Upstairs, the heir to the title, fortune, and estate of Downton Abbey dies suddenly, throwing the family into chaos. Downstairs, a new servant arrives and gets the full mean-girl treatment.
Sex with Mary actually kills a guy; Bates’s attempt to cure his limp and Edith’s attempt to date Matthew go equally poorly; Isobel muscles her way onto the local hospital board, sharing power with Violet.
Love is in the Air
Anna loves Bates! Isobel loves justice and Old Mr. Molesley’s roses! Matthew’s starting to love Downton and (sadly) Mary! Edith loves screwing her sister over!
Hope and Heartbreak
Mary’s, O’Brien’s, and Thomas’s various psychological disorders get ramped up to about 11, with disastrous conseqences. Bates makes a huge reveal, which still doesn’t send Anna running for the hills, Matthew abandons his self-respect for a while, and World War I breaks out. And yet, this was one of the funniest episodes. Go figure.
Leaving the Nest
Have you heard there’s a war on? Matthew escapes it just long enough to bring his fiancee to Downton for a visit, while William’s doing all he can to get to the front. Bates and Anna get to be happy for about ten minutes before Bates’s horrible wife shows up to blackmail him back into his loveless marriage, and Sybil decides it’s time for her to do her part for the war effort.
Before and After
William gets his orders, and he can’t wait to fight. The characters who’ve been to the front, meanwhile, can’t wait to get back. Thomas and his messed-up hand are back in Downton, working at the hospital and showing glimpses of actual humanity; Matthew’s touring the countryside on a recruitment drive, and the shell-shocked new valet’s finding an unexpected ally. Sybil’s hard at work at the hospital, and Edith finds joy in farm work.
The New Order
Robert and Cora whine and pout and generally act like children over the fact they now have to share their home with convalescing soldiers. Edith, meanwhile, finds her groove and proves to be kind of an awesome asset to the new hospital, which is going to be run by Thomas. Lang cracks up completely, William marches off to war, Bates returns to the county, and Branson gets strangely upset about being rejected for service. But the biggest news: The dog finally has a name!
Matthew and William disappear during a patrol, sending the house into a bit of a tizzy and driving Robert straight to Bates, who finally returns to Downton. Mary finds out about Branson’s love for Sybil, but Sybil insists there’s nothing going on. Isobel leaves for France in a snit, and we manage to shake Ethel for a little while too, but she comes crawling back after about 10 minutes, and it looks like she’s here to stay.
Many Unhappy Returns
William and Matthew are both badly wounded and return to Downton. One dies slowly; the other is left a paraplegic. The only bright spot in this downer of an episode was the fact that Violet had plenty of opportunities to lay the smackdown on people, which is always fun to see.
The Prodigal Son
A badly burned soldier turns up at Downton claiming to be the late Patrick Crawley. His claim upsets Mary, because it’ll disinherit Matthew, so Carlisle distracts her by showing her a big house, hiring Carson, and bringing Lavinia back into the picture. Isobel tries to evict the family permanently from their home, so Violet sets about finding a cause she can attach herself to.
Taking a Leap
Everyone at Downton tries to readjust to post-war life, with mixed results. Matthew miraculously recovers the use of his legs, which means Violet can now drag out the long-dead horse of his relationship with Mary and recommence beating it. Mary’s getting more and more sullen around Carlisle, who tries to get Anna to spy on her for him, and Robert sulks and feels bored and kisses the new maid. Thomas tries his hand at business and turns out to be as good at that as he was at thieving, and Sybil finally makes up her mind about her relationship with Branson.
Two Weddings and a Funeral
Preparations for Matthew’s and Lavinia’s wedding are moving right along, until the Spanish Influenza comes sweeping in out of nowhere and takes out quite a few key players, providing a golden opportunity for some (Thomas) and totally screwing around with others.
A Very Downton Christmas
Bates is on trial for his life, and it’s not going well. Mary and Carlisle are constantly at each other’s throats, Isis goes missing, Daisy’s discontented, and Rosamond’s new ladies’ maid is a huge troublemaker. On the upside, Edith starts making a play for Strallen again, and Violet’s totally back on her game. And Isobel gives the best Christmas present ever.
A Family Affair
Mary and Matthew are getting married (finally!), so all the key players, plus one, are in place. Branson’s embarrassing even without the mickey in his drink, though he and Matthew still manage to establish a budding bromance. Robert’s lost all of Cora’s money, Matthew’s self-righteous, the new footman’s tall, Daisy’s childish, and Bates is still in prison. Also: Cora’s mother arrives to liven things up.
Mary and Matthew return from their honeymoon and Mary immediately starts trying to squeeze some cash to save Downton out of her American grandmother. Robert decides to ruin Edith’s relationship with Strallen for absolutely no good reason, but she gets her man in the end anyway. Hughes finds an ominous lump.
Life craps on Edith yet again, in spectacular and soul-crushing fashion. Matthew finally gets over himself and accepts Swire’s money thanks to the timely arrival of a letter and it looks like Hughes is going to be fine.
Branson screws up so badly he gets kicked out of Ireland forever. Matthew’s concerned about the horrible running of Downton, though of course Robert can’t be bothered to care, and Edith finds a new vocation.
The arrival of the BranSpawn isn’t quite the joyful occasion we were all hoping for
The God Question
In the wake of Sybil’s death, we debate God and judgment a lot as Robert flips out over his new granddaughter’s Catholicism and over his wife and daughters being served lunch by a former prostitute. The belowstairs love quadrangle between the footmen and kitchen staff becomes a love-I-don’t-even-know-what, Bates will apparently be set free after all, and Clarkson admits (lies?) that Sybil probably would have died no matter what, putting an end to what could have been some genuinely interesting marital tension between Cora and Robert.
Thomas makes his move on Jimmy, with predictably disastrous results. Robert’s still fighting the changes Matthew wants to institute, and he’s really not enthusiastic about the idea of making Branson the new estate manager, after the previous one quits in protest. Violet starts making moves to get Ethel out of town.
That’s Not Cricket!
Hey, did you know there’s this really important annual cricket game between the house and the village? No? Well, you’ll be hearing about it a lot this episode. Also, O’Brien continues to play Jimmy like a puppet, and he goes along with it, demanding Thomas be turned away without a reference. Fortunately, Thomas has Bates, of all people, in his corner. Matthew and Mary finally find out why she’s not knocked up yet (it’s not because of Matthew) but it’s ok, she’s all better now!
The gang (most of them, anyway) heads up to Scotland to spend a week with Rose and her parents, who hate each other. Back at Downton, the doomed new housemaid makes moves on Branson while Patmore gets flirty with a gross new grocer.
Six months after Matthew’s death, Mary’s become Miss Havisham, Isobel’s floundering and needs a new project (and finds one, thanks to Hughes’s obnoxious meddling), Edna returns, and Edith becomes absolutely fabulous
Letters from Beyond the Grave
Matthew takes a leaf from Lavinia Swire’s book and sends an important missive from beyond the grave, Mary starts learning estate business, the whole thing with Charlie and Carson is absurdly tied up, Thomas has a new evil friend, and Rose and Anna go slumming
A Little Night Music
A weekend house party at Downton gives Robert and Carson the opportunity to be repulsive snobs, Michael a chance to literally buy Robert’s love, Mary a chance to actually be happy for a couple of minutes, and turns Anna into a tragic victim
Are You Ok?
Everyone, even Robert, is wondering what’s up with Anna; Edna tries her hand at blackmail and gets slapped down spectacularly by Hughes; Gill presses his luck with Mary; and Rose meets a handsome singer
A Decent Man
Robert goes behind Tom’s and Mary’s backs to help a longtime tenant family keep their farm, Bates finally learns most of the truth about what happened to Anna, and Isobel gets her obnoxious mojo back
Surprises come in all shapes and sizes this episode. Violet shocks Isobel by doing the decent thing, Edith’s got a little surprise on the way, Mary’s doing battle with Napier’s boss (which will surely end with them falling in love, because Mary likes it emotionally rough), and Rose arranges a surprise for both Mary and Robert on his birthday (though one is unintentional)
Pearls Before Swine
Mary and Blake bond over pigs and scrambled eggs (but not bacon, sadly), Violet nearly dies of bronchitis and chronic Britishness, Edith decides what to do about the baby (and Rosamond steps up in a major way that makes me love her), and Anna’s attacker returns to Downton
Is There Something You Want to Tell Me?
It’s not a finale of Downton without some kind of summertime party; this time, it’s the village bazaar, which only Cora really cares about. Everyone else is busy dealing with serious issues, like making sure Green gets dealt with, figuring out how to best dispose of unexpected children, and busting up engagements.
The Scarlet Letter
The family decamps to London for Rose’s official coming out celebration, only to have the whole thing nearly derailed by a royal scandal and the arrival of Cora’s mother and brother. Mary’s still juggling suitors, and Edith’s having serious second thoughts about having adopted out her daughter.
The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same
Labour’s in power and Robert’s all pouty that things aren’t the same as they were in his grandfather’s day. Mary’s stringing Gil along, Violet’s meddling, and Thomas is creepy and scheming, so some things never change. Oh, and Edith almost burns the house down.
Sex On The Brain
Mary heads off on her weekend bonkfest, but not before completely humiliating poor Anna by forcing her to go out and purchase some birth control on Mary’s behalf. Charles Blake resurfaces, bringing along a friend who has some amazing chemistry with both Cora and Isis. Guess which one bothers Robert more?
My Eyes Have Been Opened
Cora spends the day with Bricker, who’s genuinely interested in her and what she has to say, unlike Robert, who gets angry with her for daring to have a life instead of sitting around waiting for him to show up and do things with her. Mary’s utter stupidity leads to Violet finding out about her sexy weekend away, and Edith’s creepiness finally gets to be too much for Mrs Drewe. Rose invites the Russian refugees she’s been hanging around with to Downton for tea, and of course Sarah takes the opportunity to insult and upset them. Violet runs into an old flame (or at least some guy who was nice to her at a party once) and the whole ‘witness against Bates’ thing is total nonsense.
Creepy people everywhere! Edith starts full-on stalking the Drewes, Gil refuses to be dumped, Sarah finally pushes Robert too far, Violet atones, and Isobel gets a sweet proposal
My god, these people should not be allowed to plan anything! Patmore inherits some cash and goes to Carson for advice on how to invest because, and I quote, ‘he’s a man.’ And tiny lady brains can’t be trusted with anything as important as investing our own money, you know. An inspector from Scotland Yard is now travelling all the way up to Downton to interview both Mary and Anna about Greene, which makes no sense whatsoever. Sarah finally packs up and leaves, after some more completely nonsensical conversations with Tom, and I hope to god we’re shot of her. Blake has an incredibly offensive and insulting plan for dealing with Gil, but at least it gives Mabel Lane Fox a chance to be awesome, Rose may finally have a plotline going, Bricker oversteps his boundaries, and Rosamond and Violet come up with the WORST IDEA EVER for dealing with this Drewes/Marigold situation.
Is There a Human in the House?
Edith finally learns for sure that Michael is dead, and her family reacts with an unbelievable lack of sensitivity by planning a nice day out with some horsies and a picnic. That, coupled with Mary’s disgusting abuse, push Edith right over the edge and she does what she should have done years ago: grabs her kid and decamps to London to be fabulous. Meanwhile, Rose’s ‘no, no, we’re totally just friends!’ relationship with Atticus is moving forward apace, Mabel’s going along with Blake’s plan after all (and Gill’s game, luckily), Mary gets her hair cut purely in order to taunt the men she claims not to be interested in, Thomas’s attempts to cure himself aren’t working, and Isobel comes to a decision re: Merton
I Have a Plan
Rosamond and Violet reluctantly agree to tell Cora all about Edith and Marigold, but Mrs Drewe beats them to it. On the upside, Cora then gets to be kind of kickass, just as I predicted, and comes up with a plan to let Edith keep the kid at Downton. Mary finally frees herself from Gill, Rose and Atticus put a ring on it, and Merton’s horrible sons make Isobel reconsider joining the family
The Parent Trap
Rose and Atticus are getting married, though each has a parent who’s really committed to breaking them up. Robert does right by Patmore, Daisy gives notice, and Anna is thrown in the clink
Grouse and Goodbyes
The gang goes grouse shooting with Rose’s new in-laws while Anna rots in jail, Robert has a health crisis that turns out to be nothing at all, and Violet reunites the Kuragins
Time to wrap this up, folks. Mary gets blackmailed by our latest cartoon villain, Edith considers a change, Carson and Hughes dance around wedding dates and intimacy issues, and Anna’s magically exonerated for murder but might have yet another tragedy in her life, because of course she does.
Mary inserts herself into Carson’s and Hughes’s wedding plans and just can’t fathom why Hughes would have ideas of her own about her wedding day. Anna’s battling infertility, Edith’s battling her completely unprofessional editor and acting all squirrely about Marigold, Thomas is looking for a new job, and Mrs Drewe loses her mind.
Carson and Hughes get married on their own terms, hooray! Anna’s pregnant, hooray! Edith grows a pair and fires her horrible editor and publishes the magazine’s latest issue herself, hooray! Tom and Sybbie return, hooray!
You Know Nothing, Thomas Barrow!
Gwen! How’ve you been, girl? Pretty great, apparently, because you’re now returning to Downton as a guest alongside your self-made husband, and you’re totally not taking Thomas’s shit! Well done!
The Hurl of Grantham
Remember Robert’s indigestion? Yeah, it was a little more than that.
The Crawleys host an open house for the lower orders, which mostly gives them a chance to show how dimwitted they all are
A Day at the Races
…Goes horribly, horribly wrong
Truth and Consequences
Edith gets to be happy for all of five minutes before Mary destroys it, yet again, completely out of spite, which is horrible but does, at least, lead to Tom and Edith finally giving Mary a piece of their minds and pointing out what a poisonous, hateful bitch she actually is. Her response to that is to…get married. Ok, then.
And They All Lived Happily Ever After
It’s weddings and babies ever after all over the place, and everybody gets a happy ending! Well, except for Carson, who probably has Parkinson’s and is forced into an early retirement, so there’s that. But for everyone else…yay?