For those of us here in the New World, the second season of British network ITV's smash-hit period drama Downton Abbey has almost, finally, made its way across the ocean. The second season — excuse us, second series — has already aired in its entirety, with a movie-length Christmas special to boot, in the UK, but we here in the colonies remain series two virgins until Sunday. Eh, well, some of us.
Hey, go make sure the coast is clear, because we're going to tell you a secret: Some of us have already seen all of the second season (and the Christmas special to boot). Yes! Through various means, some Downton-hungry fans of the Yankee persuasion have gained access to the episodes and already gobbled them up and drank down the Christmas special as a delicious digestif. So, from those of us who basically live in the future and know all about the world which you are about to experience, let us give you two points of advice on how to best enjoy the second season of Downton Abbey.
1. Do not look at videos or pictures of the cast in real life. We know it's tempting! There's plenty of it available, whether it's that Marie Claire photoshoot with all the young women (don't click on that!) or various videos of the cast on press tour (what did we just say about clicking??), but just do not look at it. Because it really shatters the illusion. Part of the joy of the show is that, with a few exceptions (Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville maybe, Maggie Smith duh), most of the cast are total unknowns, to American audiences at least. So you really kinda start to actually believe that they live in post-Edwardian England and serve tea or drink tea and whatever else, because who's seen them anywhere else? That's all they do, it's the only place they live! But then, oh god, you see them in miniskirts and hip jackets or talking about texting people in Greenwich Village and it all falls apart, just all dries up and blows away in the cruel American wind. It's not that the show is so flimsy that it needs that heavy suspension of disbelief, but it certainly makes the experience more thorough and enjoyable. Much in the way that watching the first season, before it hit big in the zeitgeist, felt like a fun little secret, not knowing anything about the actors in modern day makes Downton feel special. So don't go and ruin it! Even if real-life Rob James Collier is scruffy and adorable. (Next time you click on a link you're getting a slap.)
2. Don't expect too much. OK, yes, it is exciting that Downton Abbey is coming back. The first season/series was great! So sure, be excited. But don't be that excited? Like don't be writing-dweeby-Slate-pieces excited maybe? Not to be a downer or totally harsh your buzz or whatever, but season two's got some problems. Some kinda big, big problems. A few characters get really annoying as they get stuck and swirl around and around and around in the eddy of one plotline. And some plainly ridiculous things happen. There are maybe two instances that hint at the presence of the supernatural, or at least some sort of psychic connection. Like that kind of ridiculous. Oh, and, don't hold your breath waiting for some kind of, ahem, gay love interest. 'Cause you'll die. Sorry, but that's the truth. Look, we're not saying don't watch it, because of course of course of course watch it, eat it up like blood sausage (or something less gross), but don't go breaking the bank on your premiere party either. Manage those expectations, is what we're saying. Just keep the anticipation at a mid-low level and enter the story from there. Because if you go in expecting the bestest Britishest thing ever, well... You might be disappointed, is all. We know that's such a bummer thing to say, here just a few days before the big premiere, but much like we would caution, nay implore, against watching Lost (seriously do not watch that ultimately excruciating blue balls of a television series), knowing how our own hearts were slightly broken, we warn you to not pin your entire winter hopes on this thing, OK? Watch it and enjoy and have that be that. Cancel that case of champagne though maybe. That's all.
Yes, that's all! Those are the two bits of advice you should heed in order to guarantee a safe Downton Abbey season two viewing experience. We'll see you on the other side! The weather here is fine.