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Downton Abbey Season 1: Remembering Our Introduction to The Crawleys

October 7, 2014

It doesn't seem that long ago that we were tuning in to meet the residents of Downton Abbey (and some of us even met them in Seattle at KCTS 9),  but here we are, four seasons later—preparing for a FIFTH season to air on this side of the pond in early 2015! KCTS 9 will be re-airing Downton Abbey Season 1 during Tea Time, starting Monday, October 13 at 3pm. Amie Simon gets us ready for the new season with a nostalgic look back at the very first time we laid eyes on The Crawleys and their staff.

Since the beginning, Downton Abbey lured us in with richly developed characters, amazing settings and costumes, and a drama-filled look at both sides of living in a mansion on a lush British estate—both upstairs and down. Let’s take a look back at how the characters started out.

UPSTAIRS
From the very first episode, we knew that Lord Grantham’s aim was to make sure his daughters inherited his—well really, his wife Cora’s—fortune, but unfortunately that all fell apart when Lady Mary’s intended was aboard the RMS Titanic! Mary’s reaction was as icy as the glacier that sunk the boat; she expressed relief and seeming indifference about her fiancé’s death, ruffling the much plainer Lady Edith’s feathers so much that the two sisters became engaged in a bitter battle for the rest of the season.

Enter Matthew Crawley, the distant third cousin of Robert. Matthew’s reluctance to accept his new position of wealth is exacerbated by The Dowager’s refusal to let him and his mother, Isobel, into the family—Violet simply won’t allow people so far beneath her to join her family under any circumstances! Watchers were immediately delighted by The Dowager’s quick, stinging wit, and Isobel’s steady deflection of it.

Part of the reason Matthew scoffed at his new position hinged on him realizing that Robert and Cora were hoping for a match between him and Mary—which season 1 Matthew wanted less than anything in world, even if the spark between them was almost immediate. Almost, we say, because of a mysterious Turkish diplomat named Pamuk!

Ahh, Pamuk. The handsome visitor from afar provided the first major jolt of scandal for Downton, when he seduced Lady Mary then promptly expired in her bedroom in a rather compromising position! While Cora and lady’s maid Anna helped remove him from the scene, the implications of that sordid night were drug out for two seasons—thanks in part to Edith providing ample fuel for the rumor fire. Upon learning of her sister’s betrayal, Mary fired back by ruining Edith’s budding relationship with Sir Anthony Strallen (version 1.0).

And let’s not forget our first glimpse of sweet, headstrong Lady Sybil! The youngest of the Crawley daughters, Sybil was (*sob*) the only family member who seemed to recognize that the servants at Downton were deserving of the same respect as the family. She encouraged maid Gwen to move up in station by getting a better job, even arranging for an interview.

Sybil was also the first daughter to get involved in women’s rights—tricking her admirer, the chauffer Tom Branson, into taking her to a rowdy political rally which ended with her being hit over the head! Thankfully, Matthew was on hand to help rescue her along with Branson. And you can almost see the first blush of forbidden love between Sybby and her headstrong Irish activist here. We love it!

Season one also ended on a tragic note for the family: Lady Cora losing her (quite unexpected) baby—a true male heir for Downton that could save The Crawley’s fortune, even as it ended Matthew and Mary’s premature engagement (also in Beta testing).

DOWNSTAIRS
The staff of Downton was thrown into upheaval by the arrival of Mr. Bates, an old friend of Lord Grantham in need of job who was assigned to be Robert’s valet. Disapproving Butler Mr. Carson believes Bates’ injury will throw his well-oiled staff machine into upheaval—and he’s right, but the more sympathetic Head Housekeeper Mrs. Hughes disagrees.

Enter jealous footman Thomas and co-conspirator O’Brien, who almost get Bates ejected from the house by trying to frame him for stealing! But Bates manages to outsmart Thomas at his own game, and win Anna’s heart in the process…beginning a long, complicated courtship with her. Isn’t it nice to remember Bates and Anna’s blooming romance pre-murder, though? * sigh *

The accusation against Bates was just the beginning of handsome Thomas trying to cause trouble. The kitchen staff triangle of love originated in season 1: William in love with Daisy, Daisy in love with Thomas, and Thomas in love with …. himself. Tensions between the two men escalate to a physical fight at the end of the season, resulting in a fight just before they both head off to war.

This season also gave us insight into Cora’s maid, O’Brien, and her perfectly groomed bangs. Jealous over the (misinformed) idea of Cora replacing her, the scheming maid placed a bar of soap just so for Cora to slip on, causing the loss of her child. Even O’Brien was horrified by that result! And just for a moment, it was possible to believe she had a heart in there somewhere. Until season 2, anyway.

And let’s not forget The Crawley’s cook, Mrs. Patmore. Patmore’s crabby personality and treatment of Daisy as her personal servant were revealed to be the symptoms of a larger problem: her failing eyesight! Lord Grantham made a surprising offer to save her sight, which solved one of those problems, if not the other.

Special mention: Season 1 also introduces us to Molesley and his special brand of being …. well, Molesley. An allergic reaction, some clumsy service, and the most awkward declaration of affection for Anna EVER. Oh, Molesley. It’s like “smh” was invented, just for you.

SEASON ONE FAVORITES:

Favorite quote from Dowager Countess: “One can’t go to pieces at the death of every foreigner. We’d all be in a constant state of collapse whenever we opened a newspaper.”

Favorite scandal: Pamuk, Pamuk, PAMUK. Both because we weren’t expecting Lady Mary to give in, and because the shock of it carried us through two seasons of white-knuckling whether the secret would be revealed!

Favorite kiss: Nothing can really beat the first kiss between Mary and Matthew … even if we know now that their coupling wasn’t quite meant to be.

Favorite scheme: Bates outsmarting Thomas by finding the “stolen” antique box O’Brien and Thomas hid in his room and re-hiding it in Thomas’ room. HA!

Catch up with The Crawleys and their staff on Downton Abbey Rediscovered, airing Sunday, November 30 at 9pm.

Need to catch up on more seasons? Watch for seasons one, two and three to air during KCTS 9's Tea Time in November and December, then season four on Sunday nights in December. Plus, you can read (and re-read) Amie's earlier season recaps:

Downton Abbey Season 1: Secrets, Scandal and Resolution

Downton Abbey Season 2: Scandal

Downton Abbey Season 3: Drink 'Em While You Got 'Em (with recipes)

Downton Abbey Season 4: Let's Drink to Romance

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