Downton Abbey's aristocrats and their loyal servants ushered in 1920 with equal parts grief and gloom.
Is Bates going to be sentenced to hang by the neck until he is dead? Will Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) really marry the odious Sir Richard (Iain Glen)? Tonight's dramatic finale answered those questions—and so much more…
"Lady Mary Crawley, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
If you weren't dabbing your eyes with a lace handkerchief when Matthew (Dan Stevens) finally proposed—on bended knee, in the snow!—then you must be more heartless than Sir Richard Carlisle. (You remember, that fellow Matthew punched out in the drawing room?)
So at least we have one fairy-tale ending with the conclusion of season two. Actually, this finale, which originally aired in the U.K. as a Christmas special, was full of good tidings.
But there was some coal in our stockings:
Bates and Anna: Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and O'Brien's (Siobhan Finnernan) reluctant testimony at his murder trial damned the valet—not to mention his own candid admissions to the police. Why must the downstairs hero only lie to protect others (like his thieving first wife and Lady Mary) but never himself? The jury had no choice but to find him guilty, and the judge donned the black cap and sentenced him to death while wife Anna (Joanne Froggatt) cried out in protest. Fortunately, Lord Grantham was able to pull some strings and Bates' sentence was commuted to life in prison, making the way for an appeal in season three. (And our hope that Sir Richard or his henchmen will be revealed as the first Mrs. Bates' real killer.)
The Truth Will Out: It was too late to save Bates (who gave up his post to protect Lady Mary), but Lord Grantham finally learned the truth about Mary's scandal. Bewildered at Mary's plans to marry Sir Richard despite her obvious misery, and upon the good/bad news that daughter Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) is pregnant (hooray!), his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) finally spilled the beans. When she asked whether her husband remembered Mr. Pamuk's visit, Grantham responded dryly, "I think I can be relied on to remember any guest who is found dead in his bed the next morning!" To which Cora said, "Well, that's the thing…" And, scene!
Pushing Daisy: Lady Rosamund's (Samantha Bond) new maid, Shore (Sharon Small), brought nothing but nasty to Downton—even suggesting Daisy (Sophie McShera) should leave (gasp!) Downton Abbey for a better position. Fortunately the kitchen maid received sensible advice from her father-in-law, a visit engineered by Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) with a little nudge from the staff's Ouija board. What's more, the farmer finally assuaged Daisy's guilt at marrying his son even though she wasn't in love with him. She returned to Downton with a lighter heart, got a promotion and saw that harlot Shore exposed as fortune-hunter Lord Hepworth's (Nigel Havers) co-conspirator. All in all, a most satisfying outcome.
Man's Best Friend: Must Lord Grantham be so consistently oblivious? Aspiring valet Thomas' (Rob James-Collier) scheme to gain favor with the earl by secretly kidnapping—and then finding—his dog Isis disgusts even O'Brien. But he is ultimately successful, and we must prepare ourselves for him to replace Bates in season three. Maybe Thomas will try to kiss Grantham (like Mr. Paumuk) and get fired once and for all?
Forty-Year-Old Virgin? Is Edith (Laura Carmichael) really destined for spinsterhood? Not if she has anything to do with it! The sparks fly again when Sir Anthony (Robert Bathurst, whose planned proposal was sabotaged by Mary) returns, but there's a new hitch to their romance: He's lost the use of his arm from a war injury—and, like Matthew before him, doesn't want his wife forced to be his nursemaid. Plus, he insists he's much too old for the young maiden. To which we say, Nonsense, sir! We expect to see you on bended knee next season.
The Last Word: Maggie Smith's droll dowager duchess did not disappoint tonight, offering one-liners that will keep us chuckling until the third-season return:
• "I don't need you to tell me the world is falling about our ears"—On footman/valet Thomas' tardiness
• "Oh don't be. It's a wedding present from a frightful aunt—I have hated it for half a century."—Response to Matthew's apology for a broken vase during fisticuffs with Sir Richard
• "Do you promise?"—Responding to Sir Richard's "I doubt we'll meet again" farewell
• "He's hardly the consummation devoutly to be wished."—To daughter Rosamund, on debt-ridden, gold-digging suitor Lord Hepworth
• "I must say, I am beyond impropriety."—On Rosamund's suggesting visiting Matthew in his bedroom was risqué
Are you going to miss the Crawley family as much as we are? What fate do you think awaits Bates in season three? Sound off in the comments!