But there's no doubt it was a cracking episode, so if you fancy reliving it you're in luck - we've compiled a little reminder of everything that happened. Now can we have the Christmas special, please?
Spanish flu arrives in Downton - and kills Lavinia...
It's all go in Downton when we begin the episode - everyone's getting ready for the wedding. Unfortunately, Cora's totally subtle little mention of Spanish flu in last week's episode turned out to be a bit of a premonition and soon everyone's keeling over.
Carson's the first to go, but before long Cora's feeling a bit hot and can barely walk down the stairs (uh oh!) Sure enough, she's not feeling too well and soon excuses herself from dinner. Molesley's inconveniently got a little tiddly, though everyone thinks he's ill too. And then, Lavinia goes all woozy. Seriously, they're dropping like flies.
Anyway, Dr Clarkson bustles in looking all important to check out all the patients, but while Lavinia's in bed resting, Mary and Matthew take the opportunity for a bit of a catch-up by the gramophone. Yep, it's not long before they're having a dance and talking about how sorry they are it didn't work out for them. You can be the most cynical person, and you'll still root for this pair.
We get the moment we've all been waiting for, anyway. Matthew tells Mary about the Dowager Countess's little intervention, and then explains how he can't leave Lavinia just because he's well again. Here's the kicker: "However much I might want to." Okay, your hearts can leave your mouths now. No, wait, they can't - Matthew and Mary kiss!
Of course, Downton Abbey is basically a soap, so it's naturally at this point that Lavinia comes downstairs all pathetic-looking in a dressing gown. Matthew and Mary do that totally unsubtle springing-apart thing, and Mary goes to organise a room for Lavinia, who's too ill to leave tonight. Then Lavinia tells Matthew she feels like a nuisance, and tells him: "Don't ever let me be a nuisance. Don't ever let me get in the way please." Why do we feel like there might be a double meaning going on there?
Anyway, it turns out that Lavinia is just too ill for the wedding, and it has to be cancelled. Dearie me, what a shame. Right? You're upset, right? Anyway, Matthew has to do the awkward ringing round to tell people, and then he goes to see Lavinia. Except when he gets there, Lavinia's talking about how maybe it was a good thing they had to cancel the wedding.
Yep, you guessed it - "When I came downstairs and you and Mary were dancing, I heard what you said and I saw what you did." (I love that little line - simple but effective.) Oh Lavinia, you're so lovely - she's not angry, but she's not convinced it's a good idea for them to marry now.
She was wondering even before Matthew was injured whether they should wed, but she knew she'd be a better nurse than Mary (miaow). Anyway, Matthew's devastated and "won't let her do this" (tough words, Matthew), but Lavinia seems pretty decided. It's over! He belongs with Mary! She's not the only one thinking it, either - Sir Richard's come up, supposedly to help. It's actually because he's heard Lavinia's ill and doesn't want Matthew to fall into Mary's arms in grief. The sneaky, snide snake.
Lavinia's not the only one that's ill, either - Cora's sweaty, being sick, and getting nosebleeds. It's not looking good - it all depends on whether she can last the night. But what's this? Yep, we've been double bluffed. Lavinia seemed fine, but she's taken a turn for the worse. Downton got me - it definitely seemed that Cora would be the one to kick the bucket.
In fact, Lavinia's nearing death's door so everyone basically rushes from one bedroom to another (Sir Richard tries to hold Mary back, but she's having none of it). She can barely speak, but she manages to croak out a few last words, telling Matthew: "Isn't this better? You won't have to make a hard decision", and telling him to be happy for her sake. Then she's breathed her last, and the final shot of her lying dead in bed with Matthew by her side is genuinely touching and quite beautiful.
Matthew's soon in the full grieving outfit - black suit, black tie, black armband - and he's looking ever so pale. But when the Earl says Mary wants to see him, he snaps: "No!" Oh dear. In fact, at Lavinia's funeral, Mary approaches him and asks if she can do anything.
Matthew says no - he reveals that Lavinia knew about their little kiss and explains that he actually thinks she gave up and died of a broken heart. Now he thinks he and Mary are cursed and will never be happy together. "There's nothing to be done about it," he murmurs. "Let's be strong, Mary. Let's accept that this is the end." It's a gut-wrenching little scene - awful. And when Sir Richard asks if he can walk Mary up to the house, she tells him she wants him to.
Lavinia being the one to die over Cora was something of a shock - they pulled off the double bluff - but it makes sense. It was really the only way to get Matthew out of the wedding with credit, clearing the path for him and Mary. That said, I'm glad that they haven't fallen into each other's arms straight away, and I'm looking forward to Matthew's internal struggles in the future as he weighs his guilt with his love for Mary.
Sybil and Branson announce their engagement
Sybil and Branson have been back and forth a ridiculous amount this season, but finally Sybil thinks it's a good idea to announce their engagement. Of course, Mary and Edith are against the plan, but Sybil's determined, and Branson's even coming in to speak to the Earl. Plus, Branson's no longer just a chauffeur - he's going to be a journalist ("which sounds better to Granny").
So at dinner, Branson arrives ("I'm here!" "So I can see...") but Sybil's having second thoughts. Branson's made of sterner stuff, though, and it's not long before the Earl is exploding in indignant bursts of rage. It's a folly! It's ridiculous and juvenile! Anyway, Sybil's soon confirming her plan - after Matthew's wedding, they'll move to Dublin and she'll work as a nurse and live with Branson's mother (who thinks her son's being foolish) while the banns are read. AND THERE'S NOTHING HER DAD CAN DO ABOUT IT.
Branson goes to tell the servants that he's going to marry Sybil - much to Carson's indignation - before going to stay at the Grantham Arms. Meanwhile, Sybil's fighting with her dad, telling him she's not bothered in all the trappings of her current life, so he has nothing to hold over her head. The Dowager Countess arrives to try and make Sybil see reason, but Sybil's determined - she will leave in a week and anyone who wants to visit is welcome. Ooh, it's all feeling very tense.
The Earl thinks they spoilt Sybil with "mad clothes" and "nursing", but Cora suggests that they might have overlooked who Sybil really is. But the Earl's not going to stand for that kind of reasonable nonsense, so he heads off - and ends up colliding with Jane. He's feeling very sorry for himself, so Jane says she wishes she could help him. And the Earl says she can, and pulls her into the bedroom.
What a blooming hypocrite. It's okay for him to have an extra-marital affair with a maid, but Sybil can't marry a chauffeur/journo? Rude. Anyway, Bates almost walks in on the pair and that's that - the Earl decides that though he wants Jane "with every fibre" of his being, it's not fair on either of them. Jane decides the best thing for everyone would be for her to resign. So the Earl gives her the details of his man of business, to help her son get a start in life. Aww. But Jane's not convinced he's really happy - "I have no right to be unhappy, which is almost the same," he replies. They have one last kiss, and Jane's gone.
The Earl is apparently not seeing the hypocrisy, though, because he goes to the Grantham Arms to have it out with Branson. In fact, he offers Branson money to disappear from their lives. Branson might annoy me, but to his credit he refuses the bribe flat out. He thinks he can make Sybil happy - and warns that as soon as he leaves, Sybil will come too.
Anyway, Cora has a miraculous recovery and she and Robert make up, basically, as she apologises for neglecting him. No apology is forthcoming from the Earl, though. But he does seem to have a change of heart about Sybil - at Lavinia's funeral, he announces that he will give Sybil his blessing, if this is what she really wants. He even shakes Branson's hand and agrees to consider coming over for the wedding. Lovely, right?
Ethel chooses Charlie's future
The Bryants write to Downton, explaining that they want to come and see Ethel and Charlie. Ethel agrees to meet them, but when they arrive, Mr Bryant announces that basically he wants to take Charlie away. Mrs Bryant is still as reasonable as last week - but also just as weak-willed.
Mr Bryant would raise Charlie as a son and give him all the benefits of a privileged life (Harrow! Oxford!) But Ethel would never even see him again. Mrs Hughes suggests that Ethel could be a nurse or work as a servant, and even Mrs Bryant says it's a good idea, but Mr Bryant flat out refuses. Not even Ethel promising not to reveal the truth about her identity changes his mind. Well, Ethel thinks about it for a while but she comes to the decision we all knew she would come to - it's a no.
Anna and Bates marry... and then get split up
Anna corners Bates - she's had enough of waiting. She wants to get married, and she's not taking no for an answer. Basically, she's a bit nervous that he's about to go to prison because of Mrs Bates's death - she wants to make sure she has a legal connection to him before that. So Bates books the registrar.
Then Anna has to ask Lady Mary for permission, but Mary does have a soft spot for Anna so she's more than happy to give her the time off. In fact, she'll do more than that - when Anna comes back a married woman, she discovers that Mary and Jane have arranged a bedroom for her and Bates. I suppose it's a nice thought, if a little creepy.
So Anna and Bates spend the night together and start talking more about how much they love each other and all that malarkey. Of course, we know with Anna and Bates that what goes up must come down, and sure enough, they're soon brought back down to Earth.
They return from Lavinia's funeral to be told that two men are waiting for Bates. The poor valet has to do the walk of doom past all the other servants, and of course accepts his fate - he is being arrested for murder. Anna kisses him before he's led away, and then stands there desperately, trying to be strong but with her lip quivering. There's no doubt that it was a stunning final image.
So that's that - series two of Downton Abbey. Perhaps it didn't quite reach the heights of the first run, but it was still good, enjoyable stuff (and the most-watched drama in ten years). Sure, it's become silly and soapy - we've had everything from amnesia to miraculous recoveries - and we're saying this about a show which, in its first series, had a Turk who was basically killed by sex. But after that final scene, we'll be very excited about the Christmas special and the third series. Will you?
The Dowager Countess's best lines
- "Will someone please tell me what's going on, or have we all stepped through the looking glass?"
- Branson thinks Violet "deserves to know" what's going on. "Why don't I find that reassuring?"
- Lavinia has been given a gramophone. "I'll stand well clear when you light the blue touch paper."
- "I used to think Mary's beau was a mésalliance but compared to this he's practically a Hapsburg."
- "Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class."
- "The plot thickens!" (Mainly for her little grin. Amazing.)
- "Wasn't there a masked ball in Paris when cholera broke out? Half the guests were dead before they left the ballroom." (Made even better by the following pause and the Earl's: "Thank you, mama. That's cheered us up no end."
- "He's a good driver."
- "I do hope I'm interrupting something."
- It's not so much a line, but the Dowager Countess made me smile when she was talking about "minimising the scandal" of Sybil-and-Branson and "hitching" Branson onto some poor chap in Cork.
... And the rest
- "Any bride who doesn't suck up to her husband's mother is a fool."
- I love to hate Thomas, so I'm glad that the Spanish flu gave him a chance to get back in the game. It was weird to see him being nice and well-behaved, but now that he's won back his place in Downton I'm hoping he'll be back to a scheming cad by the Christmas special.
- Carson does tough #1: "You're trespassing on our generosity."
- Carson does tough #2: "I will not disgrace myself by discussing the topic, and nor will anyone else."
- Carson does tough #3: "I have asked for silence and silence I will have."
- Carson does tough #4: "Ethel's not important."
- Also, Carson does grieving: "I didn't want her here, Mrs Hughes, I'll admit. But I had no objection to her being happy somewhere else."
- Daisy needs to get over her guilt, right? Hopefully she has closure now she's spoken to William's dad. Mind you, him gushing about how much she loved William means she can't exactly tell him the truth.
- "Every Tom, Dick and Harry is looking for work these days, and they don't have a hand like a Jules Verne experiment."
- Who's feeling sorry for Edith? Mary has Sir Richard (yuk, but still) and gets to share longing glances with Matthew. Sybil has Branson (even if he is insufferable). And Edith has only had a little something with the random heir-that-might-not-be-an-heir. Is she destined to be "the maiden aunt" as she thinks?
- "If you're going to turn American on me, I'll go downstairs."
- Molesley must have been feeling a little nervous if he resorted to the bottle. He's just lucky his drunken slump happened to come when everyone was getting Spanish flu. I have a soft spot for poor old Molesley.
- "You've been driving me about bowing and scraping and seducing my daughter behind my back!"
- Mrs Hughes is doubtful that Molesley becoming permanent would help. "Neither my patience nor his liver could stand it."
- "Being helpful is not something we associate you with."
- Is it just me, or did Dr Clarkson roll his eyes when Isobel announced that she'd come with him to help out with a sick Carson? If so, AMAZING. You go, Dr Clarkson.
- The Earl double checked that Jane hadn't been struck down with Spanish flu. I'm sure he was genuinely concerned for her health. And not just checking that he couldn't have caught it from her. Sure.
- "What do you think happens with a fatal illness - the fairies come?"
- It was nice to see O'Brien feeling guilty about the whole "making Cora miscarry" nightmare - she didn't have to confess in the end, though, and I'm wondering if that's that.
- Mary warns Carson about Thomas - "I doubt he wants to stay a footman forever." Oo-er.
- "Well, Mrs Bates, you've had your way with me." Gulp.
- The Earl of Grantham has been... annoying, this series. I liked him in the first series, but now he's self-pitying and self-righteous. The most growl-worthy moment this week was when Cora was ill in bed, basically dying, and the Earl's going on about how his life's gone over a cliff. Shut up! Hopefully the 1920s will perk him up a bit.
- Lavinia could have been so easy to hate - how dare she come in between Mary and Matthew! - but actually she was a sweetheart and you couldn't help but like her. Nice work.
- "Any bride who doesn't suck up to her husband's mother is a fool."