Plot Overview: Series Two
The series begins in 1916 with the Battle of the Somme. Matthew Crawley is fighting in the war, and Downton cottage hospital is treating wounded soldiers. The hospital later expands into the Abbey itself as a convalescent home, which leads to much conflict between Matthew’s mother Isobel and both the Countess and Dowager Countess. Matthew has become engaged to a commoner named Lavinia Swire, and Mary to a devious newspaper proprietor.
Matthew is wounded at the Battle of Amiens and comes back to Downton crippled and impotent, which leads him to break off his engagement. With him comes the footman William, who was injured saving Matthew’s life: he dies shortly after marrying fellow servant Daisy. Matthew miraculously recovers and resumes his engagement to Lavinia, although he (and ultimately Lavinia) knows that he is really in love with Mary.
Lavinia dies in the Spanish influenza outbreak of 1919, and this frees Matthew to propose to Mary, which he does at the end of the Christmas special. The other major plotline of the series/special is the attempts of Bates, the Earl’s valet, to obtain a divorce from his thieving and blackmailing first wife Vera so he can marry fellow servant Anna. Vera ultimately apparently commits suicide, but Bates is tried and imprisoned for her murder and is still in prison as the Christmas special ends.