Downton Abbey, Season 2
How the show finally made me fear spoilers.
© Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for Masterpiece.
Lady June, Mr. Stevenson:
Many readers have been aghast to discover that news reports to which we’ve linked—objectionable photos of the women of Downton in modern dress, stories about Lady Mary and Lady Cora’s jazz album—have included Season 2 spoilers. We’ll do our best in the future to include spoiler warnings, but a reminder: Read anything about Downton at your own risk! Spoiler-averse Americans are facing a real challenge with Downton Abbey; indeed, it’s ironic that I’m watching and writing about this show given how committed I am to the free and open discussion of plot twists. Many readers took me to task for that piece, pointing out that if they live in the U.K. or Australia or, basically, anywhere besides the United States, they can’t watch episodes of Breaking Bad or Justified for months or years after they air here and are therefore susceptible to the pain and sorrow of spoilers.
And now here I am, finally seeing what the world looks like from their side. English viewers already know everything that’s happened on Downton Abbey, but I’m in the dark, stumbling upon season-ruining details in every comment thread and British newspaper I read. Yesterday I learned two enormous twists just by Googling Sybil Crawley’s name! I couldn’t remember whether it was “Sybil” or “Sibyl”; now, thanks to a sentence fragment in the Google description of the first search result, I know how it’s spelled, and also that she [REDACTED] [REDACTED], and also that [REDACTED] dies. So anyway, don’t Google “Sybil Crawley.” Or anything else.
June, I’m awfully excited about Lady Cora’s jazz stylings. I can only hope that the two actresses will tour America—perhaps, in the mold of the Portlandia tour, as part of some kind of Downton road show, re-enacting and reminiscing about the series’ finest moments live before adoring fans. Thrill as the Dowager Countess finally tames that swivel chair! Ooh and ahh as Lady Edith takes Matthew on a tour of all those churches! (Followed by a lively number from the Downstairs Dancers.)
In fact, given the rapturous love many fans have for the show, I have to think Star Trek-style conventions are inevitable. That will give the ‘shippers somewhere to go. Seth, you asked about my Carson/Hughes slashfic; I’m not prepared to share it yet, but please feel free to enjoy this story, “Improper Behaviour,” a delightful nonexplicit light romance (with vague spoilers) featuring everyone’s favorite upstanding housekeeper and repressed butler, written by fanfiction.net user Maple Fay. I think this is my favorite part:
"What the…" he started, amazed that someone had the nerve to stop him in his way, and turned on his heel, to face—her.
She was smiling, warm sparkles dancing in her eyes, her face still coloured from the evening activities. "Stay where you are," she said playfully.
As for me, I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘shipper. I just have very specific expectations about who is going to wind up with whom when the series reaches its conclusion. Matthew will wind up with Lady Mary; Mr. Bates will wind up with Anna; Daisy will wind up with William; Mr. Carson will wind up with Mrs. Hughes; Mrs. Patmore will wind up with Molesley; Isobel Crawley will wind up with Dr. Crawford; Gwen will wind up with Ethel; Thomas will wind up with O’Brien in a mutually beneficial sham marriage; Lady Sybil will wind up with Seth Stevenson; the Dowager Countess will wind up with Sir Richard Carlisle; Lady Cora will wind up with Farmer Drake; Lord Grantham will wind up with Mrs. Farmer Drake; and Lady Edith will wind up with Denis Thatcher. But I’m no ‘shipper.
Until next week,
Note: Out of consideration for viewers in the U.S., please do not post Season 2 spoilers in the comments.
Dan Kois is a senior editor at Slate and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.