Gripping, entertaining, a great start for a third season. Only a couple minor gripes: Matthew is essentially rehashing guilt over Lavinia that he resolved at the end of season 2, which makes his character appear a bit tired, though the actor Dan Stevens tries valiantly to make it work. And Shirley MacLaine is ridiculous, like a circus sideshow act, completely overdone - and completely overshadowed by Maggie Smith. Other than that, a great show.
And I loved all the scenes with Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine.
Maggie Smith's comment about her early on...- "I'm so looking forward to see your mother again. When I'm with her I am reminded of the virtues of the English". - "But isn't she American?". - "Exactly".
Julian Fellowes has done it again with a masterful beginning to the third season of the show. It is now 1920 and along with troubles in Ireland, there are problems closer to home as Robert learns from his lawyer that almost all of Cora's considerable fortune has been lost in a pre-war rail road investment. The Crawley family stand to lose everything but there are other issues to deal with as Sybil and Branson arrive for the wedding and Robert is less than impressed, particularly as Branson refuses to confirm to the normal Downton standards.
Bates still sits in prison as Anna finds a type of journal, written in Vera's hand, which she hopes will help to free him. The arrival of Cora's mother for Mary and Matthew's wedding makes things somewhat strained while Edith's infatuation with Anthony Stralland causes concern for Violet.
Matthew and Mary quarrell over a large sum of money which he (Matthew) may inherit from the late Mr. Swire as he doesn't feel right accepting it and Mary argues that the Crawley family may need it in order to keep their beloved home. Their disagreement almost causes the wedding to be cancelled but Mary is prevailed upon by Matthew and Tom to go through with it.
A fantastic episode which moves constantly, is full of twists and turns, and should definitely not be missed.