|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||8 + 1 Christmas special|
|Original release||18 September –|
6 November 2011
The second series of the British historical drama television series Downton Abbey broadcast from 18 September 2011 to 6 November 2011, comprising a total of eight episodes and one Christmas Special episode broadcast on 25 December 2011. The series was broadcast on ITV in the United Kingdom and on PBS in the United States, which supported the production as part of its Masterpiece Classic anthology. Series two explores the lives of the Crawley family and servants during and after the First World War.
Series two received widespread acclaim, with critics praising its cast, historical depictions, and story's arc. The viewing figures significantly increased compared with series one, with an average of 11 million viewers per episode. The series was nominated for several industry awards, and won the TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials. Maggie Smith received critical praise for her performance as Lady Violet Crawley, which earned her the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
The second series covers the last two years of the war and the first year of peace. Events mentioned or directly affecting the Crawley household include the Battle of the Somme, the Easter Rising, the Battle of Arras, the Russian Revolution, the Battle of Passchendaele, the Battle of Amiens, the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, the Armistice, and the Spanish flu epidemic.
On the domestic front there is a serious shortage of able-bodied men for home front jobs. Matthew Crawley and William Mason go off to fight, while Thomas Barrow joins the Medical Corps. Tom Branson, as an Irishman, won't fight for Britain. Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) returns to uniform, but is refused active service due to his age. Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown Findlay) defies her aristocratic position and joins the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse.
In the biggest development, Downton Abbey becomes a convalescent home for wounded officers.
A 46-minute documentary compiled in anticipation of the Christmas 2011 two-hour special broadcast, Behind the Drama features behind-the-scenes footage from the filming of the series and short interviews with Julian Fellowes, the writer, actors (Elizabeth McGovern, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Jessica Brown Findlay, Laura Carmichael, Penelope Wilton, Phyllis Logan, Thomas Howes, Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Allen Leech), and other members of the team that produces Downton Abbey. It was shown in the United Kingdom at 7:30 pm on Wednesday 21 December 2011 and narrated by Hugh Bonneville. 4.5 million people watched the show.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK viewers|
|8||1||"The Fundraising Concert"||Ashley Pearce||Julian Fellowes||18 September 2011||11.41|
|September 1916. Matthew, on military leave, returns to Downton. He announces that he is engaged to Miss Lavinia Swire. Lady Mary has invited Sir Richard Carlisle, a ruthless, wealthy newspaper mogul, to visit Downton. The servants prepare for a concert to help fund the local hospital. Bates tells Anna that he is finally able to get a divorce and proposes. Vera Bates, Bates' estranged wife, arrives at Downton and demands that she and Bates reconcile, or she will expose Lady Mary's indiscretion with Pamuk. Bates gives his notice without explanation. Sybil enrols in nurses' training; Branson reveals his feelings to Sybil before she leaves. Matthew meets Thomas in the trenches, where they share a cup of tea. Later, Thomas deliberately gets shot in one of his hands so that he can be sent back to England.|
|9||2||"Matthew's Return"||Ashley Pearce||Julian Fellowes||25 September 2011||11.77[nb 1]|
|April 1917. Lord Grantham informs Mrs Patmore that her nephew was executed for cowardice. Thomas goes to work under Dr Clarkson at the village hospital along with Lady Sybil. Downton becomes a war-time convalescent home. Matthew is unhappy about returning to England for a recruitment drive. Lavinia is confronted by Sir Richard Carlisle, an old and unwelcome acquaintance. Lady Edith volunteers to drive a tractor to help farmers during the war. She helps out Mr Drake, a Downton tenant farmer. She and Mr Drake become attracted to each other, and are seen kissing by Mrs Drake, who quietly puts an end to Edith's job.|
|10||3||"General Sir Herbert Strutt"||Andy Goddard||Julian Fellowes||2 October 2011||11.33[nb 2]|
|July 1917. Violet objects to Downton becoming a convalescent home, while Isobel takes charge. Cora gets Acting Sergeant Thomas Barrow assigned to oversee Downton's military convalescents. Violet believes that Mary and Matthew are still in love. She and Rosamund scheme to end Matthew's engagement to Lavinia. Violet believes there is something more to Lavinia's relationship with Sir Richard. William proposes to Daisy before going to war. Mrs Patmore pressures Daisy to accept William solely to give him hope, even though Daisy does not love him.|
|11||4||"Management of the Convalescent Home"||Brian Kelly||Julian Fellowes||9 October 2011||11.30[nb 3]|
|March 1918. Ethel continually flirts with Major Bryant. Mrs Hughes discovers them in bed together and dismisses Ethel. A few months later, Ethel returns, announcing she is pregnant with Bryant's child. Preparations are under way for a concert at Downton. Tensions flare between Isobel and Cora, while Edith receives worrying news about Matthew and William. Branson again declares his feelings for Sybil. Robert visits Bates at a nearby pub where he is working. Robert receives a letter from Sir Richard Carlisle, which causes him concern and forces an uncomfortable conversation with Mary.|
|12||5||"Sir Richard's Engagement"||Brian Kelly||Julian Fellowes||16 October 2011||11.59[nb 4]|
|August 1918. Matthew has suffered a serious spinal injury and is paralysed from the waist down, leaving him apparently unable to walk or father children. He wants Lavinia to forget him and sends her away, while Mary attempts to nurse him back to health. Mrs Hughes secretly helps Ethel and her baby since Ethel's lover, Major Bryant, has ignored her. William returns to Downton with terminal injuries. He wants Daisy to marry him before he dies. Mrs Patmore persuades a reluctant Daisy to go through with it; William dies a few hours later. Bates, who paid off Vera to divorce him, is taken aback when Vera threatens to expose old secrets about Lady Mary and Pamuk's death. Mary confesses everything to Carlisle and asks him to help. He pays Vera to sign a confidentiality contract, then buries the story. Unknown to Mary, Sir Richard announces his engagement to her in his paper. On finding out she was tricked into silence, Vera warns Bates that she will still ruin him.|
|13||6||"Family Affairs"||Andy Goddard||Julian Fellowes||23 October 2011||11.33[nb 5]|
|November 1918. A severely burnt and disfigured Canadian officer arrives at Downton and declares that he is the assumed dead heir, Patrick Crawley. Mary rejects the claim, but Edith is persuaded as he recounts details of old times at Downton. Robert commissions his solicitor, Murray, to investigate; Murray learns that one of Patrick Crawley's close friends had emigrated to Canada. "Patrick" abruptly departs. Matthew is adapting to his condition and Mary's care for him. Isobel is full of social improvement schemes using Downton Abbey. Ethel hears of Major Bryant's death. Branson gives Lady Sybil an ultimatum regarding his marriage proposal to her. Bates learns that the legality of his divorce is threatened, as Vera has revealed that he paid her to leave him; Bate goes to London to try and settle their affairs. When he returns, he learns that Vera is dead. Soon after, the Armistice concludes the war.|
|14||7||"The New Development"||James Strong||Julian Fellowes||30 October 2011||12.26[nb 6]|
|Early February 1919. Matthew begins feeling sensation in his legs. He announces that he and Lavinia will marry soon. Violet tells him that Mary still loves him, but Matthew feels obliged to marry Lavinia. Sir Richard Carlisle distresses Anna by asking her to spy on Mary; his behaviour leads Carson to reject his offer of employment. Bates realises that Vera committed suicide to frame him for murder. Mrs Hughes contrives a meeting between Major Bryant's parents and Ethel and her baby. However, Mr Bryant does not believe that Ethel's child is his grandson. Thomas embarks on a new money-making scheme in the post-war black market. Lord Grantham is attracted to Jane, a new maid. Lady Sybil agrees to elope with Branson. However, Mary discovers her plan and along with Edith and Anna, catches them up en route to Scotland, and persuades Sybil to return and plead her cause openly to their parents.|
|15||8||"The Spanish Flu"||James Strong||Julian Fellowes||6 November 2011||12.45[nb 7]|
|April 1919. Preparations are under way for Matthew and Lavinia's wedding. Lady Grantham, Carson, and Lavinia are taken ill with Spanish flu. Matthew and Mary acknowledge that they cannot marry as it would be cruel to Lavinia. Lavinia overhears them and sees them kiss. Ethel is surprised when Major Bryant's parents want to see her but is horrified when she learns that Mr Bryant wants to take custody of the baby. She tells the Bryants they will not be allowed to see the baby. Lord Grantham and Jane have an encounter but are interrupted, and Jane decides to leave Downton. Anna and Bates marry in secret. Cora becomes seriously ill. Lavinia succumbs to the flu and dies. Matthew tells Mary that any relationship between them is now impossible. Lord Grantham reluctantly gives his blessing for Lady Sybil and Thomas Branson to marry. Bates is arrested for the murder of his ex-wife.|
|16||–||"Christmas at Downton Abbey"||Brian Percival||Julian Fellowes||25 December 2011||12.11[nb 8]|
|December 1919 and January 1920. The household is bustling with Christmas preparations. The staff entertain themselves with a ouija board. Bates is convicted of Vera's murder, but his death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. Bates encourages Anna to stay at Downton and to live a full life. Daisy meets with William's father, Mr Mason, who assures her that she is a good person and asks her to become his surrogate daughter. Rosamund contemplates marriage, but her suitor is exposed as a fortune hunter. Sybil, now married to Tom Branson and living in Ireland, writes to Cora that she is pregnant. Cora insists on them returning to Downton. Mary jilts her fiancé, Sir Richard Carlisle, despite his threat to publish her dark secret regarding the late Kemal Pamuk. Though afraid that he will see her as "soiled", Lady Mary tells Matthew about Pamuk, then plans to leave for America. Although surprised, Matthew decides to put everything behind them and proposes; Mary happily accepts.|
Filming began in March 2011. The scripts were written by series creator Julian Fellowes. Episodes were directed by Ashley Pearce, Andy Goddard, Brian Kelly and James Strong. Cal Macaninch, Iain Glen, Amy Nuttall, Zoe Boyle and Maria Doyle Kennedy joined the cast respectively as the new valet Lang, Sir Richard Carlisle, the new housemaid Ethel, Lavinia Swire and John Bates' wife Vera. Nigel Havers and Sharon Small appeared in the Christmas Special as Lord Hepworth and Marigold Shore, Rosamund Painswick's maid, respectively.
Series two was highly acclaimed. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has fresh rating of 100% based on 24 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With its excellent cast and resplendent period trappings, Downton Abbey continues to weave a bewitching, ingratiating spell." On Metacritic, the series 2 has a normalized score of 85 out of 100 based on 26 critics, indicating "Universal Acclaim".
The series generally received overwhelming reviews from critics. Linda Stasi of the New York Post wrote the second series "seamlessly moves between the horrors of war and the gentility of life in the show's titular 100-room manor." Writing for TV Guide Magazine, Matt Roush said, "For those of us who hungered for a year to witness these new chapters, the appetite is insatiable." The Wall Street Journal's television critic Dorothy Rabinowitz said, "The vibrant brew of upstairs-downstairs relationships is more savory now, the characters more complicated." Robert Bianco of USA Today also lauded the series saying, "There's nothing in Downton you won't recognize, and almost nothing you won't enjoy." Variety's chief television critic Brian Lowry praised the series cast and said the creator had "created such a vivid group of characters and assembled such an impeccable cast--effortlessly oscillating from comedy to drama--that the hours fly by, addictively pulling viewers from one into the next." Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter said, "The characters are so beautifully and thoroughly rendered that we, as viewers, are caught up in their lives." Robert Lioyd of the Los Angeles Times said, "It is big, beautiful, beautifully acted and romantic, its passions expressed with that particular British reserve that serves only to make them burn brighter."
Some media outlets and critics were more critical towards the show. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV critic Rob Owen wrote, "Writer/series creator Julian Fellowes weaves together an engrossing tapestry of stories, although some of them stretch credulity or peter out." Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times also gave the series moderate reviews by comparison to the first series and said, "Season 2 is in many ways as captivating and addictive as the first, but this time around, the series comes off as a shameless throwback to itself." In a moderate review, Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post said, "Your investment in the many stories spun out by creator Julian Fellowes may take longer to develop this year, because the costume drama's pace is off in the early going and it's far more contrived and inconsistent than it was in its first season." In a less enthusiastic review for The Washington Post, Hank Stuever quipped that the series, "lacks surprise and is stretched precariously thin, a house full of fascinating people with not nearly enough to do, all caught in a loop of weak storylines that circle round but never fully propel."