They’re back! Are you ready for the intrigues and entanglements of the Crawley family, and their motley crew of devoted servants? Well, you won’t be disappointed with Downton Abbey Season 3's series premiere!
We left the family at the end of season 2 with Matthew asking Mary to marry him, and we begin season 3 with them gathered in church for the wedding rehearsal. It seems that Sybil and Branson won’t be attending because they can’t afford it (grrr), and Lord Grantham refuses to help them, saying that it would basically cause an uproar in the community if the former chauffeur attended Lady Mary’s wedding. Of course, Mrs. Crawley objects to Matthew about this, and insists that Lord G. is creating “a problem where none exists,” saying that the county just has to get used to the idea that the Earl’s daughter ran off with the chauffeur.
As usual, Isobel won’t let this be, and it seems that she has the Dowager on her side in this. Violet also agrees that Sybil needs to be at the wedding, and that the best way to allay the county’s “fears” about Branson, is to bring him out, rally around him, and “make sure he behaves.” Isobel offers to send the money to Sybil herself.
Back at the house, the servants are gathered in the kitchen (eating treacle pie) and Carson’s bemoaning the lack of an extra footman, when O’Brien jumps in and tells him to hire her nephew, Alfred Nugent. Carson objects, but of course, O’Brien goes over his head to Cora and gets her way. Thomas is his cheery old self, bad mouthing Bates, the fact that Anna is the recipient of Bates’ money, and you know, being a general nuisance. It seems that there is a bit of a rift between him and O’Brien. This should be interesting. The two rabble-rousers at odds with each other!
Meanwhile, Lord G. is in a bit of a jam. It turns out that he’d invested the bulk of his (and Cora’s) fortune in a railroad scheme (which was said to be a sure thing) and it went bust. Most of the money is gone and Downton is in danger of having to be sold off. Oh no! Poor Lord G. He’s completely devastated. He finally breaks down and tells Cora about it, and she’s very supportive, telling him that they should concentrate on the wedding, “If it’s to be our last, let’s make it a wonderful last. Enjoy our lovely home and the lovely people we spent our life among.” It’s nice to see the depth of their relationship, especially after the nonsense with Lord G. and that maid last season.
In an interesting coincidence, Lavinia’s father, Reggie, had named Matthew as the third possible beneficiary of his fortune in his will. Apparently, he had quite a bit of money. The first beneficiary passed away before Reggie, and the second one has gone missing, so Matthew stands to inherit quite a bit of money. He’s very conflicted about this and tells Mary that he’s having moral issues, and won’t be able to accept the money, should it come to him.
Edith seems to be focusing all her attention on Lord Strallen again. She’s flirting with him, and being super nice. He’s still his dear, sweet, bumbling, awkward self. Edith tells Anna that she doesn’t care if the family feels that he’s too old for her, and that she’s determined to be with him. I hope Edith gets a happy ending this season. There’ve been way too many misses with her, poor thing!
Meanwhile, Sybil writes to say that she will be able to attend the wedding after all. Finally! We get to see her and Branson together as a married couple! And, Sybil has a little baby bump to boot! Tensions run high at the first family dinner, because of course, the family doesn’t really know how to act around a former “servant” sitting amongst them at the dinner table. It gets even more awkward as Branson, who hasn’t changed for dinner because he doesn’t own tails, goes off and rails about the Irish cause. The servants don’t go easy on him either and when he stops by downstairs just to say hello, they treat him with respectful disdain.
Branson decides to move into the pub for the duration of their stay, but Matthew convinces him that that’s not the way to win the family over. They form a bit of a bond over the fact that they are soon to be brothers-in-law, married to a couple of headstrong women.
Some old family friends have been invited to dinner the following evening, and Mary cautions Sybil to prepare Branson. Apparently, Larry Gray, Lord Mercer’s (sic) son, had had a crush on Sybil when they were younger. As they sit down to dinner, Branson starts off about politics again, but this time, he seems to be quite drunk. When things really start to heat up, Lord Strallen accuses Larry of having spiked Branson’s drink earlier with some sort of a pill, which Larry doesn’t deny. It seems that he thinks it’s just a funny joke to play on the “grubby little chauffeur chap.” His family is horrified, and Lord Mercer apologizes to Branson. In a show of solidarity, Matthew, whose intended best man had fallen ill, asks Branson to act in his stead. I’m loving the friendship developing between these two!
The arrival of Cora’s mother, Martha, is anticipated with a lot of eye rolls, and quips from the Dowager:
Violet: “I’m so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I’m with her, I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.”
Matthew: “But isn’t she American?”
Martha arrives and immediately starts criticizing the way Downton still operates the way it has for so long, and insists that they need to move forward. I have to say that I’m really looking forward to the interactions between her, Violet, and Isobel. It’s going to be fun to see which one of these old ladies gets the upper hand!
In the meantime, Lord G. decides to let Mary know about their dire financial situation, so she and Matthew can make more informed decisions about their future. Mary tells Matthew of the predicament and tells him that if he actually inherits Reggie’s fortune, then they’ll be saved. Matthew is appalled by this and tells Mary in no uncertain terms that he refuses to accept the money from a man who believed him to be his daughter’s one true love. He tells Mary that he won’t profit from having broken Lavinia’s heart. Mary loses it and tells him that he’s not on their side. Oh no! This is the night before the wedding! Mary storms upstairs in tears. When the family finds out, Lord G. offers to go talk to Matthew, but Branson intervenes and tells him that as the best man, it’s his job to bring the couple back together again.
Branson convinces Matthew that he needs to resolve this conflict with Mary, because they are meant to be together. He tells Matthew that he will never be happy with any other woman as long as Mary walks the earth. Of course, Matthew goes back to the house, and in a really cute scene, Mary insists that they can’t see each other because it would be bad luck, and Matthew declares his love, and what Branson told him, to Mary through a partially open door. He asks if he can kiss her, because he really needs to, if he promises to close his eyes, and she says yes. So cute!
Okay…phew. The wedding is back on. Mary looks absolutely lovely in her bridal gown, and in a complete fairy tale moment, she’s driven to church in a horse-drawn carriage, while the crowd cheers her on. The episode ends with her standing at the altar with Matthew:
Matthew: You came. To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure you would.
Mary: I’m glad to hear it. I should hate to be predictable!
There wasn’t too much about Anna and Bates in this episode, other than the fact that Anna is working furiously to try and find some sort of evidence that shows Vera committed suicide, and free her husband. Bates questions her not giving up on him, and she tells him that she will never stop trying. Anna tells Bates that she’s not planning on accompanying Mary on her honeymoon, but he insists that she go, so that she can live for both of them. They are so lovely together, even while sitting in the jail visiting room; so in love…staring into each other’s eyes. Sigh. I really hope that Bates is freed soon. These two really need to be happy. Oh, one other thing: Bates has a new cellmate and there’s a bit of tension between them. I have a feeling this is going to develop into something that might get Bates into more trouble. Ugh!
Other minor plot lines in this episode included Moseley not being asked by Matthew to be his valet, which devastates him, but he tries to make the best of it, and Daisy “going on strike” in the kitchen (at Thomas’s prodding) because Mrs. Padmore hasn’t yet officially promoted her and hired a new kitchen maid. Nothing really comes off it though, because Daisy is just way too sweet, and Mrs. Padmore is way too fond of her for there to be any real problems between them.
Can’t wait to see what happens next week. I’m especially concerned with the money situation.
Can't get enough Downton? Check out Heroes and Heartbreakers's Downton Abbey Collection for more recaps, news, and more. And look for The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis, a behind-the-scenes look at the show, available now.
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.