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Christmas at Downton Abbey: Finally! (Season 2 Finale)

As previously noted, the season 2 Christmas Special ran after the regular season in the UK—perhaps we can think of it as post-season play? Mercifully for North American viewers, we are able to air them as season finale episodes on PBS without further delay. (Can you imagine if we had to wait any longer?!?) But they are special, and so our guest blogger Amie Simon has penned for us this special recap of the season 2 Christmas Special.

Are there spoilers? But of course! Click through if you’re ready to find out who finds love in the twinkling lights of Christmas at Downton in season 2…

The Crawley family gathers at Downton for Christmas and New Year celebrations (1920!) and tries to shake off the sadness of the previous year—even with Bates in prison awaiting sentence. All are present except Sybil, who’s in Ireland with her new husband. It is revealed, however, that she’s expecting.

Sir Richard Carlisle continues to prove his superiority by complaining about the servants being allowed to celebrate their own Christmas, and Lady Mary feels more stuck then ever in her arrangement with him. As he becomes increasingly jealous about Mary’s friendship with Matthew, his temper makes an appearance as well. He’s charming, that Carlisle.

Anthony Strallan pops up again, giving Edith another chance at wooing him—but he doesn’t want to accept her due to a war injury … and his age (funny how it didn’t bother him before).

Lady Rosamund gets her shot at her own storyline, being courted by an old family friend. She seems to be falling for it, despite warnings from her mother, the Dowager Countess … but thanks to Anna, she discovers he’s only after her money just in the nick of time.

Daisy finally buckles and agrees to spend time with her father-in-law, discovering that he’s actually the kind, authoritative figure her life has been missing. And she also gets the courage to stand up to Mrs. Patmore and demand more respect!

Now married to Bates, Anna continues her steadfast loyalty to him, as does Lord Grantham, who insists he doesn’t need a replacement valet even at Mr. Carson’s urging. Unfortunately, the evidence against Bates is damning even though NO ONE really believes he killed Vera. Convicted and given the death penalty, at the last minute his sentence is commuted to life imprisonment instead, giving his lawyers time to overturn the verdict.

Thomas is back on staff as a footman after losing all his money to a failed black market business, and he and O’Brien continue to scheme—this time about how to make Lord Grantham like and accept him. Their ill-conceived plan is for Thomas to abduct the family dog, and then “find” him in order to return to him to his owner. Like every plan he has, this one goes terribly wrong. Oh Thomas. Will you ever learn?

But the best part about the Christmas special is the resolution, FINALLY, of Mary and Matthew’s love. Lord Grantham confronts his daughter about the terrible secret she’s been hiding, allowing her to kick Carlisle to the curb. And then even after Mary reveals her night with Pamuk to Matthew, he takes a (relatively short) moment to think about it, and realizes he can’t live without her. The proposal is worth the reward of suffering through the long on again/off again courtship.

And now, we anxiously await the beginning of Season 3 with the promise of Mary and Matthew’s grand wedding!

Christmas Special 2011/Season 2 Finale Highlights:
Best line from the Dowager Countess: “Life is a game in which the player must appear ridiculous.”

Most scandalous moment: Rosamund’s maid getting it on with her would-be fiancé.

Most romantic scene: THE proposal. We’ve waited through 2 seasons for Matthew and Mary to get it together already!

Most devastating betrayal: Lord Grantham revealing that he overheard Bates saying he wished his wife was dead. Unintentional, but still: ouch!

Most ridiculous bit of soapy melodrama: This whole episode is soapy melodrama! But we love it anyway, don’t we?