Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Downton Abbey- Series 1: Episode 1

After watching the first episode of Downton Abbey, I was instantly hooked to the PBS Masterpiece classic. However, I have to admit that I was very skeptical at first about the captivating period piece.

Though the British television series seems much like Pride and Prejudice in the beginning, the exciting historical reference to the sinking of the Titanic brilliantly sets the tone for the remainder of the series. 

In the first few moments of the series premiere, viewers are invited into the home of the aristocratic Crawley family. The Crawley family resides at Downtown Abbey, and they are constantly surrounded by several of their loyal servants. In the beginning of the episode, Lord Grantham (played by Hugh Bonneville) is alerted by telegram that his cousin and his son have died as a result of the sinking of the Titanic. His cousins’ son Patrick, was engaged to the Grantham’s eldest daughter, Lady Mary (played by Michelle Dockery). As a result, Lady Mary is left without a fiancĂ©, and the Crawley family no longer has an heir to the Downton estate. This terrible tragedy becomes significant to the plot of the show, as it begins to change the lives of the Downton family forever.

But the sinking of the Titanic is not the only exciting development that occurs during the first episode. In the first half of the episode, viewers are introduced to the interesting and delightful characters that inhabit Downton Abbey. Mr. Carson (played by Jim Carter), who plays the Butler of Downton Abbey always seems to be the deliverer of bad news throughout the entirety of the episode. What is more, he also has seems to have a watchful eye over the rest of the Downton servants.

Later on, Mr. Carson introduces the crippled Mr. Bates (played by Brendan Coyle) to the rest of the servants at Downton. Mr. Bates is the new valet that has been personally selected by Lord Grantham to work at Downton Abbey. The other servants of Downton are not so keen on Mr. Bates when they realize he is a fellow comrade of Lord Grantham. Thomas, the first footman, and Miss O’Brien, the lady’s maid, make it their duty to force Mr. Bates out of Downton Abbey before he even has a chance to prove himself to the aristocratic Crawley family.

Another interesting quality I found about the servants at Downton Abbey, is the evident hierarchy between maids, servants, cooks, footmen, and valet’s. Throughout the episode, there are several references to the responsibilities and relationships that are allowed by each position. None of these references are more significant in my opinion than the exchange of dialogue between Daisy and Mrs. Patmore in the Downton kitchen. 

Finally, one of the most intriguing events of the episode is the arrival of The Duke of Crowborough (played by Charlie Cox). Lord and Lady Grantham hope that The Duke will make an offer of marriage to Lady Mary, but The Duke willingly tells Lord Grantham that he has no intention of courting Lady Mary or becoming an heir to the Downton estate. But The Duke has a much bigger secret he is hiding. Towards the end of the episode, the show reveals that The Duke is gay, and he is having an affair with the footman, Thomas. Though I thought that this scandalous revelation would conclude the first episode, there was still one more twisted surprise. 

At the very end of the episode, Lord Grantham sends a telegram to Matthew Crawley (played by Dan Stevens), who is a distant cousin of the Crawley family. Lord and Lady Grantham have decided that Matthew is the next best heir to the Downton estate. This exciting turn of events sets the tone for future episodes to come.

After observing the exciting and complicated relationships of the Crawley family during the first episode, I can’t wait to see what writer Julian Fellowes has in store for the remainder of the first season. Though Downton Abbey is not a series I have followed in the past, the historical references, elegant costumes, and charming characters of Downton have completely captured my critical attention.