Two telegrams, both with devastating news: the loss of the Titanic; the outbreak of war. In between, over six hours of viewing that exhilarates.
Downton Abbey is the star, virtually a character in its own right. It contains two communities, each reliant on the other. Already the new century is beginning to threaten what both hold most dear.
Upstairs and down, everything rings true - a bygone age lovingly recreated. This is Julian Fellowes' brainchild, he deserving most credit, but praise goes to all who converged to create something extra special.
Dame Maggie Smith dominates but does not eclipse. Hugh Bonneville impresses as the enlightened Earl. Below stairs, Jim Carter is awesomely aloof butler Carson (with a secret that stuns), Brendan Coyle moving as the new valet with a limp and a troubled past. Lady's maid O'Brien and footman Thomas are enjoyably horrible, the one regret in the series that nice footman William did not give Thomas a far heftier thump.
Throughout there are lines to savour, especially from the Dowager Duchess. About the recently drowned heir: "He was too much like his mother and a nastier woman never drew breath." Recoiling from newly installed electric lights: "I feel I am on stage at the Gaiety." Disconcerted by a swivel chair but declining a replacement: "No, no - I am a good sailor."
Here is a production so full of fine things, one can only applaud - delight increased by news there will be a second season.
(Bonuses include two commentaries and behind the scenes features. Thank you to whoever removed those irritating pre-credits trailers. If only this could be done for all similarly afflicted television series when transferred to DVD!)
Wholeheartedly recommended, but by now you will have gathered that.