TV

'Downton Abbey' review: Where we left off in season three

Jan. 3, 2014 at 7:35 AM ET

Video: The hit British show will return for its fourth season Sunday, and while the splendor of Downton Abbey hasn’t changed a bit, the lives of those within are being turned upside down.

When "Downton Abbey" returns Jan. 5, it's the Roaring '20s — everywhere but Downton. 

The house is hushed and melancholy, its residents consumed by sorrow and grief. 

Why? 

Well, if you don't know, stop reading now and binge-watch season three! 

But if you need a refresher course, here are the pivotal moments of the tragic third season. 

Matthew and Mary in Downton Abbey
Carnival Films

Matthew Crawley married Mary, became a father, and died
There wasn't enough Kleenex in the world to dry our tears after Matthew's fatal car accident in the last moments of the third-season finale. But like Mary's first lover, Mr. Pamuk, at least Matthew left this earth with a smile on his face (too soon?): He was driving home after meeting his newborn son, George, and celebrating his birth with the love of his life. 

Sybil and Tom Branson in Downton Abbey
Carnival Films

Sybil Branson died in childbirth
When Matthew was killed, his brother-in-law Tom Branson was already a widower with a young baby daughter. Her death nearly ruined Robert and Cora's marriage, as she (rightly) blamed him for ignoring the family doctor's urging that Sybil be hospitalized for eclampsia during her labor. Instead, the earl sided with Harley Street aristocrat Sir Philip and kept her home, where she died hours after giving birth to daughter Sybil. Cora only forgave her snooty husband after Violet persuaded Dr. Clarkson to take the fall by saying Sybil probably would have died even without the Caesarian he recommended. 

Bates was freed
But only after Anna and her husband spent too much money — and screen time — on postage. The downstairs' lovers storyline dragged on so long some of us wished Bates had been executed. (Spoiler alert: Although Anna found enough evidence to prove her husband didn't kill his first wife, the events in season four call his innocence into question.) 

Thomas Barrow came out of the closet 
O'Brien's engineered outing of the footman turned valet was her nastiest work since the Soap Sabotage (resulting in Cora's miscarriage). The sourpuss lady's maid convinced him that the new footman, Jimmy, fancied him, leading to an unfortunate advance and the threat of criminal prosecution. Thank goodness Thomas happens to excel at cricket!  

Lady Edith Downton Abbey season 3
Carnival Films

Lady Edith was jilted at the altar
Edith, Edith, Edith. She's virtually the ugly stepsister of the Crawley clan, and season three didn't treat her any more kindly than the past. She was humiliated once again when her bridegroom, Sir Anthony Strallan, stranded her at the altar (at the urging of her father, who really seems intent on destroying his family one way or another). In the end, Lady Edith had the last word, landing a writing job and possibly the heart of her editor, Michael Gregson. 

Before Matthew bought the farm, he saved it — literally
Because of Robert's buffoonish business dealings, the family was on the verge of losing Downton. But Matthew saved the day, first through Lavinia's inheritance and then by taking over its management. (Lord Grantham really should stick to cricket — he bungles most everything else.) 

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