And now it’s our turn! Finally, the second season of Downton Abbey is on the American side of the pond. We originally recapped the series when it aired in the United Kingdom, so we’re thrilled to be able to share it with our American H&H audience again.
In honor of Downton’s return, we’ll also be hosting a weekly giveaway in which you’ll have the chance to win TWO Downton Abbey books: The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes and Below Stairs by Margaret Powell. Click here to learn more and to enter the sweepstakes!
On to the recap:
We left Downton Abbey last season with pretty much everything hanging on a cliff: Lord and Lady Crawley had just lost Baby Crawley; Mary and Matthew (the maybe/maybe not heir apparent to the Abbey) broken up; Edith’s plans of a blissful (albeit probably pretty dull) marriage to Sir Boring, er...I mean Sir Strallon thwarted by Mary; Bates kinda sorta declaring that he has feeeeelings for Anna (not to her, of course. What would be the fun of that?); Thomas quitting (and good riddance) to volunteer for the Medical Corps; and Sybil and Branson (*swoon*) holding hands. The clincher of course is that they’re all hanging off the most horrific cliff of all … the start of World War I.
Season 2 starts with Matthew struggling at the front. During World War I, the “front" was really a prolonged stand-off where soldiers spent the majority of their time stranded in a dirty, wet, unsanitary trench. For miles and miles. No one gained ground and it was a complete stalemate for a long time. Any way, poor Matthew is stuck out there and is scheduled for some leave.
Back at the Abbey, life seems to be normal at first glance, but they’re actually gearing up to help with the war effort by preparing for a concert orchestrated by none other than Matthew’s perennially interfering mum. Little William is now in charge of dressing Lord C. since Bates has gone back to London for his mother’s funeral, and oh look!, There’s a new maid!
Lord C. is all aflutter for being commissioned to be a real Colonel and “be back in the army properly.” What is it with guys and wanting to fight? Edith’s learning to drive, and Sybil’s upset because she feels useless and wants to do more for the war effort. She’s comforted by Mrs. Crawley who recommends her attend a training college in York to be an auxiliary nurse. Of course, since Sybil doesn’t even know how to make her own bed, or well…you know…boil water, she needs to train a bit. Interestingly, the Dowager agrees with Mrs. Crawley and thinks it would be good for Sybil to go off and “do her bit.”
William’s not too happy either. Seems like he can’t join the army. Branson, on the other hand, will “cross that bridge when he gets to it.” We find out that Moseley is not going to go to war because of some sort of ailment. The new maid Ethel is quite cheeky and keeps talking about how she wants to be something more than a maid. No one’s amused, and when she makes a comment about O’Brien’s age, all bets are off and the staff start pranking her incessantly.
The Dowager shows up to help with the flowers for the concert, because “Cora’s flowers are always more suited to a communion in Italy.” I LOVE her!!! She’s still just as snarky as ever.
Mrs. Crawley lets out the news that Matthew is coming back for a quick visit with his—are you ready? His fiancée!!! And oops, Mary’s coming back from London too. This is going to be fun.
Bates is back! Turns out that Bates’s mother left him a ton of money and his wife showed up at the funeral. Bates wants Anna to marry him (hello, awkward proposal) and thinks he can get rid of his wife by paying her off. He’s already told Lord C. that he wants to marry Anna and gotten them a cottage on the grounds. Anna’s rightly upset about Bates talking to Lord C. before actually asking her, but she just wants to kiss him so badly, she doesn’t really care. And yes! They finally kiss! My heart!
Mary has returned also, and Edith gets back at her by casually mentioning that Matthew was coming over for dinner with his fiancée. Mary keeps it together while everyone’s in the room but as soon as she’s alone with Anna, she bursts into tears.
Matthew shows up with Levinia, who’s suitably impressed with the Abbey. Everyone’s a bit awkward of course, but they all mask it pretty well. What is it with the British and having an uncanny ability to hide their emotions so well? “So, that’s Mary’s replacement. Well, I suppose looks aren’t everything,” quips the Dowager. Did I mention I love her?
Mary and Matthew lock eyes across the room and oh my god, the angst!!! Mary’s the picture of elegance and friendliness. You can tell these two are still in love. Mr. Carson, who’s always been super protective of Mary, is ticked off about Matthew ditching Mary for some little chippy from London. You know, she’s not found in the Peerage or Lander’s Gentry lists so she has to be a chippy! I love how the butler is more concerned with the new fiancée’s bloodlines than the family!
Matthew’s worried about Lord C. actually going off to war. In an interesting seating arrangement, he’s seated next to Mary at dinner and they have a rather awkward conversation. Mary does a great job masking her feelings and congratulates Matthew on his “happiness.” I never thought I’d say this, but poor Mary!
They have a rather awkward goodbye at the train station where Matthew’s amazed (and touched) that Mary woke up early enough to see him off. She gives him a little stuffed dog as a good luck charm and he asks her to take care of his mother and—oh, no, he didn’t!—Levinia, should anything happen to him. Gah!
Back at Crawley House, Mrs. Crawley is worried about the hospital. Seems like they have run out of space. She also finds out that the Dowager has interfered and written letters on behalf of both Moseley and William to keep them out of the war. She’s pretty peeved, of course and gets all riled up about the Dowager’s meddling. Looks like we’re gearing up for another (fun) altercation between the two matriarchs.
Sybil starts training in the kitchens with Mrs. Padmore and struggles for a while, but in typical Sybil fashion, perseveres and manages to actually bake a cake! Carson tells Lady C. about Sybil’s adventures in the kitchen and she’s very proud of her baby’s success. She’s finally resigned herself to the fact that Sybil is all grown up and needs to spread her wings.
Bates and Anna have a beautiful moment planning for their future. Bates wants to sell his mother’s house and open up a hotel with Anna once they have kids. How sweet are they? Anna’s so happy! Of course, this being Downton Abbey, we know this is too good to be true, right? Sigh.
See? I was right! Bates’ nasty wife shows up and threatens him. She tells him that she won’t give him a divorce (because she doesn’t like being alone and well you know, he has money now, so why should she?) She demands that he quit Downton and move in to his mother’s house with her or she’ll tell everyone about Mary’s little “indiscretion” with Mr. Pamuk. She hints that she’ll involve Anna as a co-conspirator since she helped Mary carry Pamuk’s body back to his own bedroom. Lord C. is livid that Bates is leaving him without giving a good reason, and Anna’s heart is broken. She doesn’t believe Bates’ reasoning that he’s decided to give his marriage another chance. She tells him she doesn’t care if whatever’s happening casts a bad light on her and that she just wants to be with him. Poor Bates! Poor Anna!
Mrs. Hughes, who’d eavesdropped on Bates’ conversation with his “lovely” wife, gives Carson the scoop, who promptly tells Lord C. all about it. Of course, Lord C. has no idea what “scandal” Bates was trying to save the family from. Remember, the ladies never told him about Mary’s involvement with Mr. Pamuk. Can’t wait until he finally finds out. I have a feeling things won’t go very well when he does.
Meanwhile, down in the kitchen, Daisy cheers William by giving him a kiss and he asks her to be his girl. They’re so cute!
Everyone helps Sybil pack for York. Edith wants to drive her, which prompts the Dowager to question Sybil’s safety, “she’s taking enough chance with her life as it is.” She also reminds Sybil to be very proud of what she’s doing and remember their great aunt Roberta who apparently loaded guns during the Lachenauer war. Hah! Lady C. is very emotional about her baby leaving the nest, prompting Mary to exclaim that it must be “her American blood” which makes her feel everything “dreadfully.” Branson drops Sybil off at the nursing school and finally...finally...reveals his feelings to her. He knows it’s a bad idea, but he just can’t help himself:
Branson: “I’ve told myself and told myself you’re too far above me, but things are changing and when the war is over the world won’t be the same place it was when it started and I’ll make something of myself, I promise.”
Sybil: “I know you will.”
Branson: “Then bet on me. And if your family casts you off it won’t be forever. They’ll come around. And until they do, I promise to devote every waking minute to your happiness.”
Sybil: “I’m terribly flattered.”
Branson: “Don’t say that.”
Sybil: “Why not?”
Branson: “Because flattered is a word posh people use when they’re getting to say no.”
Sybil: “That sounds more like you.”
Branson: “Please don’t make fun of me. It’s cost me all I’ve got to say these things.”
Aww! Sybil gives him a glimmer of hope, promising that she won’t tell her family about his declaration. They’re my second favorite couple on the show, after Bates and Anna, of course.
Back at Crawley House, Mrs. Crawley and the Dowager get into it about Moseley and William. Finally, the Dowager backs off (as she seems to do whenever Mrs. Crawley goes after her) and it’s decided that letters will be sent to the war office informing them that both gentlemen are very capable of joining the army. Moseley doesn’t take the news so well and asks the doctor privately to forget about correcting the record on his behalf and just let him be. Huh. Moseley: coward or self-preserving? You know what I’m really worried about here? With Bates gone and Anna in a vulnerable state, how much do you want to bet Moseley’s going to make a move on her?
Matthew’s returned to the front from his leave and finds things just as bad, if not worse than before he left. And oh look! There’s Thomas! Seems like he’s not doing so well. His scheme to be in the Medical Corps has backfired and he’s right there in the thick of things. He has some tea with Matthew and figures out that the only way for him to get out of the trenches is to get discharged. So of course, he comes up with a crazy solution. He holds up his lighter over the trench wall and gets himself shot in the hand. That will definitely get him shipped back home, being injured and all.
Meanwhile, Lord C. finds out that his new commission is purely ceremonial and the army wanted to make him a Colonel as an honorary title just to “cheer things up a bit” back home with the local military. He’s devastated by the news, and I’m sure at some point, this is going to come into play in a big way.
Anna and Ethel bond over their shared misery and Edith walks in on Mary “praying.” Turns out she has a picture of Matthew and is praying for his safe return. Who knew Mary was really this deeply in love with Matthew?
So that’s where we’ve left off. Next week, Sir Richard Carlisle (who runs a gossip paper) is ostensibly coming up to visit Mary and there’s something fishy happening between him and Levinia. Can’t wait to find out what that is, because we really need to get rid of her so Mary and Matthew can get back together. Seems like Willliam got his wish and joined the army and Carson has a heart attack while serving dinner??? Tune in next week!
If you liked this Downton Abbey recap, you might also enjoy these related posts:
- An excerpt of The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
- “The Duchess’s Tattoo,” an original story by Daisy Goodwin
- “Breaking the Rules with Class and Grace: Eloisa James” by Carrie Netzer Wajda
- Craving Derek Craven: Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You Hero by Cheryl Sneed
- “The Down-Low on Downton Abbey” by Evangeline Holland
(Or, carry on to the episode 2 recap...)
Naz Keynejad is an avid reader, wanna-be writer, editor and self-professed geek. She has a “thing” for period dramas and will watch anything as long as it’s filled with suppressed sexual tension, angst and of course, period costumes. Oh, and there has to be tea. Lots of tea.