Downton Abbey—Season 1

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8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Nice looking, strongly acted British drama

Feels a lot like other British dramas, takes a while to get going

 
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Welcome to Downton Abbey

The Earl of Grantham has died in the sinking of the Titanic, and Robert (Hugh Bonneville) is threatened by the fact that he has no male heirs.  Now, the race is on to find a husband for his daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery).  Complicating problems is his hiring of a new driver John Bates (Brendan Coyle) who served with can’t carry on the duties that Charlie Carson (Jim Carter) and the rest of the staff require.  When the Duke of Crowborough (Charlie Cox) comes to Downton Abby, Robert sees hope, but the Duke has eyes for Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) who has plans of his own.I enjoy the series and by the end of this season do think it is pretty good, but I’m not sure really why.  The subject seems pretty generic Upstairs-Downstair British upper-class/lower-class relations, and the events in the story plod along rather slowly.  It surprised me when it is revealed that two years passed in the lives of the characters in this season because I figured events were moving much faster.

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A large cast that can’t even all fit in the cast shot for the season

Despite what seems like a generic set-up and characters I can’t really identify with (I think I would quickly be fired if I were a member of the staff), Downton Abbey is compelling.  The acting is strong and the characterization is great.  It took a while for sister to develop their own personalities and the first few episodes I had problems keeping them apart.  The dastardly duo of O’Brien and Thomas are almost comical but definitely pull off the evil vibe that they are going for.  I also enjoy Bates-Anna relationship, and I think the working relationship between Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson is interesting, but with such a large cast and sprawling story it sometimes gets lost.

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Now is the time for the uprising…we shall slay them all!!! The fields will be red with their blood!!! Or we could just serve the coffee and tea.

The great setting of Highclere Castle in Hapshire and is a great and it really sets the scene for this family and crew.  The period of the story is also compelling (running from 1912 sinking of the Titanic to the 1914 declaration of war on Germany).  It is full of events like women suffrage, class issures, and the popularization of the telephone plus ideas like women entering the workforce.Downton Abbey is surprising fun that starts out a bit too slow for its own good, but ends up being a fun series.  I look forward to seeing the second series and finding out what goes on in the lives of these characters.  If you are scared off by period pieces, this probably will not change you opinion, but you should give it a try.

Downton Abbey—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:

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“Episode 1”

1.1              Episode 1 Airdate:  09/26/10

The Earl of Grantham has died in the sinking of the Titanic and Robert (Hugh Bonneville) is threatened by the fact that he has no male heirs.  Now, the race is on to find a husband for his daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery).  Complicating problems is his hiring of a new driver John Bates (Brendan Coyle) who served with can’t carry on the duties that Charlie Carson (Jim Carter) and the rest of the staff require.  When the Duke of Crowborough (Charlie Cox) comes to Downton Abby, Robert sees hope, but the Duke has eyes for Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) who has plans of his own.

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“Episode 2”

1.2       Episode 2 Airdate:  10/03/10

Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) and her son Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) have come to Downton Abbey at Robert’s request and Matthew finds it difficult dealing with servants and arranged marriage.  Isobel begins working in the local hospital and butts heads with the doctor over the patients’ treatments which puts Violet (Maggie Smith) at odds with her.  Mary objects to marrying a common man but learns from her mother Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) that her grandmother Violet suggested the marriage.  Carson keeps a secret and his past surfaces with the appearance of a man named Charles Grigg (Nicky Henson).

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“Episode 3”

1.3       Episode 3 Airdate:  10/10/10

Gwen Dawson (Rose Leslie) debates leaving the staff of Downton Abbey and reveals she’s trying to become a secretary to mixed reaction.  Edith (Laura Carmichael) works on courting Matthew as her sister Mary looks for another suitor in a Turkish diplomat named Kemal Pamuk (Theo James) and Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks).  Thomas makes a pass at Kemal and is forced to help Kemal get together with Mary.  When Kemal dies during sex, Mary, her mother, and Edith move the body to cover up Mary’s indiscretion.  Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) tries to help Gwen get a job.  Bates attempt to remedy his limp backfires.  Thomas’ loose lips leads Sarah O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) to suspect foul play in Kemal’s death.

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“Episode 4”

1.4       Episode 4 Airdate:  10/17/10

Mary continues to search for a suitor, and Violet decides to investigate whether Mary can take the title.  Isobel decides to help Molesley (Kevin Doyle) when he suffering from an illness and Violet uses it to get the upper hand.  Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) takes a night off and meets with her former love Joe Burns (Bill Fellows).  Anna (Joanne Froggartt) is forced rest because she is ill, and the staff finds themselves short.  Violet learns her digging has been revealed by Matthew and finds herself at odds with Robert.  William (Thomas Howes) feels himself slighted when Thomas beats him to asking Daisy (Sophie McShera) to the fair to spite him.  Mrs. Hughes finds herself facing a big decision.  Gwen finds herself with the opportunity to leave Downton but learns her hope is fleeting.  Tom Branson (Allen Leech) arrives as a chauffeur and reveals he’s politically active which interests Sybil.  Mary struggles with the idea of losing Downton Abbey to Matthew and questions why no one fights for her.

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“Episode 5”

1.5       Episode 5 Airdate:  10/24/10

Daisy deals with having seen Kemal’s body moved from Mary’s bedroom and makes herself a target of O’Brien and Thomas. Rumors about Mary’s reputation threaten Mary’s chances to marry. A horticultural exposition puts Violet and Isobel in competition again.  Thomas worries that the rumor he started about Mary will be traced back to him, and Bates that seeing him take wine might expose him.  Gwen goes for another try at a job at Sybil’s request and skips out on work to apply. Edith convinces Daisy to confess Mary’s secret to her while a stolen snuffbox cast doubt on Bates.  Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) makes a mistake with her dinner plans exposes a problem. Edith and Mary face-off over a potential suitor, and Matthew becomes a victim of Mary’s actions.  Anna admits her feels for Bates, but Bates reveals he cannot be with her because of his past.

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“Episode 6”

1.6       Episode 6 Airdate:  10/31/10

Sybil gets involved in the suffrage movement against her father’s wishes. Edith’s letter about Mary’s indiscretion to the Turkish Embassy starts stirring problems. Thomas and O’Brien decide to stop Bates by telling Carson that he stole the wine, and Thomas uses his influence over Daisy to incriminate him. Sir Anthony Strallan (Robert Bathurst) returns to court Mary but ends up riding with Edith. Violet hears about Mary’s indiscretion and learns Cora was part of the cover-up. When Sybil goes to an election count against Branson’s wishes, she is injured in a fight. Mary finds herself closer to Matthew but realizes her involvement with Kemal’s death is causing her doubt. When O’Brien and Thomas are exposed, Bates is forced to reveal something about his past that could change everyone’s perception of him.

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“Episode 7”

1.7       Episode 7 Airdate:  11/07/10

The family returns home from London, and receives news of an unexpected pregnancy. O’Brien and Thomas continue to plot against Bates and go to Carson with information about his past. Patmore’s eyes continue to worsen, and Robert learns he needs to make a decision about her. Mary learns of Edith’s betrayal to the Turkish ambassador and debates what to do with Matthew’s proposal in the wake of a possible male heir. Bates refuses to speak toward his innocence, and Anna refuses to believe Bates could be guilty. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand raises fears about war and Thomas plots his exit approach. Anna travels to London with Patmore and seeks answers in Bates’ arrest. Gwen gets a second chance for a secretary job with the telephone installer. Cora’s search for a position for Violet leads O’Brien to think she’s going to be replaced and causes her to take desperate measures. Mary and Edith both learn the fate of their potential proposals.

Related Links:

Downton Abbey—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Downton Abbey—Season 3 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Downton Abbey—Season 4 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Downton Abbey—Season 5 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Downton Abbey—Season 6 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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