As is the way with many things I become obsessed with, I kept hearing about this show and how great it is from everyone around me, so I decided I needed to check it out too. Gosford Park is one of my favourite movies and I knew the concept was similar so I figured I would like it.
Well, needless to say I bulldozed through Season 1 in rather quick order and I am now downloading Season 2 (which is in progress) and I literally cannot wait until I see the next episode. Once I catch up I will be very sad at having to WAIT for new episodes (and even more sad when the season ends entirely and I have to wait several months!! AH #thehorror).
I. LOVE. IT.
First of all the setting in the English countryside is just beautiful. Heck, the entire styling of the show is great, from the costumes and sets through to the props. It all feels very authentic. And, the servants are very believable in their roles - you would think they had been doing it for years!
|The women on this show are always wearing the most beautiful dresses.|
Secondly, there are so many different characters and each has their own unique storyline. Obviously some characters are featured more often than others but you pretty much see every character at least once an episode and they each have at least some small part in the plot. And the more prominently featured characters are so multifaceted! I am pretty sure each one has a secret or a past they are carrying around and they each are constantly surprising me by their actions, words and decisions. These characters are not boring or flat by a long-shot.
|I think it's safe to say you are carrying around one of the biggest secrets of them all, am I right Lady Mary?|
It's particularly refreshing to see such complex and fiery female characters, especially for a series set in an era that dictated very stringent societal rules for ladies (particularly wealthy ladies). Emersing oneself into the lives of these women really reminds you at how few choices they had back then, and how little was expected of them. Most of the rich ones basically sat around and waited to be married off, then spent their married years devoted to their husband's pursuits instead of her own. Most of the poor ones just went to work as soon as they could and spent their life scraping by, also not able to have their own lives due to circumstance.
The show in general is set at a very interesting time in history, starting off just before the outbreak of World War I and the start of the suffrage movement. I find it interesting that this era was still connected to the traditions of Victorian times, yet was on the brink of some major shifts in thinking and living. It must have been an incredibly exciting yet scary time - for people rich and poor.
Speaking of rich and poor, I love the honest and close depiction of the lives at each "level" of the house - upstairs and downstairs. I like that the focus isn't just on the wealthy family who owns the house but also on the people who help keep it running. The house essentially has two separate worlds coexisting (in a manner of speaking) inside it and we get to see the ins-and-outs of each one but also how the two occasionally collide.
I actually find it refreshing that the Earl and his family (for the most part) are very kind and generous to their servants. I am sure this was not the case in all households back then, but I think the common stereotype about wealthy manor and land owners of the time is that they were often domineering, abusive and unfair toward their staff. It's nice to see a family that, even though there is a clear class distinction between them and the servants, obviously cares about the well-being and contentment of everyone in the house. (The perfect illustration of this is the scene in one of the last episodes in Season 1 where Lord Grantham asks Sybil, "Are you saying that I cannot enter my own Library because one of the maids is interviewing for another job?!" then just walks away like, "Ok, that's cool. I'll wait." lol. Hilarious). I was surprised by this dynamic and I guess that is why I like it so much.
|Speaking of Sybil, is she not gorgeous?!|
The show is very educational of course, and very proper and serious on one level, but it still has enough soap-opera-esque drama to keep you laughing and on the edge of your seat! There is a nice helping of lying, backstabbing, secret love affairs (acknowledged and not) and gossiping. There are also lots of hilarious one-liners, mainly courtesy of Maggie Smith as the Dowager Duchess. She certainly says what she thinks - it's awesome!
Now if you will excuse me, I must go start Season 2. I should re-emerge in about a week.