Downton Abbey-Season Two (Blu-ray) (2011)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 1-Aug-2012

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Drama Series Main Menu Audio & Animation
Bonus Episode
Audio Commentary
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Making Of-Multiple
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 554
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (5)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian Kelly
Brian Percival
Ben Bolt
Andy Goddard
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring None Given
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music John Lunn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     I recently reviewed recent BBC costume drama, Upstairs Downstairs which was unlucky enough to come to television at the same time, and therefore be compared to, this masterful period drama, Downton Abbey. Upstairs is a good show and worthwhile to watch, however it certainly pales in comparison with this big budget and exceptionally well written drama series, which has taken the world by storm over the last couple of years.

     The show is set in a grand country house in England, the titular Downton Abbey, and started with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. This second season starts part way through World War I in 1916 with the battle of the Somme and goes up to 1919. It follows the lives of the Crawley family, who own the house, and the servants who look after them. The head of the house is Robert Crawley, The Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) who is married to an American heiress, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern). They have three mature daughters, the aloof Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), the b****y Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and the young and headstrong Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay). These descriptions are probably unfair and grossly simplify the characters which develop over the season in different ways. Having daughters leads to a problem with the succession to the Earl's title, Cora's money and the house itself. The new heir is identified to be Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a distant cousin of Robert, who arrives to live in the village with his interfering mother, Isobel (Penelope Wilton). He is young, handsome and eligible. Robert's mother, Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) also lives in the village and inserts herself and her opinions into most of the goings on in the house and family, especially the matter of the succession. This character is wonderful, acerbic, manipulative and funny.

     Equally important to the various intersecting storylines are the various staff members of the great house, led by the butler, Mr Carson (Jim Carter). Other staff members include the housekeeper, Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan), Head Housemaid, Anna Smith (Joanne Froggatt), Footman Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier), Ladies Maid Sarah O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran), Cook Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol), Scullery Maid Daisy (Sophie McShera), Lord Robert's valet, Mr Bates (Brendon Coyle) and footman, William Mason (Thomas Howes). The stories of these characters are just as interesting and well written as those of the Crawley family.

     This second season is probably even better than the first with some really interesting character development as the war effects people’s lives. The vast changes which went through English society at the time are reflected in this microcosm. Brilliant Stuff.

     It is the quality of the intersecting storylines which really makes this series stand out, although great direction, excellent acting from the ensemble cast, marvellous production values and beautiful music all play a role as well. One thing which really speaks to the quality here is that this is not an adaptation of a play or novel, it has been written directly for the series by Julian Fellowes, famous for writing Gosford Park amongst other things and his long acting career.

     There are eight episodes in this second season (not including the Christmas Special), which generally run about 50 minutes each. These are spread over three Blu-ray discs with some extras on the third disc, the Christmas Special is on a fourth Blu-ray and a bonus DVD contains more extras.

     This second season is available on DVD or Blu-ray and is also available in a box set with Season 1.

    Highly Recommended.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     The video quality is very good and significantly better than the DVD I reviewed of Season 1.

     The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is 1080p encoded using AVC (this applies to the main episodes only; I will treat the Christmas Special as an extra).

     The picture is very clear and sharp. Shadow detail is good.

     The colour is excellent showing off the beautiful gardens and wonderful costumes.

     There is little to complain about in artefact terms with only some minor shimmer here and there.

     There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired which are clear and easy to read.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio quality is very good.

    These discs contain an English soundtrack in DTS HD-MA 2.0 stereo. The sound is obviously quite front focused.

     Dialogue was very easy to understand and clear throughout, again significantly clearer than the DVD.

     The theme music and score by John Lunn is excellent and sounds marvellous on this Blu-ray.

     The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Lots of extras. The fifth disc is a DVD so those extras are standard definition (as noted below)

Menu

     The menu featured music, scenes from the show and allowed for episode selection.

Christmas at Downton (92:38) HD

     A longer than normal Christmas Special set at Christmas 1919. This is a high quality show, definitely not just thrown together so that a Christmas special is available. Technically, this is only 1080i and the audio is only Dolby Digital 2.0, both disappointing downgrades from the other episodes.

Commentary - Episode 1 (Julian Fellowes, Liz Truebridge - Producer & Gareth Neame - Producer)

     An interesting and worthwhile commentary from the creative forces behind the camera. They cover locations, story, casting and more. Well worth a listen.

House to Hospital (8:22) HD

     Featurette focused on the historical adviser discussing how houses were taken over during the war and also the cast & crew talking about the plot developments.

Fashion & Uniforms (11:22) HD

     Featurette about the changes in fashion during the war and how that impacted the costume choices for the series. Also discusses military insignia and uniforms.

Romance in a Time of Warfare (13:15) HD

     A featurette which covers the change in emotional pace and relationships brought on by the war and how this impacted on the plots for Season 2.

Deleted Scenes (11:57) HD

     A worthwhile set of deleted scenes which mostly show further conversation or exposition.

Introducing Series 2 (2:30) SD

     Short intro by Historical advisor and Fellowes about their approach to Season 2.

In the Trenches (3:34) SD

     Dan Stevens discusses life in the trenches and the shooting of those scenes.

The Phenomenon (4:14) SD

     Cast & Crew discuss the critical and popular reception for Season 1.

The Sisters Crawley (3:37) SD

     The three actresses discuss how their characters developed in Season 2.

Kitchen Confidential (2:38) SD

     Actresses who play Daisy & Mrs Patmore discuss their duties in the kitchen and how things changed for Season 2.

The Nasties (2:24) SD

     Actors who play Thomas & O'Brien discuss their characters and how things changed for Season 2.

All Change at Downton (2:17) SD

     New characters and changes for other characters.

Transforming Downton (3:31) SD

     Historian discusses the changes made to the house to provide hospital facilities.

Impact of War (2:39) SD

     Featurette on keeping major houses going during the war years.

Christmas (6:27) SD

     Preview and making of for Christmas Special.

Pilot Episodes for Suits, Parenthood & Friday Night Lights SD

     Pilot episodes for all three series, which are not really related to Downton Abbey at all.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region A version of this title only contains the first three featurettes mentioned above and the Christmas Special. All the other local supplements such as the commentaries and other featurettes are additional on our local version. Region B clearly the better set.

Summary

    The second season of a very entertaining and high quality period drama. Better than the first even.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are extensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplaySharp LC52LE820X Quattron 52" Full HD LED-LCD TV . Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationMarantz SR5005
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE