Downton Abbey Pre-season Prep: A Season 2 Refresher, Plus What's Ahead in Season 3

When we here on this side of the pond last (officially) checked in on the Crawley family, it was Christmas 1919 and those two crazy kids named Matt and Mary had finally gotten over themselves and hooked up for serious. That whole one-night stand thing that'd been threatening to stomp all over Lady Mary’s honor since, oh about 1912, ended up being a moot point when she sucked it up and told Matthew about Kemal Pamuk and Matthew ended up being refreshingly unconcerned with the state of her virginity. How very modern of him.

Speaking of modern—everyone’s favorite pants-wearing, world-war-nursing, chauffeur-loving sister Sybil was revealed to be in a delicate state in Ireland, where husband Branson struggled to balance his inner revolutionary with the shiny new role of in-law to the Earl. Talk about a conflict of interest! I bet the potential for awkward family dinners is limitless.

Mr. Bates was still in prison for his wife’s murder, but detective Anna was on the case and Maggie Smith continued to preside over family affairs as the Dowager Countess with her tried-and-true arsenal of sass, hilarious facial expressions, and fancy hats.

I know, I know, the entirety of season 3 aired in the UK months ago and even the recent Christmas special is only a hop, skip, and a click away if you know your way around the interwebs, but it's all only just beginning this Sunday in the U.S.—so if you’re already in the know, please humor us as we indulge in this latest round of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Downton Abbey Season 3.”

Our American Cousin

Shirley MacLaine will appear as Martha Levinson, Cora’s moneybags mom, mother-in-law to the Earl of Grantham, and perpetual thorn in the Dowager Countess’s side with her “progressive” ideas and penchant for clashing with tradition. Maybe that’s where Sybil gets it? Regardless, the sass overload of the two strong-willed family matriarchs has the potential to be epic.

Awkward Family Dinners

Mealtime at Downton has always been great for the unexpected airing of grievances (Festivus season or not) and it’s doubtful that Season 3 will deprive us of that particular tradition. Between Momma Levinson taking every opportunity to snark at her title-laden counterpart, Tom Brandon’s identity crisis, and the preggers Lady Sybil stuck between the conflicting worldviews of her husband and her father, dinner will be anything but boring.

Attack of the Bridezilla

Knowing Matt and Mary, their engagement will hardly be the blissful period of easy joy that might befit their snowy winter proposal. It took them eight years just to get that far and along the way, they managed to turn arguing into a carefully styled artform. Cold feet? Angst? Tantrums? Please let there be tantrums. I love a good Lady Mary tantrum.

Friends in Low Places

Daisy grew a backbone and demanded a promotion in the 2011 Christmas special—and just typing “2011 Christmas Special” hits home with regard to just how behind we are (it’s shameful!). She also bonded with her father-in-law from that deathbed wedding to William that I suspect was supposed to be sweet, but still makes me feel really bad for Daisy since she was basically forced into it. However, she’s come a long way from scrubbing fireplaces, that one. Meanwhile, some new faces filled the ranks downstairs and Thomas didn’t seem too happy about it.

More Edith Action?

Poor Edith. Neither a ravishing beauty nor a headstrong “modern woman” like her sisters, the girl deserves a break—or at least a role outside of perpetual president of the Future Spinsters of Downton Abbey club. If she was happy with her place in life, it would be different, but as it stands, I’m a little tired of constantly feeling bad for her. We know that she’s perfectly capable of stepping outside the norm when duty calls, so let’s give her some duties beyond being the “other” Crawley sister, eh?

Money Money Money

Money woes aren’t new to Downton. We know that it was Robert’s marriage to Cora and the addition of her family fortune that kept Downton from falling into ruin years ago. Now it seems that in the wake of World War I, funding will once again become an issue for the Crawley family. How do you run a house like Downton, which is staffed by numerous servants and probably a total B to heat in the winter, when you suddenly lose your financial reserves? Idk. I guess we’ll have to watch and find out.

Downton Abbey returns to American television screens this Sunday, January 6 at 9pm on PBS. Here’s an extended preview to hold you over:

Watch Downton Abbey Season 3 Preview on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

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