When we last saw the inhabitants of Downton Abbey, Mary and Matthew had just become engaged, Sybil had run off to Ireland with Branson (and was both married and pregnant), and it looked like things were becoming more settled at long last.
Series three begins with Mary and Matthew’s wedding plans well under way, the wedding itself on the horizon. Everything seems to be going smoothly enough, but in true Downton fashion, there are a few kinks to smooth out before the big day can take place. The biggest immediate concern is the happy couple. Will one disagreement and a severe case of cold feet scupper their happily ever after?
During the war, Robert invested most of his and Cora’s money into the railway network in Canada, which was supposed to flourish and instead fell short. The result? Downton Abbey is on the brink of ruin. Matthew may be in line for an inheritance from Lavinia’s late father, but the guilt of hurting her still weighs heavily on him, and he decides that he won’t keep the money.
Though his inheritance isn’t a sure thing yet, Mary is aghast that Matthew won’t consider using the money to help her father and Downton Abbey. The ensuing argument puts the wedding in jeopardy, but a pep talk (from Branson, of all people) ensures that the couple walk down the aisle.
With Sybil and Branson back for the wedding, the Crawleys finds themselves adjusting to the couple’s new roles. An even more down-to-earth Sybil (not that she was high and haughty before) attempts to bridge the gap between her old and new lives, a task not made any easier by Branson’s proclamations against the British in light of the upcoming partition of Northern Ireland. But it’s not long before he’s brought into the Crawley fold, thanks in no small part to Violet (the dowager) and Matthew (who makes Branson his best man).
Downstairs, the abbey gets a new footman in the form of O’Brien’s nephew, Alfred. (His height is the source of much amusement, Violet going so far as to say: “I thought you may be on stilts.”) With the impending changes among the staff and living situations in light of Mary and Matthew’s wedding, O’Brien hopes for Alfred to become Matthew’s new valet. She asks Thomas to help him prepare for the role, but Thomas is less than pleased by the idea. After all, Thomas had to work hard to get to where he is, didn’t he?
Meanwhile, Anna tries to find a way to prove Bates’ innocence; Daisy goes on strike, upset that a new kitchen maid hasn’t been hired; Edith and Sir Anthony grow closer; and Cora’s mother comes to stay, eliciting some of Violet’s best witticisms yet.
The third series premiere was a great way to introduce both new characters and new situations, and it may be one of my favourite episodes to date. Aside from the Crawley’s financial woes, it seems like everyone is finally getting what they’ve always wanted, but at what cost? It’ll be interesting to see how the abbey stays afloat, or if indeed it does, should Matthew’s inheritance not come through/should he choose not to accept it. Could Cora’s mother be their saviour?
And what will life be like now that Matthew will be living in Downton Abbey? The house is starting to get a little crowded with the girls’ husbands added to the mix. At least Edith would be able to move out if she married Sir Anthony. Will their budding romance hit yet another rocky patch this series? I can’t wait to find out.
What did you think of Downton Abbey‘s series three premiere? Let us know in the comments below!