Well, the Christmas special is less than three weeks away and the second and somewhat divisive season has been recently released on DVD, so here's a rundown of each episode from the second year. Careful, there are some spoilers here.
Episode 1: Another lengthy opener dealing with the events of World War 1, in particular with both Matthew and Thomas in the trenches and Robert's frustration of not having an active role there. There was also the unwelcome arrival of Vera, who managed to cause upset with Bates and Anna, a stroppy new maid in Ethel while Mary, Edith and Sybil all find their own roles in the current climate. November 1916.
Episode 2: I liked the arrival of Lang, who showed us the true side of surviving war and even Edith's brief dalliance with a married man she was helping out was certainly interesting in light of her actions of the first year. Of course, this was also the episode that introduced the not so nice Carlisle as well into the mix but he was better than the somewhat dull Lavinia. April 1917.
Episode 3: Isobel has turned Downton into a hospital and Ethel's gotten herself rather familiar with one of the visiting soldiers there as well. Also it didn't Anna that long to find out where Bates was hiding and Lang also left in this one. July 1917.
Episode 4: Weakest episode for me to be honest. The whole 'missing' thing with both Matthew and William felt like a cop out and the Cora vs. Isobel antics over the running of the hospital in Downton got a little tedious to watch. Ethel's plot however was a bit of an improvement on this episode. 1918.
Episode 5: Ethel might have left Downton but she still has Mrs Hughes helping her out in the current circumstances and the writers weren't subtle with the attraction between new maid Jane and Robert either. Of course, this was more eventful with the death of two characters and a bedside wedding for Daisy and William as Mary putting her fate in Carlisle's hands. August 1918.
Episode 6: Robert writes a letter to the father of Ethel's child and discovers that the soldier has passed away, Carlisle tries to get Carson as a butler for a home he wants to move in with Mary and the dead heir from the first episode isn't so dead after all. November 1918.
Episode 7: Thomas proves that if The Apprentice existed back in the 1910's, he would be the first person fired from it, Sybil/Branson finally get together, Robert gives into temptation and Carlisle shows his unpleasant side and Matthew continues to make a recovery. November 1918.
Episode 8: It's time for the Spanish Flu to afflict three people and kill the most obvious candidate in question and once again, the chance of Anna and Bates actually being happy is squandered again and Downton loses another maid while Ethel tells her child's grandparents to do one. Well, sort of. April 1919.
Overall, not quite as good as the first season. The show needs to loosen up with the obstacles between both Anna/Bates and Mary/Matthew before it runs the risk of viewers losing interest in both couples. Still though, the show did have many highlights including it's depiction of the first World War, Violet's witty barbs and having mostly interesting new characters as well slightly developing others.
Rating: 8 out of 10.