It is now Christmas, 1919, just a little over a year since the end of WWI. The Crawley family intend to make it a lavish affair for themselves and their guests, even though the arrest of John Bates, for the murder of his wife, Vera, causes a lot of tension in the household as everyone awaits the outcome of his trial, especially his new wife, Anna.
Problems are brewing for Violet as she is more than a little unsure of her daughter, Rosamund's new beau, who seems almost a little too good to be true and strife continues for Lady Mary and Sir Richard after yet another confrontation between the two.moreless
In this final regular episode of Series 2, a wedding is fast approaching. Unfortunately, so is the dreaded Spanish Influenza, both of which have the potential to cause difficulties for some residents of Downton Abbey. Things are not going well for Thomas either and Branson could pose quite a problem.
For Ethel, there are considerations of a different kind concerning the Bryants and Anna forces Bates to finally make some decisions.moreless
It is now early 1919, and with the war over, the residents of Downton Abbey slowly start to get their lives back in order. Just as it is thought that there cannot be more problems concerning Vera, Bates learns that something else has arisen and he's not sure how to deal with it. Meanwhile, Sir Richard Carlisle uses Anna in a manner which puts her in a very difficult position. For Thomas, the end of the war means yet more ways to make money. And, for Sybil and Branson, they must try to keep their secret for as long as possibles when some totally unexpected news leaves everyone reeling.moreless
It is 1918, and with the end of the war in sight, it looks as though it won't be too long before life can return to relative normality at Downton Abbey, however, Cora and Isobel clash once more over what is to be done with the house when the Armistice is declared.
A Canadian officer arrives at Downton to assist in his return to health but some of the things he imparts to Lady Edith could cause problems for the Crawley family. Meanwhile, Bates once again finds that he has to deal with Vera and must travel to London to do so. His Lordship tells him to keep calm, but will he be able to do so?
Ethel is struggling as a new mother but is receiving a lot of help and support from Mrs. Hughes until Mr. Carson finds out, which may possibly be problematic for all concerned.moreless
Lord Grantham receives some terrible news from the front line which will impact on everyone at Downton.
It looks as though the future of the entire family could be under threat as the greedy Vera Bates threatens to expose all the secrets that she knows about the Crawley family. Can Lady Mary stop her, using her connection with Sir Richard Carlisle before it's too late and what will happen if she doesn't?
For Daisy, life is complicated enough without everything else that is going on as she feels caught up in a whirlwind with regard to her relationship with William.moreless
It is now 1918. While a concert is being planned to cheer up the soldiers recovering their health at Downton, members of the family are trying to overcome several personal issues. Isobel and Cora cannot see eye to eye on how things should be done and Mary is determined to forget Matthew and get on with the rest of her life, possibly using Sir Richard Carlisle to make it possible. Neither Violet nor Lord Grantham are at all pleased with this possibility and His Lordship decides to have an important discussion with Mary.
Meanwhile, Thomas, who has been made manager of the convalescent men, makes life extremely difficult for poor Carson, who is used to having things done his way and not being upstaged by a former footman. Branson promises Carson to behave in future, but can he be trusted? Lord Grantham decides that he must speak to Bates in person and Mrs. Hughes is in for a shock which effects herself as well as other staff members. Mrs. Bird and Molesley decide to do their part to help everyone with the war effort.moreless
The Granthams have opened up parts of their home to injured officers needing time to recover. However, with the men, the nurses and the beds comes Isobel Crawley who severely limits the space the family has for privacy and begins giving orders to the servants. O'Brien decides to protect Cora by arranging to have Thomas installed as manager of the house. Carson reminds His Lordship about Thomas' theft, but Grantham never told his wife about the incident and it is believed that Thomas will have some loyalty to the family.
Meanwhile, Ethel is a bit too eager to chat with the wounded officers, causing Mrs .Hughes to continually remind her to keep to her work. With nothing else to do, Edith volunteers to help the men with various errands.
Branson has finally been called up and plans to claim Conscientious Objector, though it will result in prison. When his plans are foiled due to a heart murmur that disqualifies him from military service at all, he plots to make his political statement some other way.
Meanwhile, William has completed military training and will be leaving for the front soon. Daisy is worried that he will ask her to marry him. She is fond of William, but not in love with him. Mrs. Patmore pressures her to accept his proposal so he can go to war a happy man with a reason to return alive, arguing that the engagement can always be broken after the war.
Having made some discreet inquiries, Violet and Rosamund have learned that Miss Swire helped bring about the Marconi Scandal of 1912 by stealing incriminating papers from her uncle and giving them to Sir Richard Carlisle, Mary's beau, who made them public and cost several politicians their positions. They assume that Lavinia would only do such a thing because Carlisle was her lover.
Mary, however, finds out the truth from Lavinia herself. Her father was in debt deeply to Sir Richard and, to save him from financial ruin, Lavinia stole the papers which only exposed guilty men anyway. Knowing something of the sacrifices one makes to keep the family honor intact, the sympathetic Mary decides not to use this knowledge against Lavinia.
Spotting someone she believes is Mr. Bates in the village, Anna learns that Bates has returned and is working in a local pub. He tells her that he has proof of his wife's infidelity and can now force the divorce issue, willing to pay her what she wants to finally leave him alone and hold her tongue about Mary's indiscretion. Anna, weary of the endless delays to their future plans, isn't convinced that Mrs. Bates will go so easily. Since infidelity on the part of a man isn't treated as seriously as it is for a woman, Anna offers to be his mistress. Bates will not hear of it because Anna deserves to be a legally married woman.
When Mr. Lang's nervous condition proves too much for him to be around men in uniform, the overworked Carson is relieved when Branson offers to serve as footman during a dinner for an important general doing a tour of the area. Anna finds a letter from Branson apologizing to Sybil in advance. She runs to Mrs. Hughes who alerts Mr. Carson who stops Branson as he is about to serve the general. They quietly remove the chauffeur from the room, believing he had intended an assassination. Branson reveals that he'd only put together a filthy mixture in the soup, meaning to pour it over the man.
Dinner proceeds smoothly and the general delights everyone by toasting the normally-overlooked Edith as someone who has been invaluable to the recovery of the injured men.
Lang's shell shock has not improved, giving him nightmares and causing a breakdown when the general and his men are leaving Downton. Realizing that he failed to understand the depths of Lang's problem, Carson goes to dismiss him. Instead, he finds Lang already packing. They both agree that he is not well enough to continue at this time, but Carson does offer him a generous severance and a good reference when he is ready to work again.
With little else to do, Lord Grantham arranges to have William assigned to Matthew in the hopes of sparing him the worst of combat. He also puts his foot down when Dr. Clarkson cites military protocol as an impediment to having the injured Evelyn Napier transferred to Downton to convalese. He reminds both Clarkson and Isobel that this is his house and threatens to withdraw the use of it if they don't stop dictating to his family what they can and cannot do in it.
In April of 1917, O'Brien, who has kept in touch with Thomas, suggests to Cora that he be transferred to the village hospital so he may continue to serve. Cora presses Robert who uses his influence to have Clarkson approve the transfer. Thomas arrives in Downton with a disfigured hand, but, otherwise, in good condition.
The war hits home in many ways as Sybil is officially working as a nurse and the new valet, Lang, exhibits signs that O'Brien recognizes as shell shock, William has been called up for training and Mrs. Patmore learns that her nephew is missing in action. After asking Lord Grantham for his help, he makes inquiries and gives her the sad news that the young man was shot for cowardice.
Determined to be useful, Edith volunteers to drive the tractor for local farmers John Drake and his wife who have lost their hired man to the war. She enjoys the work, but gets too close to Mr. Drake for his wife's comfort. After spotting Drake kissing Edith, Mrs. Drake hires a farmhand and sends word to Downton that Edith's help isn't needed anymore.
Molesley expresses interest in Anna who lets him down easily, admitting that Mr. Bates is the only one for her.
Thomas and Sybil befriend a young soldier blinded in the war and work to teach him how to adjust to his surroundings. When his initial treatment is over, protocol requires that he be transferred to a far off convalescent center. Thomas and Sybil prevail upon Dr. Clarkson to make an exception as they fear their new friend is depressed. When the doctor will not bend regulations, the young man kills himself with a smuggled razor, leaving Thomas shaken up and Sybil determined to convince her parents to allow part of Downton to be used for convalescing men.
Aunt Rosamund overhears Sir Richard Carlisle threatening Lavinia Swire, Matthew's fiancee, in the garden.
The first episode of the second series picks up the story in 1916 during World War I. Many changes have taken place at Downton Abbey because of the conflict which has greatly unsettled all the occupants. A new maid proves difficult and an announcement from Matthew Crawley stuns everybody, particularly Mary. Meanwhile, there are dramas and surprises for everyone from both above and below stairs as the war rages on and all are caught up in it in some way.moreless