This time around I caught my British-class-based-social-drama show on Hulu+ (they have a one week free trial offer which is *just* long enough to watch almost nine hours of episodes, plus it looked great on our new HD tv) and I was able to clear up something about the first season via Hulu as well. Previously I had been worried that the episodes on Netflix (from the first season) might have been cut/edited in some way, because they had such odd runtimes, but they all matched up with the episode lengths listed on Hulu so it appears I was being overly worried that time. But enough about what I've already covered on this blog, onto the second season!
Downton Abbey (season two)
Summary: World War I has began and all of Europe is effected by it. Even Downton Abbey has gone through changes because of the far off war, they are losing their young men to the front lines and seeing others come back to the local hospital lucky to be alive. The war isn't their only problem though, in a house this large there will always be more than a few secrets and there are some people who have large secrets to hide and friends who are bad at keeping them.
The Good: Once again the show manages to balance about a dozen different subplots and gives resolution, or at least the promise of continuation in a few cases, to all of them. They even give a bit more resolution to one or two subplots from the previous season, and Mr. Bates' woes continue as one of the most prominent subplots, and I was never bored by any of the characters. I was also surprised at how much some of the characters grew on me this season, especially the Dowager Countess who, while not exactly a nice person and certainly not a forward thinking one, always had an interesting opinion and did care about more things than I expected.
The Bad: The show certainly upped the melodrama this season and, while some melodrama is okay (especially with a shorter show like this), the fact that a lot of this was accomplished by either the characters being absolutely incapable of keeping secrets or via Mrs. Bates (who didn't even feel like a character, she honestly felt like a plot device that got away from the writers) was frustrating. I hope that the melodrama is toned down again next season (although I'm not betting on it) since after a while I was starting to roll my eyes when another complication arose in some of the subplots which I had hoped the show was done with. Oh and I would like Thomas to have some actual character development this time, he keeps having all these scenes and problems that seem to give him development but then by the next episode he's back to his old self without even a hint of anything having changed and it's really starting to bug me.
The Audio: The show used the exact same themes for the opening and closing credits (the same visuals for the opening as well) and I didn't notice any other changes to the music either which means there's not much for me to talk about. I do hope there's more variety in the music the next season (especially since the show is in the 1920s now and, in the US anyway, that was the era of all kinds of amazing music) but for the moment everything continues as it has before.
The Visuals: As with the first season the clothes all look fantastic (well, perhaps not the servants clothes but even the military uniforms look rather dashing) and the setting looks quite nice as well. One nitpick I do have however is how, by the end of the season, it has been five years in story since the beginning of the first season and yet none of the characters seem to have aged. I worked out that the youngest sister would have been 16 when the show started and 21 by this point and frankly she never looked that young in the first season and by that logic the oldest sister must be at least 23 yet again the actress looks just a bit too old for this. Most people do age noticeably in that time period and I do wish they had shown at least a bit of aging for the characters, it might've made the timeskips a bit easier to keep track of as well.
I can seen now why some people said the show went down a bit in the second season (there really is a lot of melodrama) but overall I still found the show rather enjoyable. The third season airs in the UK this fall but not in the US until winter (on, who else has a gap for something like this, PBS) so it's going to be quite a while until I talk about this show again. Guess I'd better find another British tv show or two to watch in the meantime....