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Downton Abbey

Season 1 Episode 1

Episode 1

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Sep 26, 2010 on PBS
out of 10
User Rating
113 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


News of the Titanic's sinking has just reached Downton Abbey, causing much chaos within the family as Lord Grantham has three daughters and no male heir. His only two heirs went down with the ship, including Patrick Crawley, who was to marry Lady Mary, the Earl's eldest daughter. With both heirs now dead, the Crawley girls must find husbands of their own as the entire estate is entailed away from the female line; however, perhaps there is hope after all as Matthew Crawley, a third cousin, once removed is now heir to the title and the estate. The Dowager Countess of Grantham and Mary's mother, Cora, make it quite clear that Mary is to try her hardest to secure cousin Matthew as a husband in order to save everything.


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  • Slow, Like the Era

    It's clever to start with the sinking of the Titanic; it gives viewers a point to relate to, a point they're at least somewhat comfortable with. It allows the series a solid, tangible place to start, immediately immersing the audience in a time they're likely unfamiliar with. The relationships and plot of the episode were very surface-level, which is too easy for an era so steeped in subtleties. I really hope the subsequent episodes are more true to the manner of the times.

    That said, it's wonderful to see Michelle Dockery in something gaining so much popularity. She was perfect in Hogfather and is very graceful in the role of Mary. Looking forward to more of this.moreless
  • A Good Starting Episode.

    It was neither boring nor interesting. However, things are about to be change drastically (plus interesting) when Robert sent a letter to his nephew Matthew regarding the young man to be an heir of Downton. It's also the beginning of betrayals and nasty plots of two servants and you know who. Especially when they want to crush a new servant like mr. Bates. Looking forward to this series.

    In episode 1 we are introduced to the Crowley family and their staff on the morning the world finds out about the sinking of the Titanic. The Crowley's have family who are believed to have died during the sinking. The death of these family members complicates certain inheritances. The new Valet is introduced to the staff, the staff is weary of him because he has a limp and uses a cane to get around. Little does the staff know that is he an old friend of Mr. Crowley's from the military. A duke comes to visit, Mrs. Crowley hopes that he will want to marry her daughter Mary. After realizing Mary will not have much of an inheritance the Duke decides to leave the following morning.moreless
  • I thoroughly enjoyed all seven episodes of this series but I felt that this first one was probably the weakest, which isn't a criticism, just a statement about how good the others were.moreless

    In episode 1, we open with the news of the sinking of the Titanic in April, 1912. The calamity strikes right at the heart of the wealthy Crawley family as the current holder of the title has three daughters and both of his male heirs, two cousins, were onboard and not among the survivors.

    The news is very hard on His Lordship and his American wife, but Lady Mary, their eldest daughter, who was unofficially engaged to the heir, does not seem all that concerned that the title of Lord Grantham will now go to an unknown third cousin as the estate is entailed away from the female line.

    Meanwhile, the servants welcome Mr. Bates among their number. He is a Boer War veteran and in spite of being lame, Lord Grantham has hired him as his new valet. The servants are a very interesting bunch who seem to show far more airs and graces than those whom they serve. Dame Maggie Smith is excellent in her role as Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham and others such as Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Jessica Brown-Findlay and Siohbahn Finneran do a superb job but I feel that the side was let down somewhat by Elizabeth McGovern who, as Cora Crawley, didn't seem to know whether she should be using an American accent or a British one, so she settled for something in between. That aside though, this series is one of the best pieces of drama I have seen for a long time and I would urge anybody who hasn't seen it to do so at their earliest opportunity.moreless
Helen Sheals

Helen Sheals

Postmaster's Wife

Guest Star

Lionel Guyett

Lionel Guyett


Guest Star

Jonathan Coy

Jonathan Coy

George Murray

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • In this first episode, Lord Grantham and his family are reading about the sinking of the "Titanic" on 15th April, 1912. Lady Edith makes the passing comment as she looks at the newspaper that "I thought it was supposed to be unsinkable". This is important because many passengers, members of the public and even the hierarchy of The White Star Line who owned the ship believed this to be the case. Brochures and magazines printed at the time carried the words "practically unsinkable", including "Shipbuilder Magazine" which wrote a feature article saying the same. This became folklore and by the time the "Titanic" set out on her maiden voyage, just about everyone believed she could not sink.

  • QUOTES (11)

    • Mr. Carson: I understand most of the ladies were taken off in time.
      Lord Crawley: You mean the ladies in first class? God help the poor devils below decks. On their way to a better life. What a tragedy.

    • Violet: I didn't run Downton for thirty years to see it go - lock, stock and barrel to a stranger from God knows where!
      Cora: Are we to be friends, then?
      Violet: We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.

    • Mr. Bates: (After seeing His Lordship's snuff box collection)Beautiful. Funny, our job, isn't it?
      Thomas: What do you mean?
      Mr. Bates: The way we live with all this. A pirate's hoard within our reach. But none of it's ours, is it?
      Thomas: No, none of it's ours.

    • Mrs. Hughes: (after seeing Daisy by the fire)Oh, heavens girl. You're building a fire, not inventing it.

    • Duke of Crowborough: Why did you apologise to that man? It's not his business what we do.

      Lady Mary: I always apologise when I'm in the wrong. It's a habit of mine.

    • (At the home of Mrs Isobel Crawley and her son, Matthew, in Manchester, the maid has just brought in the morning mail.)

      Maid: First post, Ma'am.

      Isobel: Thank you, Ellen.

      (She hands one letter across the table to her son.)

      Isobel: One for you.

      Matthew: Thank you, Mother. (opens the letter and begins to read it) It's from Lord Grantham.

      Isobel: Really? What on earth does he want?

      (Matthew looking stunned)

      Matthew: He wants to change our lives.

    • Dowager Countess: Don't you care about Downton?

      (Lord Grantham turns, barely containing his anger.)

      Lord Grantham: What do you think? I've given my life to Downton. I was born here and I hope to die here. I claim no career beyond the nurture of this house and the estate. It is my third parent and my fourth child. Do I care about it? Yes, I do care!

    • (Holding her fan up to her face to shield herself from the electric lights in the room.)

      Dowager Countess: Such a glare! I feel as though we're on stage at the Gaiety (theatre).

      Lord Grantham: We're used to it. I do wish you'd let me install it in the Dower House, it's very convenient. The man who manages the generator could look after yours as well.

      Dowager Countess: I could never have electricity in the house. I wouldn't sleep a wink with all those vapours seeping about.

    • Mary: (looking at her evening dress in the mirror.) Oh, I hate black!

      Sybil: It's not for long. Mama says we can go into half-mourning next month and back to colours by September.

      Mary: It still seems a lot for a cousin.

      Edith: But not a fiance?

      Mary: He wasn't really a fiance.

      Edith: No? I thought that was what you call a man you're going to marry.

      Mary: I was only going to marry him if nothing better turned up.

      Sybil: Oh! What a horrid thing to say.

      Mary: Don't worry. Edith would have taken him, wouldn't you?

      Edith: Yes, I'd have taken him if you'd given me the chance. I'd have taken him like a shot.

    • Daisy: Seems like a lot of food when you think they're all in mourning. (Surveying the large amount of food that is being prepared for the Crawley family and their guests.)

      Mrs Patmore: Nothing makes you hungrier or more tired than grief. When my sister died, God rest her soul, I ate my way through four plates of sandwiches at one sitting and slept round the clock.

      Daisy: Did it make you feel better?

      Mrs Patmore: Not much, but it passed the time.

    • Daisy: Why are the papers ironed?
      Mrs Patmore: What's it to you?
      O'Brien: To dry the ink, silly. We wouldn't want His Lordship's hands to be as black as yours.

  • NOTES (4)

    • The episode won 3 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special and Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special.

    • Even though filming for the outdoor scenes was done in Oxfordshire and showed several landmarks from that area, the Crawley family are actually supposed to live in North Yorkshire and often mention places from that location during dialogue between characters.

    • The location for the filming of Isobel and Matthew Crawley's house was done in an English village named Bampton, which is in Oxfordshire in the UK.

      Sutton's Hospital, located in Charterhouse, London, was the location for the filming of all the hospital scenes in the series.

    • All the exterior and some of the interior scenes featuring Downton Abbey were shot at Highclere Castle on the Berkshire-Hampshire border near Newbury. The servants' quarters were constructed and filmed at Ealing Studios in London.


    • Thomas: I can't believe I've been passed over for Long John Silver.
      Long John Silver is the central antagonist in the Robert Louis Stevenson novelTreasure Island.As Thomas is referring to Bates when he makes this statement, the reference to an antagonist seems appropriate.