Downton Abbey-Season Two (Blu-ray) (2011)
|Category||TV Drama Series||
Main Menu Audio & Animation
|Year Of Production||2011|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (5)
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||
Universal Pictures Home Video
|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|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
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.
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.
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.
|Surround Channel Use|
Lots of extras. The fifth disc is a DVD so those extras are standard definition (as noted below)
The menu featured music, scenes from the show and allowed for episode selection.
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.
An interesting and worthwhile commentary from the creative forces behind the camera. They cover locations, story, casting and more. Well worth a listen.
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.
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.
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.
A worthwhile set of deleted scenes which mostly show further conversation or exposition.
Short intro by Historical advisor and Fellowes about their approach to Season 2.
Dan Stevens discusses life in the trenches and the shooting of those scenes.
Cast & Crew discuss the critical and popular reception for Season 1.
The three actresses discuss how their characters developed in Season 2.
Actresses who play Daisy & Mrs Patmore discuss their duties in the kitchen and how things changed for Season 2.
Actors who play Thomas & O'Brien discuss their characters and how things changed for Season 2.
New characters and changes for other characters.
Historian discusses the changes made to the house to provide hospital facilities.
Featurette on keeping major houses going during the war years.
Preview and making of for Christmas Special.
Pilot episodes for all three series, which are not really related to Downton Abbey at all.
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.
The video quality is very good.
The audio quality is very good.The extras are extensive.
|DVD||SONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output|
|Display||Sharp 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 Decoder||Built into amplifier. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Monitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer|