And so we open, once again, with a date: April 1917. Now without wanting to cover the same ground as with the first episode, the movement of time is still proving troublesome. A year has passed since we were last at Downton; or rather, the events of episode one took us through a year of the war meaning that they continue for us without seizure in April 1917. The problem is that by making explicit the date at the beginning of the episode I find myself questioning a gap that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
Anyway, to the actual drama. We’ve settled ourselves into wartime Downton in episode one and now it’s time for the seeds of plot to be sown. We were not disappointed either: Thomas has successfully returned to the home front and with the help of confidante Miss O’Brien finds himself back in the throes of Downton Abbey. With Mr Bates out the picture the gloriously spineless Mr Molesley can have a crack at Anna. Meanwhile Edith finds occupation and sauce on the Drake’s farm and Miss Swire is caught in a compromising position with Sir Strallen. Juicy!
While the Mary/Matthew and Anna/Bates dilemmas are what keep me on the edge of my seat each week, the really moving scenes came from our dastardly plotters – are O’Brien and Thomas being reformed this series? Miss O’Brien’s tender moment comforting Lang was both poignant and startling; in the previous series we would have expected her to use knowledge of weakness for personal gain. Thomas’ pep talk to the blinded soldier was moving in itself but coupled with the brief caress and subsequent suicide was positively electrifying.
For the first time in all of Downton I was slightly disappointed by the writing (or editing?): some scenes rattled through such abrupt subject changes in dialogue that a less avid watcher could well have been left behind. Even some scene changes appeared to happen mid-way though a piece of action.
Nevertheless, all characters are still intact, and aided by the doting Mr Carson, Mary is edging her way to trying once more for Matthew’s affections. The question is, will Mary prove too moral after her manipulative past to win the man she loves?
Matthew 2, World War One 0!
Words by Claudia Rowe