Downtown Abbey seemed to come apart at the seams, just when the aristocratic family thought all would return to normal with the end of World War I. But the war has wrought more changes than even they realize, including the breakdown of the class system.
Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) was one of the more fortunate. His paralyzing war wound turned out to be a bruised rather than severed spinal cord and he regained his ability to walk, thanks to his betrothed Lavinia Swire (Zoe Boyle).
For her devotion, Matthew agrees to move forward with their marriage at the Abbey. The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) sits him down for a heart to heart and reminds him of his feelings for Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), and hers for him.
But fate steps in. The estate is hit by the deadly Spanish flu. Servants and family members alike fall ill. Dr. Clarkson and Matthew’s mother Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) spring into action.
Lavinia and Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) are bed-ridden. It looks like Cora is a goner as her condition worsens. Lavina takes a turn for the worse as well. But is it the flu or a broken heart?
She gets out of bed and heads downstairs and sees Matthew and Lady Mary dancing together and kissing. She realizes they belong together, despite her love for Matthew.
Although early bets would have been for Cora to die, her illness was just a plot feint. Lavinia dies, but not before laying a super guilt trip on Matthew on her death bed. Matthew is crushed and feels he and Mary caused her death.
Actually, the scene seems like a lame plot device to get her out of the story. The writers could have come up with something better.
In any event, Matthew says any relationship they might have is cursed, and rules it out forever. He sends Mary into Sir Richard’s arms. Sir Richard (Iain Glen) remains intensely jealous. He tries to pay housemaid Anna Smith (Joanne Froggatt) to spy on Lady Mary. But she refuses. He demands to set a wedding date, and Mary agrees to a July wedding, so she can escape the August heat on their honeymoon.
Meanwhile Cora and Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) have grown apart as Cora becomes absorbed in her war work and afterward her charities. The Earl falls for one of the maids, although his conscience ravages him. They kiss, but he comes to his senses and decides against an affair.
After Cora pulls through, she realizes she’s been ignoring the Earl and they seem to renew their bond. But the Earl has another problem. Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) decides to run off with the chauffeur. The Earl objects but later gives his blessing. He doesn’t want to lose his relationship with her and agrees to the marriage.
Just when it seems Anna and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) find happiness–they marry after Bates’ wife commits suicide– he is arrested for murdering the first Mrs. Bates.
Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) doesn’t get much screen time, but in a foreshadowing, the Dowager Countess assures her that her time will come. Edith frets she may be a spinster aunt.
The next episode should be a little more feelgood. It focuses on Christmas at the Abbey and looks like it will be a visual feast.