew's engagement to Lavinia. Violet believes there is something more to Lavinia's relationship with Sir Richard. William proposes to Daisy before going to war.|
|11||4||"Episode Four"||Brian Kelly||Julian Fellowes||9 October 2011||11.30[nb 3]|
|March 1918. Ethel continues flirting with Major Bryant; when Mrs Hughes finds them in bed together, she dismisses Ethel. Later, she returns, announcing she is pregnant with Bryant's child. Preparations are under way for a concert at Downton. Tensions flare between Isobel and Cora, while Edith receives worrying news about Matthew and William. Branson declares his feelings for Sybil again. Lord Grantham visits Bates at a nearby pub where he is working. Lord Grantham receives a letter from Carlisle, which causes him concern and forces an uncomfortable conversation with Mary.|
|12||5||"Episode Five"||Brian Kelly||Julian Fellowes||16 October 2011||11.59[nb 4]|
|August 1918. Matthew has suffered a serious spinal injury and is paralysed from the waist down. He is told that he will never walk again or father children. He wants Lavinia to forget him and sends her away, while Mary attempts to nurse him back to health. Mrs Hughes secretly helps Ethel and her baby since Ethel's lover, Major Bryant, has ignored her. William's injuries are fatal, prompting him to ask Daisy to marry him before he dies. Mrs Patmore persuades Daisy to go through with it; William dies a few hours later. Bates is taken aback when Vera promises to expose old secrets about Lady Mary and Pamuk's death, as he paid her to divorce him. When Mary discovers this, she confesses everything to Sir Richard Carlisle and asks him to help. He pays Vera to sign a contract with confidentiality obligations. Unknown to Mary, Sir Richard announces his engagement to her in his paper. On finding out she was tricked into silence, Vera warns Bates she will still ruin him.|
|13||6||"Episode Six"||Andy Goddard||Julian Fellowes||23 October 2011||11.33[nb 5]|
|November 1918. A Canadian officer, badly disfigured by burns, arrives at Downton and declares that he is Patrick Crawley, the supposedly deceased heir. Mary rejects the claim, but Edith is persuaded as he recounts details of old times at Downton. Robert has his solicitor Murray investigate; Murray learns that Patrick Crawley had a close friend who emigrated to Canada. "Patrick" abruptly departs. Matthew is adapting to his condition and Mary's caring for him. Isobel is full of social-improvement schemes using Downton Abbey. Ethel hears the news that Major Bryant has been killed. Lady Sybil receives an ultimatum from Branson regarding his marriage proposal to her. Bates is shocked to find the legality of his divorce threatened, as Vera reveals that he paid her to leave him, and he goes to London to attempt to settle matters with her again. Upon his return, he receives the news that she is dead. Soon afterwards, the war ends with the Armistice.|
|14||7||"Episode Seven"||James Strong||Julian Fellowes||30 October 2011||12.26[nb 6]|
|Early February 1919. Matthew begins to feel his legs. Matthew announces that he and Lavinia intend to marry soon. Violet tells him that Mary is still in love with him, but Matthew feels obliged to marry Lavinia. Sir Richard Carlisle distresses Anna by asking her to spy on Mary; his behaviour leads Carson to reject his offer of employment. Bates realises that Vera committed suicide in order to frame him. When Major Bryant's parents visit Downton to see where their son convalesced, Mrs Hughes contrives a meeting between them and Ethel and her baby. However, Mr Bryant angrily refuses to believe her claim. Thomas embarks on a new money-making scheme in the post-war black market. Lord Grantham is attracted to the new maid, Jane, and kisses her. Lady Sybil makes the drastic decision to elope with Branson. However, Mary discovers her plan and, along with Edith and Anna, seeks them out and persuades Sybil to return and plead her cause openly to their parents.|
|15||8||"Episode Eight"||James Strong||Julian Fellowes||6 November 2011||12.45[nb 7]|
|April 1919. Preparations are under way for Matthew and Lavinia's wedding. Lady Grantham, Carson, and Lavinia are taken ill by the Spanish flu. Matthew and Mary acknowledge that they cannot marry as it would be cruel to Lavinia. Lavinia overhears them and sees them kiss. Ethel is surprised when Major Bryant's parents want to see her but is horrified when she learns that Mr Bryant offers to take custody of the baby and tells her that she will not be allowed to see him. Lord Grantham and Jane have an encounter but are interrupted and Jane decides to leave. Anna and Bates marry in secret. Cora becomes seriously ill. Lavinia succumbs to the flu and dies. Matthew tells Mary that any relationship between them is now impossible. Lord Grantham reluctantly gives his blessing for Lady Sybil and Thomas Branson to marry. Bates is arrested for the murder of his late wife.|
|16||–||"Christmas at Downton Abbey"||Brian Percival||Julian Fellowes||25 December 2011||12.11[nb 8]|
|December 1919 and January 1920. The household is bustling with Christmas preparations. The staff entertain themselves with a Ouija board, trying to contact the spirits. Bates is convicted of Vera's murder, but his death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. Bates encourages Anna to stay at Downton but live a full life. Daisy meets with William's father, Mr Mason, who assures her that she is a good person, and asks her to become his surrogate daughter. Rosamund contemplates marriage, but her suitor is exposed as a "fortune hunter". Sybil, now married to Tom Branson and living in Ireland, writes to Cora that she is pregnant. Cora insists on them returning to Downton. Mary jilts her fiancé, Sir Richard Carlisle, despite his threat to publish her dark secret regarding the late Kemal Pamuk. Though afraid that he will see her as "soiled", Lady Mary tells Matthew about Pamuk. Though surprised, he soon decides that what's past is past, and proposes to her; she happily accepts.|
Filming began in March 2011. The scripts were written by series creator Julian Fellowes. Episodes were directed by Ashley Pearce, Andy Goddard, Brian Kelly, and James Strong. Cal Macaninch, Iain Glen, Amy Nuttall, Zoe Boyle, and Maria Doyle Kennedy joined the cast as the new valet Lang, Sir Richard Carlisle, the new housemaid Ethel, Lavinia Swire, and John Bates' wife Vera, respectively. Nigel Havers and Sharon Small appeared in the Christmas Special as Lord Hepworth and Marigold Shore, Rosamund Painswick's maid, respectively.
Series two was highly acclaimed. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has fresh rating of 100% based on 24 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With its excellent cast and resplendent period trappings, Downton Abbey continues to weave a bewitching, ingratiating spell." On Metacritic, the series 2 has a normalized score of 85 out of 100 based on 26 critics, indicating "Universal Acclaim".
The series generally received overwhelming reviews from critics. Linda Stasi of the New York Post wrote "The series seamlessly moves between the horrors of war and the gentility of life in the show's titular 100-room manor." Writing for TV Guide Magazine, Matt Roush said, "For those of us who hungered for a year to witness these new chapters, the appetite is insatiable." Wall Street Journal's television critic Dorothy Rabinowitz said, "The vibrant brew of upstairs-downstairs relationships is more savory now, the characters more complicated." Robert Bianco of USA Today also lauded the series saying, "There's nothing in Downton you won't recognize, and almost nothing you won't enjoy." Variety's chief television critic Brian Lowry praised the series cast and said "Julian Fellowes has created such a vivid group of characters and assembled such an impeccable cast--effortlessly oscillating from comedy to drama--that the hours fly by, addictively pulling viewers from one into the next." Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter said, "The characters are so beautifully and thoroughly rendered that we, as viewers, are caught up in their lives." Robert Lioyd of the Los Angeles Times said, "It is big, beautiful, beautifully acted and romantic, its passions expressed with that particular British reserve that serves only to make them burn brighter."
Some media outlets and critics were more critical towards the show. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV critic Rob Owen wrote, "Writer/series creator Julian Fellowes weaves together an engrossing tapestry of stories, although some of them stretch credulity or peter out." Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times also gave the series moderate reviews by comparison to first series and said, "Season 2 is in many ways as captivating and addictive as the first, but this time around, the series comes off as a shameless throwback to itself." In a moderate review, Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post said, "Your investment in the many stories spun out by creator Julian Fellowes may take longer to develop this year, because the costume drama's pace is off in the early going and it's far more contrived and inconsistent than it was in its first season." In a less enthusiastic review for the Washington Post, Hank Stuever quipped, "Downton Abbey lacks surprise and is stretched precariously thin, a house full of fascinating people with not nearly enough to do, all caught in a loop of weak storylines that circle round but never fully propel."