Series Two: Episode One
The new series begins in November 1916. Matthew Crawley is fighting on the Somme. He returns home on leave and visits Downton for a fund raising concert for the local troop hospital, where he makes peace with the family. Mary is disappointed to find he has a new fiancée, Lavinia Swire (and Edith wastes no time rubbing her nose in the news), but she wishes him well as he returns to the front.
Two Downton men are desperate to do their bit for the war effort but are thwarted. The Earl thinks that he is going to the war when he is appointed Colonel of a local regiment, but it transpires to be a courtesy post as he is regarded as too old to fight. William also wants to join up and is mortified that people think him a coward for not doing so, but he has been forbidden by his father.
A new housemaid, Ethel, arrives at the house. The other staff feel she has ideas above her station, and she is bullied by O’Brien.
Sybil learns to drive, hoping it’s a skill she can use to help the war effort, and signs up to go to York to train as a nurse. Branson feels that he might lose her and reveals his feelings, asking her to run away with him. Sybil is unsure of her feelings and says she cannot make up her mind, but she won’t tell anyone else.
Bates’ mother has died, and he has discovered that she had a far bigger estate than he thought. He plans to use the money to buy of his wife Vera and get a divorce, so he can marry Anna. However, Vera comes to Downton and tells Bates she knows about Anna’s part in covering up the facts about Pamuk’s death and will expose them unless Bates comes away with her. Bates agrees, and Anna is heartbroken, but Mrs.Hughes has overheard and tells Carson, who manages to inform the Earl without exposing Mary.
Back at the front Matthew meets Thomas, whose plans to stay out of the firing line have fallen through. He deliberately gets himself wounded in order to be sent home.
Carson is having trouble running the house with a reduced staff and Mrs.Hughes worries for his health. Violet does her bit to help behind the scenes by writing to friends in high places to prevent William and Molesley, Isobel’s butler, being called up. However, Isobel tells Molesley that there should be no exceptions for the callup.
Mary has met a rich newspaper owner, Sir Richard Carlisle, and wants to invite him to visit, but it seems doubtful that she will ever escape the scandal in her past.