Pros: Acting, scenery, Humor
Cons: Light-weight family drama, Limited character development
Series two of the BBC family drama Monarch of the Glen, set in the picturesque Scottish highlands, focuses on the efforts of the lead character, Archie Mac Donald's (Alastair Mackenzie) to pump some much needed income into his family's near bankrupt medieval estate. After having left a promising career as a restauranteur in London, Archie also finds that his long-distance relationship with his fiance' and business partner, Justine, (Anna Wison-Jones) is also failing.
After an attempt to salvage their relationship by moving to Glenbogle fails, Justine and Archie officially break up. Archie decides to hire a new Head Ranger to help him manage the estate, and settles on a hunky college graduate, Fergal, (Jason O'Mara) much to the dismay of the other candidates, sulky estate gamesman, Golly, (Alexander Morton) and his feisty assistant, Duncan. (Hamish Clark) Much of series two focuses on the romantic triangle that develops between Archie, Fergal, and Archie's childhood friend, heastrong local schoolmistress, Kartina, (Lorraine Pilkinton) with whom he has had a hot and cold relationship. Thrown into that mix, is the estate's spirited cook, Lexie, (Dawn Steel) who also has romantic designs on Archie.
The other big theme in season two is Archie's efforts to turn the financially struggling estate into a wildlife reserve/resort to be used for hosting weddings, complete with a wax museum of early Scottish life, and a retail gift shop. In one of the more humorous episodes, Archie's cantankerous father, Hector, (Richard Briers) and his friend and rival Laird Kilwillie, (Julian Fellowes) attempt to hide a rare and valuable barrel of whiskey from Archie who want to sell it to help raise money for the estate.
In another episode, Archie's pregnant sister, Lizzie, arrives without a husband, which puts a further strain on her already tenuous relationship with Hector, who is in a fierce competition with Kilwillie for the tallest tree in Scotland. In the final episode, Archie and his family are taken by surprise when an American arrives in Glenbogle, claiming to be the rightful laird of the Mac Donald estate. When legal research appears to show some possible validity to the claim, Archie invities his guest to participate in the Chieftain's Challenge, an ancient test of brains and brawn, to determine the true laird of the estate.
Overall, Monarch of the Glen- Series Two, is a slight improvement over series one. Many of the characters are slightly more well developed, and the series is full of the fun and mishief, that makes it such a light-hearted and entertaining diversion. While you will not find any heavy themes or particularly clever dialog, this series is a brisky paced delight, due primarily to the fine acting of the excellent cast, and the breathtaking Scottish highland scenery.
The two disc, eight episode, DVD set is a bit light on bonus features, with a few trailers from other BBC series' and cast biographies. The sound and picture quality are both quite good, taking full advantage of the lush setting. Those looking for a break from the recent rash of soapier, multi-layered, British period dramas, will likely find a lot to like in this engaging and humorous modern day Scottish yarn.
My Rating: ***1/2