The Best Episodes of Downton Abbey
Last Updated: Jan 15, 2019
Downton Abbey depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era—with great events in history having an effect on their lives and on the British social hierarchy.
#1 - Episode 7
Season 1 - Episode 7
July 1914. In London former suitor Evelyn Napier assures Lady Mary that it was Edith, not he,who spread gossip about her and Kemal. Mary counters by wrecking her sister's marriage plans with Sir Anthony. Robert is reluctant to dismiss John even though O'Brien and Thomas have obtained a letter claiming that he stole from a previous employer. Anna accompanies Mrs. Patmore to London for eye tests,resulting in corrective surgery and whilst there,discovers that John took the blame for the theft for his ex-wife Vera, a fact which Robert is pleased to hear. Thomas, fed up at his failure to get John sacked,and sensing war on the way,joins the Army Medical Corps whilst Sybil finally gets Gwen her secretarial post. Cora is pregnant, a fact which puts the proposed marriage between Mary and Matthew in doubt, should the baby be a son and heir. However,thanks to O'Brien leaving a bar of soap on the floor, Cora slips and miscarries. All the staff except O'Brien cheer William on as he beats Thomas up for his unfeeling remarks on the loss. Matthew nonetheless feels that the engagement was only an act of pragmatism likely to be altered if an heir had been born and decides to leave Downton Abbey. But everybody's news is overshadowed as they hear that,as expected,Britain is at war with Germany.
#2 - Episode 8
Season 2 - Episode 8
As preparations are underway for Matthew and Lavinia's wedding, Lady Sybil's attempt to inform her parents of her wish to marry Branson is unsurprisingly met with shock and horror. Robert is violently opposed to the idea but his threats of social disgrace and disinheritance do not dissuade Sybil leading him to try buying off Branson but Branson's intentions are honourable and he refuses. Lady Grantham, Carson and Lavinia are taken ill by the Spanish flu. Thomas' black market venture was a spectacular failure, leaving him penniless and without a job but Carson's illness gives him a chance to become useful in the house. While Lavinia is resting upstairs, Matthew finds himself alone with Mary and tells her what Violet said to him: that he should marry her. Both of them acknowledge he could not as it would be terribly cruel to Lavinia. However, they then kiss just as Lavinia is coming down the stairs. When her illness delays the wedding, Lavinia tells Matthew that she heard and saw everything. She feels they should end their engagement but Matthew refuses. Fearing the outcome of Lavinia’s illness with regard to Matthew and Mary, Richard Carlisle comes to Downton. Daisy is distressed by William’s father’s request to visit him. Ethel is surprised to learn that Major Bryant’s parents want to see her but his father wants to take her child away permanently. Eventually she determines not to let him go as a mother's love is more important than a wealthy upbringing. Robert finds himself unable to control his desire for Jane, who willingly responds. However, their night-time encounter is interrupted and remains unconsummated; and Jane decides to leave. With the possibility of more trouble regarding Vera's death, Anna insists that she and Bates should marry that she may be able to support him through his difficulties as his wife. They marry in secret, with Lady Mary's permission and she arranges for them to spend their wedding night in a guest room. Cora becomes seriously ill and Clarkson fears the worst. O’Brien tirelessly cares for her and tries to ask for her forgiveness. However it is Lavinia who succumbs to the flu and dies saying that it is best for Matthew. Racked with guilt, Matthew tells Mary that any relationship between them is now impossible. Somewhat chastened by the recent events, Lord Grantham reluctantly gives his blessing to Sybil and Branson. The episode ends with Bates’ arrest for the murder of his wife.
#4 - Episode 1
Season 2 - Episode 1
Set in November 1916, the episode begins with the arrival of Ethel, a new housemaid, and the first appearance of John Bates' wife. With Matthew and Thomas fighting in France, those left behind at Downton organise a benefit concert to help fund the local hospital. Lady Mary receives shocking news. Branson reveals his feelings to Sybil who wants to train as a nurse
#5 - Episode 5
Season 1 - Episode 5
August 1913. O'Brien and Thomas continue to spread their malice,ensuring that Lady Edith learns from Daisy where Kemal died and attempting to frame John Bates for the theft of a snuff-box though Anna,clearly fond of John,ensures the plan backfires on them. Thomas's gossip also discredits Lady Mary's eligibility as a bride and the family must entertain the middle-aged Sir Anthony Strallen as a prospective husband. Mary is bored by him and it brings her closer to Matthew but Edith seems genuinely interested in him. Mrs. Patmore,the cook,must accept that her eye-sight is failing and Lady Sybil continues to encourage Gwen in her secretarial applications whilst Isobel actually teaches Lady Violet some altruism at the annual produce show.
#6 - Episode 8
Season 3 - Episode 8
There's excitement in the house and village as the annual cricket match approaches, and the event brings out Robert's competitive side. Violet's great-niece Rose shows up but a trip to London reveals there is more to her than meets the eye. Matthew and Mary look like they are keeping secrets from each other. Thomas finds out that his future lies in Carson's hands.
#8 - Episode 5
Season 2 - Episode 5
Set in mid 1918. 16 October 2011 Set in mid 1918. Robert receives some shocking news from the front. William has sustained serious damage to his lungs and is unable to recover, prompting him to ask Daisy to marry him before he dies. Meanwhile, Matthew has suffered damage to his spinal cord, causing him to lose mobility and feeling in his legs. Worse still, he subsequently learns that his injuries have made him impotent. Lavinia insists that this changes nothing and that she is not concerned about having a sexual relationship and children but only wants to care for him. However Matthew tells her to leave and forget him, while Mary attempts to nurse him back to health. Despite not truly loving William, Daisy is pushed into marrying him by Mrs Patmore, who wants William to die happy, and by William's wishes that Daisy is left with a widow's pension so that she can be looked after. They marry while William is bed-ridden, surrounded by the other staff, Edith and the Dowager Countess. William dies in his sleep, not long after, with Daisy by his side. Bates is taken aback when Vera threatens to expose old secrets about Mary and Pamuk's death. When Mary discovers this, she confesses everything to Richard Carlisle and asks him to help. While he accepts, he does so expecting her to marry him, as she is now in his debt, even going as far to announce their engagement in the newspaper without informing her, leaving Mary in a difficult position. Carlisle tricks Vera into signing a contract, preventing her from selling the story to anyone else, but on finding out she warns Bates that she will still bring him down. A new maid, Jane is hired
#9 - Episode 6
Season 1 - Episode 6
May 1914. Encouraged by politically aware chauffeur Tom Branson, the socially conscious Lady Sybil espouses politics as a means of aiding equality for women and the lower classes, to her father's anger. At a political meeting she is injured in a scuffle and rescued by Matthew. A grateful Lady Mary accepts Matthew's proposal of marriage but tells her mother she feels she should come clean about Kemal to him. Rumours about this indiscretion are now rife and Cora tells her mother-in-law how she helped Mary move the body. Edith continues to see more and more of Sir Anthony whilst O'Brien and Thomas continue to persecute John. They tell Carson they saw him steal wine and get Daisy to support them. However Daisy does the decent thing and admits she was put up to it. Bizarrely, John, though he knows Thomas to be the wine thief, offers no explanation, confessing to being a former alcoholic and offering his resignation.
#10 - Episode 8
Season 5 - Episode 8
Preparations are under way for Rose's wedding, but family tensions on both sides threaten to derail proceedings. Edith's arrangement with Marigold is happily working out, but how long can she and Cora conceal the truth from Robert? Denker reveals an unexpected side to her personality, which causes trouble for more than one of the servants. With the war memorial due to be unveiled, Mrs Patmore is still upset, but Robert has something up his sleeve. Branson comes to a heart-wrenching decision, and the storm clouds that have been gathering over Anna and Bates finally burst.
#11 - Episode 8
Season 6 - Episode 8
Bertie's circumstances change suddenly, leaving Edith uncertain whether to risk telling him the truth or keep her past a secret at all costs. Mary wonders if she can ever make peace with her sister as hostilities escalate, Spratt shows some hidden talents and Molesley's first day as a teacher does not go according to plan. Mrs Patmore's bed and breakfast attracts unwanted attention, leaving her in need of the Crawleys' help.
#12 - Episode 4
Season 2 - Episode 4
Set in early 1918. Ethel's flirting with Major Bryant lands her in trouble as preparations get under way for a concert at Downton. Tensions flare between Isobel and Cora, Edith receives worrying news about Matthew and William, while Branson declares his feelings for Sybil. Robert receives a letter from Carlisle, which causes him concern forcing an uncomfortable conversation with Mary. Mrs Bird's soup kitchen receives a helping hand from Daisy and Mrs Patmore. In the servants’ quarters Mrs Hughes makes a shocking discovery that ends in tears for one member of staff.
#13 - Episode 7
Season 2 - Episode 7
Set in 1919. As the residents try to return to normal life following the armistice, Matthew begins to suspect that he can feel his legs. Then one day, seeing Lavinia drop a heavy tray, he suddenly gets up from his chair. Major Clarkson admits that he had been informed of this possibility by another physician but was sceptical about it himself and didn't want to raise their hopes. As a result of his recovery Matthew announces that he and Lavinia intend to be married soon. This Violet to inform him that Mary is still in love with him but Matthew feels obliged to marry Lavinia as she was prepared to sacrifice her life for him. Meanwhile, Richard Carlisle distresses Anna by asking her to spy on Mary and his behaviour leads Carson to reject his offer of employment. Bates reels from the news about Vera after it appears that she committed suicide in order to frame him. Thomas embarks on a new money-making scheme in the post-war black market. Robert is attracted to the new maid Jane and illicitly kisses her. Contemplating life after the war, Sybil makes the drastic decision to elope with Branson. However, Mary discovers her plan and, along with Edith and Anna, seeks them out and persuades Sybil to return and plead her cause openly to their parents.
#14 - Episode 6
Season 2 - Episode 6
Set in November 1918. A Canadian officer is brought to Downton for recuperation and disrupts everything. Ethel hears distressing news, Bates makes another attempt to settle matters with Vera, while Carson receives a tempting offer. Matthew gets used to life in a wheelchair with Mary as his round-the-clock carer. The war ends with Armistice not long after.
#16 - Episode 2
Season 1 - Episode 2
September 1912. Designated heir Matthew Crawley and his mother Isobel arrive and move into a house in the grounds of Downton Abbey but Matthew is uncomfortable with having servants and is not keen on an arranged marriage - something he has in common with Lady Mary. Robert's mother Violet looks down on them as they are not from her class - Matthew is a working solicitor and Isobel,a trained nurse and doctor's widow,who nonetheless impresses when she helps at the local hospital and saves the life of one of Robert's tenants. Cora upbraids the two nastiest servants,O'Brien and Thomas,for sneering at the Crawleys but impresses upon Mary the financial need for the marriage. Carson is blackmailed by Grigg, a man with whom he once had a music-hall act but Robert takes his part and sees Grigg off. Whilst Carson feels foolish for having a less than aristocratic past he is supported by Bates and the two men become friends
#17 - Episode 2
Season 2 - Episode 2
Set in April 1917 and with many of the male staff serving in the war, Carson finds himself under pressure to make sure that duties are carried out to his exacting standard. He ends up finding himself forced to accept female staff serving in the dining room. Robert needs to hire a new valet and ends up employing Lang, who has just returned from the war. William is happy after he receives an important letter. Mrs Patmore finds out some devastating news about her soldier nephew. Thomas returns from the war and begins work alongside Lady Sybil in the local hospital. After a patient is brought in suffering with gas blindness Thomas finds himself becoming attached to the young Lieutenant. Molesley takes an interest in Anna. Matthew learns of his temporary transfer back to England for a recruitment drive in the north whilst fighting in the trenches. Carson advises Mary that if she still loves Matthew she needs to tell him before it is too late.  Meanwhile Lavinia is reunited with an unwelcome face from her past.
#18 - Episode 8
Season 4 - Episode 8
Rosamund comes up with a plan to help Edith deal with her problem, but Violet may be about to see right through it. Isobel is the object of someone's attention, while Mary asks Gillingham for a favour. Rose is frustrated when things do not go her way and Alfred realises too late that he may have made a mistake. Just as Bates and Anna seem to be getting over the worst, some unexpected news shakes her up.
#19 - Episode 7
Season 4 - Episode 7
Cora's playboy brother has got himself into a spot of bother and Robert has to make a trip to America to bail him out. Blake and Mary are forced to put aside their differences to deal with a new farming venture on the estate. When Violet is taken ill, help comes from an unlikely quarter. In spite of Mrs Hughes, Mrs Patmore and Carson's attempts to keep the peace, romantic tensions below stairs cause problems.
#20 - Episode 4
Season 1 - Episode 4
May 1913. A fair comes to the village and here Mrs. Hughes meets up with an old flame,Joe,who once asked her to marry him and does so again but once more she refuses. Despite being gay Thomas escorts Daisy to the fair purely out of spite as he knows William is fond of her. The gesture is not lost on either John Bates or Mrs. Hughes. Gwen is not called for interview for the secretarial post but Sybil agrees to support future applications. A new chauffeur, Tom Branson, arrives. He is well-read and politically aware. Having got one over on Isobel regarding a medical diagnosis,Violet attempts to talk Robert out of a need for an arranged marriage but fails. Mary,seeing herself as no more than a commodity,unburdens herself to Matthew and they get a little closer.
#21 - Episode 1
Season 4 - Episode 1
Mary is finding it hard to come to terms with Matthew's death. Robert and Violet fall out over how to handle the situation. Jimmy takes an interest in Ivy, while Carson receives an unwelcome reminder from his past.
#22 - Episode 3
Season 2 - Episode 3
Set circa July 1917. The village hospital is not large enough to accommodate the large influx of wounded soldiers coming back from the front so Downton is turned into a convalescent home for many of them. O'Brien is shocked that Isobel Crawley seems to be giving most of the orders while Cora is relegated to the background and suggests that Thomas might be able to aid her from his position at the hospital. Violet strongly believes that Mary and Matthew are still very much in love and so, with the help of Rosamund, tries her best to end Matthew's engagement to Lavinia. She is also still convinced that there is much more to Lavinia's relationship with Sir Richard than meets the eye. Meanwhile, Anna runs into Mr. Bates in the village and they feel they may have a future together but, back at Downton, things are more highly charged as William asks a question of Daisy just before heading off to war and Mrs. Patmore reacts very badly to a chance remark. And what exactly is Branson up to? Whatever it is, it looks like it may cause trouble for Lord Grantham.
#23 - Episode 3
Season 1 - Episode 3
March 1913. Gwen,one of the maids,has bought a typewriter and has applied for a secretarial post. Most of the staff are dismissive of her aspirations but the family - except Violet of course - are supportive and youngest daughter Sybil offers to supply a reference. Evelyn Napier,considered an eligible catch for Mary, arrives for the hunt,bringing his handsome friend Kemal Pamuk,a Turkish diplomat,who throws himself at her. He goes to her room at night for sex,during which he dies of a heart attack. Mary,Cora and head housemaid Anna return the body to his room and agree to say nothing but are seen by Daisy the kitchen maid. The gruesome twosome of O'Brien and Thomas are also suspicious. Matthew spends a delightful day with Edith,the youngest daughter,whilst Mrs. Hughes literally helps Bates out of a painful situation and they become friendly.
#24 - Episode 1
Season 1 - Episode 1
April 1912:- The heir to the title of Earl of Grantham,long time inhabitants of Downton Abbey,perishes on the 'Titanic'. Robert,the benevolent current earl,owes his wealth to his American wife Cora but they have only three daughters,who cannot inherit by law,so another heir must be found by marrying off Mary,the eldest girl. The Duke of Crowborough is a possibility but he is a closet gay who only has eyes for Thomas,the handsome but obnoxious footman,and soon departs. Robert's mother,the dowager,and Cora decide that the next best candidate is Matthew Crawley,a distant cousin,but Cora knows that the spirited Mary will not be happy with their choice. Downstairs there is also unrest as Thomas is passed over for promotion to valet in favour of Robert's batman from the Boer War,John Bates,who now limps due to a war wound. Along with Cora's maid Miss O'Brien, Thomas schemes to discredit Bates in the eyes of butler Carson and forces his resignation but Robert intervenes and keeps him on.Thomas vents his anger on second footman William but he has an ally in the sensible housekeeper Mrs. Hughes.
#25 - Episode 5
Season 4 - Episode 5
Change is in the air as an exciting opportunity for Alfred creates tension between Ivy and Daisy. Isobel appeals to Violet's charitable nature, but it does not come without a fight, and Branson considers a new future for himself and baby Sybbie.