Downton Abbey series 5, episode 2, review: Still charming even if it is a bit repetitive

Despite the rehashed story lines, the drama is still compelling

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The Independent Culture

Dissent was heavy in the air again as technology and women’s sexual freedom took centre stage tonight.

Lady Mary took up Lord Gillingham’s offer - only Julian Fellowes can make a dirty weekend classy by adding a touch of stiff upper lip - but it was poor old Anna who was charged with picking up the contraceptives for Lady Mary.

Downton Abbey has always had the beauty of hindsight but is this all-powerful knowingness starting to grate on viewers? Needless to say, it was an eye-opener watching Anna getting judged by a pharmacist for wanting to purchase contraception.


The wireless radio arrived at the Abbey and Lady Rose was as excited as a little puppy. She came across as a petulant child each time she suggested that Downton could do with a radio. Lily James is wasted as the vacuous Lady Rose.

Lady Rose is a poor substitute for the avant-garde Lady Sybil, who was a concrete character and much-loved. Hopefully, one day Rose can emulate her rebellious spirit. 

Twitter reacts to Isis, Downton's radicalised Labrador

There was a new face to the Abbey as Richard E Grant made his first appearance as the art historian Simon Bricker. The rather tanned gentleman had an eye on Cora but Lord Grantham was too busy worrying about losing his beloved dog Isis to the caddish visitor.

“There is nothing more ill-bred than trying to steal the affections of someone else’s dog!” Lord Grantham huffed as his wife smiled wryly at the irony.

Bricker will be appearing in several more episodes and his debut seems to be the start of something potentially harmful. The shift in focus to Cora was a smart move and keeps things interesting.

Meanwhile, downstairs Jimmy Kent was dismissed after getting caught mid-way through his tryst with Lady Anstruther. Thomas was evidently heartbroken by the departure of his only friend. Perhaps more troubling was Jimmy’s parting wish that Thomas found some happiness, which is unlikely to end well.

As this week drew to a close, a police officer arrived with some disturbing news about the tragic death of villainous valet Alex Green, who raped Anna last series.

The shocking revelations injected a well-needed dose of suspense into Downton and kept things compelling despite the rehashed of storylines.