Downton Abbey, Season 2

I’ll Wipe That Smug Look Off Sir Richard’s Face
Talking television.
Feb. 6 2012 7:00 AM

Downton Abbey, Season 2


I’ll wipe that smug look off Sir Richard’s face.

Sir Richard Carlisle, played by Iain Glenn on the new series of Downtown Abbey
Sir Richard Carlisle

Courtesy © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

See our Magnum Photos gallery on the English countryside.

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

June, Dan,

This was the week Downton hit its soapy stride. As daytime drama aficionados know, no soap worth its bones can make it through more than 1.5 seasons without resorting to an implausible amnesia storyline. (Or a “mysterious stranger arrives on the scene with ambiguous intentions” storyline—so I guess this was a soapy two-fer.)


As for our bandaged claimant to Downton: If Patrick really is Patrick, he sure gave up the fight pretty easily. Faced with just a pinch of skepticism from the Crawley clan, he retreats from a chance to take the reins of the Downton estate, reunite with his long-lost family, and marry Lady Edith. Not a whole lot of fortitude there. Alternatively, if he’s a liar, it took barely any resistance to shut down his con.

Either way, I’d prefer we not see Mr. Gordon return. Yes, I salute his brave sacrifice. But his halting, guileless, high-pitched voice irritates me to no end. He sounds like a Sesame Street puppet learning how to read.   

As long as I’m hating on Downton characters, I should mention that I’d very much like to wipe that smug look off Sir Richard’s face. How dare he speak to Lady Mary in that thuggish manner? And to steal a desiccated, spiteful kiss immediately after threatening to ruin her? My rage at Sir Dick is surpassed only by my disappointment in Mary for not striking back. I fear our last hope is Carson: Perhaps he’s the man to convince Mary that the life she’s slipping into is a gilded prison.

Can we talk about the burgeoning murder mystery? Bates comes back from visiting his evil wife and is suddenly sporting a new abrasion on his face. Soon after, we discover the woman has been murdered—ever so conveniently. Who else but Bates would have motive? And yet we can’t suspect our gallant valet of such an awful act. What other possibilities am I missing? Mrs. Bates is so nonsensically malevolent that I’d almost believe she’d fake her own killing just to frame her estranged husband.

Oh, and what was that stirring in Cousin Matthew’s nether regions? Were we meant to infer that he felt a tingle in his ankle? Or that he went from six to 12? How the fate of the world can hinge on a single erection …

Contemplating the thing young men are all anxious to do behind the bicycle shed,


Editor’s note: For the benefit of American readers who haven’t yet seen Season 2 of Downton Abbey, please do your best to avoid spoilers when commenting.


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