DVD Review: Beloved ‘Downton Abbey’ Returns With Second Season

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CHICAGO – “Downton Abbey” became one of the most notable TV phenomenons of the last several years this season as the second installment of the multiple award-winning show became such a part of pop culture that it was even spoofed on “Saturday Night Live.” For a time there, it felt like everyone I knew was watching “Downton” and the last time that happened with a PBS show was…wait…that hasn’t happened with a PBS show in my lifetime. “Masterpiece” was cool again. The first season of “Downton Abbey” is a stunner, easily the superior to the more melodramatic second outing, but this set is still well worth a look.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

The world was in a dream before the war and now it’s woken up and said goodbye to it…and so must we.” That closing line of the third episode of the second season of “Downton Abbey” sums up the show thematically and is a good example of why the series dipped just a bit from its amazing first season — a bit of a lack of subtlety. It’s an incredibly well-made and well-performed program, but some of the writing in season two of “Downton Abbey” felt a bit underlined. The writers, admittedly, took on an amazing thematic reach in season two, trying to capture the impact of war on different classes, but they also gave in a bit to the soap opera elements of the show. The first season was a perfect thing of beauty. If the second was slightly less perfect, it was still engaging (and clearly addictive) TV.

Downton Abbey: Season Two was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7, 2012
Downton Abbey: Season Two was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7, 2012
Photo credit: PBS

The first season was about class and the similarities & differences between the rich people who live upstairs and the poorer ones who live downstairs and work for them. Romance (failed and successful), the cover-up of a dead body, and the grand question of the future of Downton Abbey lingered as war was on the horizon. The first season ended with the arrival of war and the equalizing power of a country in combat dominates season two. We may be all the same on the battle line, but injured servants are treated differently than their injured masters. It’s a daring theme that makes for entertaining drama.

Downton Abbey: Season Two was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7, 2012
Downton Abbey: Season Two was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7, 2012
Photo credit: Summit

I think one of the reasons that “Downton Abbey” has connected so directly with audiences is that it looks and sounds like a feature film. I take that back. The performances and production values are higher than most feature films. I have to admit that I went into the show assuming that the living legend Maggie Smith would steal the piece but I don’t think she does at all. “Downton Abbey” is a beautifully constructed ensemble with great performances from Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, and many more. They are merely my favorites among one of the best ensembles on TV. These characters have become fully-realized and three-dimensional in ways that typically don’t happen on television. Want to know why people have become addicted to “Downton Abbey”? The people who live at Downton Abbey.

The DVD release of the show is decent but not stellar. I wish we had received the Blu-ray for review since the DVD picture quality is truly mediocre. It’s an incredible success story when a PBS Masterpiece program is not only well-made enough to receive a Blu-ray release but will clearly sell enough to justify the decision. “Downton Abbey” is an incredible show.

Synopsis:
Season 2 of the Emmy® Award-winning Downton Abbey returns as The Great War rages across Europe, and not even the serene Yorkshire countryside is free from its effects. The men and women of Downton are doing their part both on the front lines and the home front, but the intensity of war only serves to inflame the more familiar passions love, loss, blackmail, and betrayal.

Special Features:
o Fashion and Uniforms
o Romance in a Time of War
o House to Hospital

“Downton Abbey: Season Two” stars Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Lesley Nicol, Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens, and Brendan Coyle. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 7th, 2012.

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