Time to tuck those sheets and iron those newspapers, because the storied aristocratic family and staff of Downton Abbey are back stateside. While the Brits are all up to speed with Season 3, we've had our cummerbunds in a twist since the last Christmas special cliffhanger. But before you break out the sherry, here's a quick refresher course on the ins and outs of the Downton estate from last season.
Downton Abbey airs Sunday nights at 9pm on PBS.
War is at the Door
Season 2 jumps right into WWI, with Matthew (Dan Stevens), Thomas (Rob James-Collier) and William (Thomas Howes) shipped off into battle and suddenly, dinner decorum is no longer such a priority. Downton is forced to break down its social barriers after it's turned into a convalescent home for fallen soldiers. Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) find new purpose in their nursing duties while Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) gets a new tycoon fiancé to vie for her affections.
A Tragic Love Triangle
Meddling mothers, pesky estate laws, war: this show really knows how to throw obstacles into the path of the titular couple of Mary and Matthew. When Matthew comes home on leave with a new fiancé, Lavinia (Zoe Boyle), and Lady Mary is stuck with domineering Ser Jorah Mormont -- er, I mean Sir Richard Carlisle (Iain Glen), and their coupling seems doomed. While it was easy to despise social-climbing Sir Richard, it was Lavinia who broke our hearts. She saw the obvious and succumbed to a broken heart, or influenza, or some combination of the two, and told Matthew to be happy with Mary. Racked with guilt, Matthew resolves himself to live alone, but thankfully for him and the audience, he confesses his love for Mary, and proposes, leaving Sir Richard out of the picture.
Crime and Punishment
Poor Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle), the crippled valet underdog spends the majority of Season 2 being framed for one thing or another by the domestic dream team, O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) and Thomas. But stealing a snuffbox is one thing, while being framed by your crazy ex-wife for murder is more of a game-changer. He gains the love and hand of Anna (Joanne Froggatt) the maid, but their honeymoon period is cut short by a murder case. Bates is convicted at his trial and sentenced to death, but with assistance from the Downton legal team, his sentence is lowered and his life spared, while his future remains uncertain.
Forget Mary and Matthew, the real power couple of this show is O'Brien and Thomas. We all knew Thomas wouldn't last long on the frontlines, and after his unfortunate "accident," he gets shipped back home where he resumes his usual power plays, now as an officer and head of the hospital in Downton. For someone who almost killed their mistress, O'Brien takes sort of a backseat this season -- although he always manages to squeeze in time to harass the new help. While the household is wrecked with worry over Matthew, it's poor adorable Footman William Mason who is Downton's only casualty of the war. Maids and Footmen come and go (and sometimes get knocked up), so we'll see who'll be donning aprons for Season 3.
Ladies Who No Longer Lunch
While Mary is tied up with boy problems, her other sisters manage to carve out identities for themselves during the war. Poor Lady Edith; first she falls for a farmer, then her cousin, only to end right where she left off. But Lady Sybil experiences the real world outside of Downton when she becomes a nurse during the war. eventually eloping with the driver Branson (Allen Leech) and becoming pregnant with their future revolutionist in Ireland somewhere.
Season 3 promises to be chocked full of plot twists, new cast members (Shirley MacLaine, yes!) and plenty of zingers from the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith). What are you looking forward to most next season?