Downton Abbey returns this weekend, Downton Abbey returns this weekend, Downton Abbey returns this weekend! Yes, we know the third season has been available in the UK for a while now; yes, we know we could've easily watched the entire season (and the Christmas special) already online; yes, we know season spoilers are all over the place but dammit, we can't wait to switch PBS on Sunday night with a modicum of suspended disbelief over what will go down. For those of you who, like us, have withstood the temptation to watch the Edwardian soap opera online, here's a little refresher course on what happened last season and our (mostly half-baked) predictions for what will take place during this one.
Where we left off: Just as we thought that season two would end with all of Lady Mary's little sighs going to naught, she (and all of us) got what she wanted: an engagement to Cousin Matthew. This turn of events was a welcome relief, given that most of the season showed the eldest Crawley daughter held in the clutches of the horrendous media tycoon, Richard Carlisle. Oh, and after coming clean about her long-ago one night stand with the dashing-but-doomed Kemal Pamuk, now all the important people in her life (Matthew, Lord Grantham) finally know that she's no longer a virgin.
Predictions: After marrying Cousin Matthew, she becomes pregnant with their child.
Cousin Matthew Crawley
Where we left off: The man's had quite a season: war injuries, temporary paralysis, a dead fiancée, and an eleventh hour (re-)engagement to Lady Mary, in that order.
Predictions: Dan Stevens isn't coming back for season four (or may make an appearance in the first episode only) so it's likely Julian Fellowes will kill Cousin Matthew off. In our minds, he'll meet his demise after an old, undiagnosed war wound (perhaps a piece of shrapnel stuck up his butt) becomes dislodged and he hemorrhages to death. Just as the situation seems like it can't get any more tragic, we learn that Lady Mary is carrying his child.
Where we left off: After a season spent learning how to drive, working on a farm (and kissing the farmer), and, finally, helping nurse injured soldiers (one of whom may or may not have been her love, Patrick Crawley, the rightful heir to Downton), Lady Edith winds up receiving a Christmastime visit from her former suitor, Sir Anthony Strallan. To our relief, he acknowledges that he's aware that Edith's former marriage 'refusal' was a prank by Lady Mary but, to our disappointment, he also tells her that she shouldn't marry him, as he's much older than her and now disabled as a result of the war.
Predictions: Edith finally gets a suitor to put a ring on it. That said, we're torn between two scenarios: 1) she convinces Sir Anthony that she doesn't mind having a May-December marriage with a man who's a semi-invalid and the two get hitched because she is the coolest, saddest Crawley sister or 2) Patrick Gordon (né Crawley) returns and this time he's found evidence to prove to her family that he's really Patrick Crawley. The two rekindle their love, get married, and Lady Edith becomes the next Countess of Grantham and lady of Downton Abbey (thus usurping Lady Mary and Cousin Matthew). Boom.
Where we left off: After a botched elopement with Tom Branson, Sybil goes on to marry the Irish chauffeur after all and move with him to Dublin. By the end of the season, we learn that she's knocked up.
Predictions: After having a baby, Lady Sybil convinces Branson that the two should follow her grandmother, Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine), back to America, where the class system matters less and her husband can better make his way in life. Reluctantly, Branson agrees to leave his beloved Ireland and the two move to Manhattan where he gets a reporter post at The New York Times, thanks to the help of Grandma Levinson. Sybil raises her brood on the Upper East Side and becomes intrigued by the burgeoning 1920s-era Greenwich Village jazz and literary scenes.
Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham
Where we left off: The usually upstanding Lord Grantham raised our eyebrows last season by having a PG-13 tryst with a maid while his wife suffered from the Spanish flu. Thankfully, he came to his senses and ended the affair before we saw the twosome do anything serious. On the paternal front, the head of Downton begrudgingly gave his blessing for Sybil to marry his chauffeur and provided some damn good dad advice to Lady Mary, when he urged her to call off her engagement to Carlisle after seeing how poorly the man treated his daughter.
Predictions: Once a cheater, always a cheater: he runs into the maid he kissed in town and the two embark on round two of their affair.
Cora, Countess of Grantham
Where we left off: After letting her estate be turned into a war hospital, recovering from the Spanish flu and seeing her youngest daughter Sybil marry an Irish radical, the end of season two suggested that the Countess will finally be able to relax: she's going to become a grandmother and her eldest daughter will finally be marrying the heir to Downton Abbey.
Predictions: After she discovers her husband's affair, she has one too. Her opportunity arrives after she's introduced to a socialist politician she meets at a dinner party but before consummating the relationship, she thinks better of it and remains faithful.
Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham
Where we left off: Still feisty, Violet spent most of season two in the state that comes most naturally to her: meddling. She helped get Cousin Isobel out of Cora's hair by encouraging her to aid war refugees far away from Downton; she told Cousin Matthew that she believed Lady Mary was still in love with him; and attempted to dissuade her daughter, Rosamund, from marrying one of the truly ickiest bit players we've yet seen pass through DA's hallowed halls (though, unfortunately, it took Rosamund catching the man embracing a maid -- rather than her mother's warnings -- to call the engagement off).
Predictions: Violet spends the next season continuing to be an awesome mega-bitch and exchanging withering barbs with Cora's mother, Martha Levinson. Things come to a head, however, when she gets wind of Martha's dalliance with a much-younger bachelor. Aghast at the impropriety of the whole thing, she sabotages the relationship, which leads to a Dynasty-style catfight between her and Martha. Someone gets hit in the face with an old-timey phone. It is ugly.
Cousin Isobel Crawley
Where we left off: Thanks to Violet's machinations, Cousin Matthew's mother (and Cora's frenemy) has abandoned her plans to turn Downton into a full-time convalescence center and has left the estate to assist in relief efforts on behalf of war refugees. Cora's happy and so are we because we needed a break from Cousin Isobel, too.
Predictions: Our favorite buttinsky returns from her post assisting war refugees and manages to put her meddling to use: she helps Bates appeal his conviction and get out of jail.
Where we left off: After endlessly trying to secure a divorce from his demented wife Vera (and even offering to pay her all his money), he has to contend with the news that she plans to blackmail him and the Crawleys about Lady Mary's tryst with Kemal Pamuk. When that gets thwarted, she kills herself with rat poison instead, allowing Bates to marry Anna. The downside to his new-found marital bliss, however, is that he gets indicted -- and subsequently convicted -- for her death.
Predictions: He'll befriend a fellow prisoner who's actually an alcoholic, opiate-addicted writer and the two scheme about how Bates will get his freedom back. Their friendship turns sour, however, when his new friend falls off the wagon and attempts to engage in a sexually-charged fist fight that leads to black eyes and bruised egos. Eventually, Bates gets released from jail (see: Cousin Isobel, Anna) and never talks to his friend again. The friend moves to Paris and goes on to become one of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century.
Where we left off: Anna and Mistah Bates tied the knot and we were all subjected to THIS scene but the honeymoon phase gets cut short when Bates gets accused of murdering his crazy ex-wife (see above). After Bates gets convicted and sentenced to jail, Anna is now determined to prove that he was framed. (Honestly, Anna's storyline is one of the worst/most boring storylines on the show, and it's a shame because Joanne Froggatt is great.)
Predictions: With help from Cousin Isobel, Anna works to successfully get Bates released from jail. Empowered by this experience, she becomes interested in social activism, particularly in criminal justice reform.
Where we left off: Last we left Mr. Carson, he was still just being an all-around great guy, offering to give away Daisy when she married William, fretting over the Crawley girls (and refusing to work for the scummy Carlisle) and keeping an eye on Thomas. Aaaannd that is it. Time to develop this character.
Predictions: Another member of his vaudevillian past returns and this time it's a former dancer who reveals that the two have a 24-year-old love child. Carson huffs and puffs but ultimately receives the news with quiet acceptance.
Where we left off: Mrs. Hughes had a great little second season. She inserted herself into a paternity saga involving sultry maid Ethel and a douchey soldier who gets Ethel pregnant while he's convalescing at Downton.
Predictions: She runs into Ethel and her bastard child and the two resume old discussions about how the young woman can provide for her baby. Mrs. Hughes writes to the child's grandparents, and learns from the grandmother that her husband has died. The widow, who has secretly felt more magnanimity than her husband toward Ethel during the whole saga, agrees to help raise the child and let Ethel live -- and work -- in her fancy home. For a brief moment, Mrs. Hughes feels blissfully content -- until Cora informs her that they'll be throwing a dinner party for thirty guests.
Where we left off: After enlisting as a medic in the army to avoid fighting in the war, Thomas realizes that that's not the vaycay he was hoping it would be, and purposefully gets shot in the hand to get sent home to Downton Abbey. Upon his return, he goes back to being a tortured gay cartoon villain who is always lurking and scheming and overhearing things, mwahahaha. For a second, we think his grinch-y heart is melting when he appears to fall in love with a wounded soldier; knowing his life will never be the same again, the soldier ultimately commits suicide and we're left with a wrenching scene that shows Thomas weeping. But, before you can say "Mistah Bates," Thomas is right back to his dastardly ways. Our final impressions of the conniving servant include his selling rationed items on the black market and hiding Lord Grantham's dog so he could pretend to find him and be promoted to valet.
Predictions: After O'Brien's nephew comes to work at Downton, Thomas engages in 1920s-style cruising and the two start an illicit romance conducted in the halls and cellars of Downton, which drives a wedge between himself and O'Brien.
Where we left off: After causing Countess Cora to miscarry during the first season, Mrs. O'Brien is kind of just laying low, trying to be less of a dick to everyone. She helps Thomas get his foot back in the door at Downton and she is kind to a shell-shocked valet.
Predictions: With her nephew working at Downton, O'Brien's softer -- dare we suggest? -- more maternal side comes out and a series of flashbacks reveal her past and the doomed relationship that hardened her.
Where we left off: Poor Daisy really got put through the ringer, what with her unrequited love for Thomas and William's unrequited love for her. (R.I.P. William!) Despite marrying William out of guilt (seriously, can we see one female character besides stupid Mary be in a relationship that doesn't come with a cost?), she develops a sweet relationship with his father, who promises to take care of her.
Predictions: Daisy has a crush on O'Brien's nephew (who, it turns out, is bisexual) and enters in a love triangle with the valet and Thomas.
Where we left off: Mrs. Patmore continued to bust Daisy's balls during season two (and strong-armed her into marrying William) but we're treated to some actual character development when we watch her grieve over a nephew killed during the war who, we later learn, was actually shot for cowardice.
Predictions: Mrs. Patmore continues to be a lovable grouch and, after initial resistance, finally gives Daisy a promotion.