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Downton Abbey second season to be darker

Downton Abbey

Story by Jack Foley

FANS of ITV’s hit costume drama Downton Abbey should brace themselves for a darker second season, according to its stars and producer.

Set during the First World War, the sophomore season will test each character and take them into surprising new directions.

And the tone will be set from the beginning, with the massive explosion of a shell in the battle of the Somme, where the heir to Downton, Matthew Crawley (played by Dan Stevens), is fighting.

The eight-part series will commence in September, with a two-hour Christmas special to follow.

And executive producer Gareth Neame already admits they are feeling the pressure to live up to the expectations set by the overwhelming success of the first season, which finished in November with more than 10 million viewers.

“We have a lot to live up to,” he told a gathering of journalists on the Highclere Castle on Friday.

“This time, the characters are in the middle of the war,” he continued. “[And] that forces us to tell different stories. A world that was unassailable in the first series is now very much under threat.”

Hence, more serious issues will be tackled, such as the breakdown of social certainties and the effects of war on those fighting it or losing loved ones.

Among those suffering from the latter will be formerly scheming footman Thomas (Rob James-Collier), who returns to England so traumatised by his experiences on the frontline that he has forgotten his feud with his fellow servant, Bates, and wants a way back to the house.

Hugh Bonneville’s Earl of Granthan will also have to come to terms with the fact he is too old to serve, while Lady Sybil Crawley becomes a nurse.

The drama, meanwhile, will unfold between 1916 and 1918 with the Christmas special taking place on New Year’s Eve 1919.

Also speaking about the show was last season’s surprise heart-throb Brendan Coyle, aka Bates, who reiterated Neame’s comments on surprises being in store.

Hence, viewers can also expect both a wedding and a funeral during the second season – as well as sequences set in the trenches and a steamy sex scene.

“There are so many twists and turns,” he said. “Things happen in this series that you definitely won’t see coming. We were shocked every time we picked up a new script.”

The good news for fans, however, is that a third season of the show is also in the works as screenwriter Julian Fellowes is already penning ideas for its entry into the 1920s.

And Neame hinted that it could run for sometime yet.

“I think it can continue for series four, five and six!” he claimed. “It could move up to the 1930s, as long as the audience wants it.”

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