The Dowager Countess is not amused (Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Courtesy: Everett Col …
The time has come. After ignoring spoilers and casting shake-ups, fans will be rewarded with the third season of "Downton Abbey" (provided they managed to stay patient during the British airing, which ended last month) which returns to PBS on Sunday, Jan. 6 at 9 p.m. EST.
However, the Crawley family have seen their share of drama throughout the last decade (read: two seasons). So in case you need a little refresher of past events, here are 10 unforgettable moments that brought us to where we begin season three.
1. The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith)
Smack-talking grandmothers usually reign supreme, but Maggie Smith's Dowager takes the cake with her quick one-liners ("What is a weekend?") and penchant for telling it like it is. On top of putting her effort into setting granddaughter Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) up with, well, anyone, to save the family fortune, she still manages to hold the Crawleys together with her brazen demeanour. You go, girl.
2. The Kamal Pamuk (Theo James) incident
The third episode of season one saw Mary in quite the predicament when a one-night stand (scandalous!) with Turkish guest Kamal Pamuk led to his death, and the subsequent transfer of his body from Mary's room to his own without the family waking. However, Mary managed to keep her reputation and her sanity, despite sister Edith, who told everyone about it months (years?) later.
3. Sybil's (Jessica Brown Finlay) harem pants
But that's when, in episode four of season one, wonderful, free-thinking, feminist Sybil breaks from cultural tradition and orders pants; bright, turquoise, chiffon pants that go over reasonably well among her family, but even better among a certain Irishman named Branson.
4. The arrival of Branson (Allen Leech) and his inclusion into the family
And who would have thought that a Crawley girl would end up with the family's driver -- nay, an Irish republican? Well, anybody who noticed the chemistry between Branson and Sybil, who, from season one, strike up quite a bond. A bond so strong it takes fans right to episode six of season two, where the two are given Lord Grantham's (Robert Crawley, played by Hugh Bonneville) blessing before getting hitched in Ireland.
5. The love-hate (but mostly love) dynamic between Mary Crawley and Cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens)
From the first episode of season one, Matthew is introduced for the sole purpose of acquainting with cousin Mary -- or at the very least, keeping the Crawley fortune somehow tied to the family. Naturally, Mary hates him. But following the First World War (season two), there's a shift: despite going off to war, getting engaged to a woman named Lavinia (Zoe Boyle), and getting paralyzed (sort of), Matthew realizes he can't fight his feelings for Mary, and the two get engaged during season two's Christmas special finale.
6. The death of Lavinia
But naturally, the engagement between Matthew and Mary couldn't have happened with Lavinia in the picture, so unfortunately for her -- and fortunately for anyone rooting for Matthew and Mary -- she dies from the flu during the Christmas special. After Matthew breaks up with her first, that is.
7. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and Anna (Joanne Froggatt) fall in love
But enough about upstairs! From the moment Anna saw Bates crying in his room during the pilot episode, to her confession of love in the fifth episode of season one, fans applauded and cheered for this couple, likely because out of everyone else on the servant staff, they seem the most worthy of happiness. That's probably why Lady Mary Crawley helped accommodate their honeymoon after their wedding (in season two's finale). Though unfortunately . . .
8. Bates' secret past comes to claim him
Prior to the official union of he and Anna, fans are introduced to Bates' estranged wife Vera (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who blackmails him into returning to her. However, her blackmailing goes extreme when . . .
9. Vera frames Bates for her murder
Talk about throwing a wrench in the plans. After Bates finally believes to be free of the wife-formerly-known-as Vera, he finds out she's killed herself, making it seem like he'd been the one responsible. As a result, Bates is arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, and season two ends with Anna vowing to prove his innocence.
10. Thomas (Rob Thomas-Collier) waltzes with the Dowager Countess during the servants' ball
But we can't leave on such a low note. True, season three begins with Bates in prison, and yes, Anna's heart may be broken, but let's not forget the mental image of the Dowager Countess dancing with Thomas. Who, despite being one of the most manipulative (albeit misunderstood) characters of the show, would still make a great best pal to the Crawley matriarch. At least in terms of judging others.
So into season three we venture. Will Sybil and Branson live a happy life in Ireland, or will it be too much strain away from home? Can Mary and Matthew actually be happy, or at least not fight for once in their lives? And more importantly, with the arrival of Cora's mother (played by Shirley MacLaine), can the Dowager still hold her own?