Title: Downton Abbey TV Series, Seasons 1 & 2 (2010 – 2011; TV-14)
Creator: Julian Fellowes
Major Themes: Family, Period Dramas, Romance
Synopsis: A period drama about the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants’ lives, spanning many years starting in 1912.
NOTE: Adult themes are discussed in this review.
I’m fairly certain I heard about Downton Abbey soon after the first season was released. Although the idea of the show intrigued me, I didn’t find anyone to borrow it from for quite a while. In retrospect, that’s probably a good thing, but recently I found out that friends had the series, and decided I would satisfy my curiosity and work my way through them.
I’ve debated back and forth as to whether I should put a review up. This is the kind of TV series that I don’t know that I would really recommend—definitely cannot fully recommend—but because there are likely others like me who have been curious, I decided I would review it, so you can get an idea of what you’ll be seeing. I’ll only do the first two seasons; from what I’ve seen from follow-up seasons (I’ve just finished season three), the type of content seems to remain about the same. If you would like an overview of the content in subsequent seasons, I’d recommend checking out the Wikipedia article (it contains a fairly detailed overview of each season), and Plugged In also has a few episode reviews.
This series has a good amount of adult content in it. While it doesn’t ever go beyond a certain line, I still struggled with the amount of content that is implied (past or present), despite it not being all on-screen. The two main things I object to here are the sensual scenes (even though they don’t go beyond kissing, there are overtones of more), and the way the characters take revenge on each other over and over. Even family members can be very nasty to each other, and I didn’t appreciate that.
Opening with the sinking of the Titanic, the Crawley family is devastated to learn that the heir to the family estate died on the ship. As they work through their grief, both upstairs and downstairs have their tensions. While the daughters of the family attempt to find men who would make good husbands, the parents try to figure out if there is any way to preserve part of the estate for their daughters. The servants strive to keep up with all the many comings and goings upstairs, and struggle to accept newcomers in their midst. Several women—both upstairs and down—dream of breaking out of the traditional molds, and making their own way in the world.
WARNING: Language: God’s name is misused multiple times, generally at least once per episode. Swear, bloody, blimey, bastard, heavens, and gracious are also semiregular expressions. There is also some lying here and there. Episode 1: Near the end of the episode, there is a gay kiss with hints that there may have been more at some stage, and there is a brief tussle from 56:40 – 1:00:00. Episode 2: From 12:00 – 12:19 a man is coughing up blood, and from 39:00 – 40:30 there is a medical procedure. Episode 3: From 25:36 – 28:18 there is an unwanted kiss, and a man asks a woman to sin; he later shows up in her room and kisses her multiple times, with implications he wants more, and they fall on the bed. From 28:18 – 32:19, there is a dead man who is at least partially undressed. From 44:19 – 44:35, you see a man with bleeding lacerations on his legs. Episode 4: From 26:26 – 26:56 a man pushes another man up against a door and threatens him. Episode 6: The opening scene is of people in a mob environment over a speech about women’s rights. From 27:10 – 28:07, a meeting goes violent and a woman gets hurt, from 38:34 – 38:45 there is a kiss. Episode 7: From 5:30 – 6:04 a couple talks about the wife being pregnant, and there is a quick kiss, someone says “he’s a slippery devil”, and later “filthy, ungrateful cow” is said about a woman, from 46:44 – 47:54 a woman is in the bathtub; you see an arm and her knee. Off-screen, a woman has an accident (you hear her yell of surprise), and later we find out a baby miscarried. A man is punched in the face at 50:17, and the fight continues through 50:47.
As World War I shakes the world, the English aristocracy—and, by extension, the Crawley family—are shaken by the events unfolding around them. They’ve already had enough upheaval as a family; now they have to face the very real danger of losing loved ones in the war. As the young men are drafted to fight, there are fewer and fewer men around to keep everything going as it ought, so the women have to pick up the slack both in fieldwork and in nursing the sick. But soon, when there are too many wounded to house in the hospitals, convalescent homes are set up all over the country. When the Crawleys are asked to allow their house to become a convalescent home, they agree, and soon Downton is busier than ever. But with everything changing so quickly and the social classes mixing so much more, is there any hope that the traditional way of life will be regained again after the war?
WARNING: (**SEE NOTE) Language: Similar to season 1. God’s name is misused occasionally, bloody, goodness, bitch, heavens, “damn you”, “the hell with”, “in heaven’s name”, golly, damn, “bloody hell”, swear, and crikey, are all used, and there is also some lying throughout. One character is a communist, and that is talked about here and there. There are several war scenes, with people being blown up or badly injured at times. There are several scenes with characters very angry and shouting at each other. Characters (mostly unmarried) kiss at times, with at least one instance of a married man kissing a woman he wasn’t married to. Episode 2: From 35:42 – 36:10, there is a brief scene that included finding a man who had slit his wrists to commit suicide. Episode 4: From 26:51 – 27:33, an unmarried couple is discovered together, partially undressed, and later the woman reveals she’s pregnant. Episode 7: At the beginning, there is a mention of a woman who committed suicide. Episode 8: From 57:11 – 58:34, a married couple has their tops off in bed together (they remain almost totally covered up), and they kiss. Episode 9/Christmas Special pt. 01: Near the end of the episode, a man receives the death sentence. Throughout the Christmas Special, people are using an ouija board to communicate with the dead. Episode 10/Christmas Special pt. 02: Between 3:00 and 3:30, there is a mention of a man dying in a woman’s bed. From 40:14 –41:05, a man and woman are found in bed together.
Like many other period dramas, Downton Abbey has its appeal. Much of what is contained in the show is the day-to-day life of the Crawley family (similar to what I imagine a soap opera is like), and being a history fan, I find that fascinating. Their struggles and joys are much like anything you would expect from any era. The scriptwriting, acting, and sets are all exquisitely done and draw you in from the very first episode. Aside from the things I’ve noted in the warnings, I really enjoyed watching this TV series.
But…the warnings. Although I’ve mentioned that for the most part, things on-screen don’t go past a certain point, you still know what’s going on. Due to our sinful natures, there will always be instances where we turn against God’s laws, and that isn’t ignored here. One point I will say in favor of the series is that generally speaking, characters don’t get away with sin. One of the characters spends a night with a man she isn’t married to, and she suffers as a result. One of the characters is gay, and though some modern thinking comes through some characters’ responses, it’s still called sin.
Do I recommend this series? That’s a hard question for me to answer. Many of the episodes were fine and I greatly enjoyed them, but there was enough “yuck” here and there that I don’t feel like I can say yes. If you were able to watch it with filters (I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve heard that VidAngel is good), it might be fine. Overall, though, I don’t feel like I can recommend the series.
*I watched the New Zealand version of this series, so episode numbers may not match up to those found in the States.
**To reduce space, this is a simplified version of the warnings, hopefully with the most helpful content selected. If you would like to see a full version, including timestamps for some things, please contact me and I’ll be happy to send them through to you.
Links to buy this movie:
Season 1—Amazon: Prime Video | DVD | Blu-Ray
Season 2—Amazon: Prime Video | DVD | Blu-Ray
Leave a Reply