We’re just about to be treated to the third season of Downton Abbey in the United States, so I thought everyone could use a little refresher. If you do not want to know what happened in the first two seasons, DO NOT READ! I confess, I already know more about season three than I want to, but I will not spoil anything that you haven’t seen.
So let’s get started:
The show begins in 1912 with The Lord Robert Grantham and his wife, Cora, in their beautiful home, Downton Abbey. The Crawley family is rich, bitch, and there are three lovely daughters: Mary, Edith, and Sybil. Mary is the eldest, strong, beautiful, and a little cold. Edith is super-desperate but at least she can drive. And Sybil is a sweet, forward-thinking feminist.
The house is maintained by a sizable staff led by Carson and Mrs. Hughes, the butler and head housekeeper.
There are a couple evil staffers: Thomas and Miss O’Brien. Thomas is vindictive and secretly gay and O’Brien is just a raging bitch. I love to hate them both.
The new guy is Bates, pure of heart and lame of leg. He was an old buddy of the Lord’s and has a bit of a past. Eventually he falls in love with Anna, everyone’s favorite maid.
Mrs. Patmore is the cook and Daisy is her whipping girl. Mrs. Patmore is crabby and rude and Daisy is just kind of stupid. But we like both of them and are happy when Daisy eventually marries William. Oh yeah…William dies.
Perhaps the best known face of Downton Abbey is the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith. She is Robert’s mother and a feisty, uptight, disapproving broad, in the very best sense.
When the expected heirs to the Grantham fortune die on the Titanic, distant cousin Matthew becomes the new heir. He and his mother Isobel come to Downton and an on-again off-again romance between Matthew and Mary commences. There is plenty of discussion and opinions on the pair, and both the family and the staff are all up in their business. Such is life at Downton.
Thomas and O’Brien occupy themselves by undermining Bates and the staff is divided on whether he is worthy of his position in the house. These are some sniping maids, let me tell ya. I don’t think I could hack it in this line of work. Too cut-throat. Anyway, Bates endures the drama and stays on and marries Anna. But, oh no! His ex-wife shows up and creates a mess. She kills herself, while making Bates looks like a murderer. Now he’s in jail. Not much of a honeymoon for he and Anna.
While we watch Edith throw herself at anyone who comes along, Sybil stays busy with more noble intentions: bettering the lives of maids, getting into politics, and doing the most scandalous thing of all…wearing pants! But then she tops herself by marrying the chauffer. She’s the nicest of the daughters, most definitely. Mary has a one night stand with a visiting Turkish diplomat and when he dies in her bed (!) she recruits Anna and Cora to help move his body back to his own room. This transgression plagues Mary for years.
Robert and Cora seem to have a decent marriage, until Robert has an affair with a new maid. That ends quietly and I wonder if Cora will find out this season. They’ve weathered the war, deaths, ahem Robert’s mother, and a miscarriage. The miscarriage was O’Brien’s fault. When she mistakenly thought Cora was looking to replace her, she ensured that Cora slipped on a bar of soap getting out of the tub.
Daisy serves as a source of amusement, making mistakes, ruining dinners, and falling for the evil Thomas. Still gay, Daisy. Before William goes off to war, he proposes to Daisy. She is not thrilled about this, but gives in to peer pressure and marries him when he returns home to die. Daisy is a young widow now. Thomas wounds himself on purpose to be sent home from battle and he tries his hand at making money selling black market rations. Jerk.
Matthew also was severely injured in the war and returns home bound to a wheelchair. He is told he will never walk again or father children. Obviously, he’s depressed. Mary cares for him deeply and wants to be with him, as does his fiance. But the fiance dies when the Spanish influenza hits the house. Oh yeah, I should mention that they are using Downton Abbey as a convalescent home when the local hospital becomes overfilled. Seeing the upperclass family care for the sick and wounded is heart-warming, if a dark turn for the show. An visiting officer knocks up a maid…Dramaaaa!
The family is happy when their cousin shows up having survived the Titanic sinking. Once thought dead, he was badly burned and disfigured in the war, but offers memories and plenty of proof to confirm his identity. Alas, he is a charlatan. Poor, pathetic Edith is destroyed as she had attached herself to him almost immediately.
The good news? Matthew regains the use of his legs and proposes to Mary. She accepts! Those crazy kids finally made it work. In the Christmas special we learn that Sybil and Branson are happily living in Ireland and expecting their first child. I can’t wait to see what happens in the third season. Time passes quickly in Downton; eight years passed in the the first two seasons, so I’m curious to see how far the next will bring us.
Will you be watching?