What I liked:
- The costume design. It was sumptuous, stunning, suiting and perfect. I was very impressed.
- Maggie Smith. There is no way that you can watch this show and not absolutely love Cousin Violet and her antics. She is so strongly opinionated, but technically has a heart of gold under that prickly facade.
- The cast is wonderful. I think they all bring something of worth to the table. Jim Carter as Charles Carson is great, Brandan Coyle as John Bates is just perfect, I love him, and I think he and Joanne Froggart as Anna Smith work wonders together. Siobhan Finneran’s Mrs Sarah O’Brien and Rob James-Collier’s Thomas Barrow are such wily snakes. They really get under my skin.
- Dan Stevens. Because holy wowzers, he is freaking adorable and such a gentleman and a heart-stealer. Argh! Besides the fact that he plays Matthew Crawley so well, Matthew’s character itself is just so… perfect. Definitely not cut from the same cloth as his infinitely richer counterparts, he is a hard worker, smart, loyal, good looking and so down to Earth.
- Lady Mary Crawley’s character growth. It really took me from totally hating her to just being irritable with her at the best of times. I no longer wanted to shoot her though.
- The courtship between Lady Mary Crawley and Matthew. I mean, I am a little phased by the whole cousin thing, but at the end of it, and despite the fact that she was introduced as a super bitch and remains quite so throughout, her character grows quite a bit, and I found myself rooting for them to finally get over their issues and get together.
- Watching Cousin Violet and Cousin Isobel together is worth every second of screen time. They just have no time or patience for one another, but go about it in such different way. Plus, how competitive are these two?
- Sybil Crawley. Jessica Brown-Findlay captured her wonderfully, and this character is simply a favourite of mine. The way she helped Rose Leslie’s Gwen to find work, and how she is so free spirited and happy and pro-feminism is just great, and I am quite a fan of it. She is so independent, and I love the banter between her and Allen Leech’s chauffeur Tom Branson. He compliments her because he is also so different and political and he encourages her, but he looks out for her.
- How the divide between the rich and the poor and the working class is illustrated here. The servants work themselves to the bone, and the rich don’t necessarily realise all the work that gets done, the effects it has, and how much they differ from the help. For instance, Mary is quite dismissive about positions within the house, though she becomes rather embarrassed when she realises how important they are to other people (looking here specifically at what went down with William when he was looking after the horse).
- The humour. It is very sharp and very dry, I love it!
What I didn’t like:
- I am not necessarily a fan of the way that time jumps, and months/years have passed, but the n arrative continues as though there has been no time lapse.
- The relationship between Edith and Mary. I know it is there for the dramatic side of things and all that, but sheesh, how bitchy can you get with your sibling?!
- The whole legal predicament – it is explained, but not as nicely and as smoothly as I would have liked, meaning I get the gist of it, but not too much the technicalities of it.
- How totally self-centred Mary is, and how she spends far too much time listening to outside influences.
- Thomas and Mrs O’Brien – two snakes if ever I saw them!
I watched this once up until season three, then fell out with it, and decided a few months back to rewatch this and actually finish it this time around. I was particularly in the mood for something British. Naturally this ticked all the boxes, and I popped it in.
I was drawn in from the very first episode, no kidding. I love a good drama, and for a period setting and story, this was lovely. There were laughs, there were hard times, there were great relationships, there was some insane scheming, and there was character growth.
Typical of a show/book with such a massive array of characters, I was worried that I would forget them all, or not know how they all fit in. This is a normal fear when bombarded with so many people, especially seeing as how they were all introduced in the first episode basically. Getting to know Downton was a wonderful experience, and I am a big fan of the cast. Maggie Smith is a scene-stealer, of course, and her character of Cousin Violet is just immensely wonderful. She is so underhanded, so wealthy, so out of touch with how the rest of the world works, you cannot help but laugh at her. I particularly enjoyed her quip about weekends, and the competition/rivalry between her and Isobel is so worth watching. It is hilarious, and everyone is aware of it, some humour it, mostly because getting awkward doesn’t help. They are both immensely strong willed women. I also like how she is not as cold as you think, and sometimes she does particularly sweet things, but she does’t like to draw too much attention to it (such as when she relented and allowed Bill Molesley to win the flower fair).
Then there is Matthew Crawley. I cannot lie and say I did not fall deeply in love with his character. He was more in tune with reality, solidly middle class, not dismissive like the rest of the Crawley clan, smart as a whip and simply gorgeous. He was just… different, and I liked that. Not to mention that I think Dan Stevens is absolutely super hot, and he was adorable here (just look at his relationship with Molesley after he realises how the food chain works). Jessica Brown-Findlay was another actress I was very happy to see. I think she is beautiful, and her character of Sybil is wonderful – strong-willed, cheeky, a feminist to the core, and helpful. She is also more genuine than the rest of the family seems to be, such a free spirit. I must admit, I loved watching her be all rebellious, and thought that her and Tom Branson were so sweet together.
Bates was another character I deeply admired. He was loyal and genuine and such an honest man, and he would not shift blame. When he started he was treated so badly, and it actually hurt to watch, but eventually commanded the respect of just about everyone, and that was great. Also, I liked how he had served with Lord Robert Crawley in the war, and everyone treats him terribly and dismissively and he was actually friends with Robert, and it changes things when the rest of the servants realise this. He doesn’t use connections/relations with people to get ahead, however, and will never take anyone down with him maliciously, no matter what. Thomas and Mrs O’Brien irritated me, they were such forces of evil! T
he distinct portrayal of how times are different and cultural mores and norms that have differed is something I thoroughly enjoy watching, too. Wow, there is so much going on in this show actually that I am not sure how to address it all. I don’t want to leave anything out, but there is just too much that is right with this! Obviously this means that if you have not yet watched this, you should rectify that immediately.