First off, it’s been posted at YouTube right here.  Hurry before it’s pulled. [On edit — it has been pulled, so don’t bother clicking on it.  Sorry.]

I loved the Christmas Special.  LOVED it.  It had more of a series 1 feel about it.  It was less soapy than series 2 was.  The episode is slightly more than 90 minutes long, so there was more time to spend in the individual subplots.

The two biggest stories involved Bates and Matthew/Mary.  Bates gets convicted of Vera’s murder and Matthew and Mary finally get engaged.  It seems to be for real this time.

In Bates’s trial, Robert is a witness for the defense, and Mrs. Hughes and O’Brien are witnesses for the prosecution.  Unfortunately, since we all know the circumstantial case against Bates was very strong, their testimony hurt him.  So he got convicted and was sentenced to hang.  But the attorneys did their jobs and he got a reprieve. He’s no longer destined to die; he’s now got life imprisonment.  Personally, since Bates is such a popular character, I cannot see Lord Fellowes keeping him in jail for the entirety of series 3.  They have to figure out a way to get him out of there.

As for the other major story, the whole of l’affaire Pamuk is finally out in the open.  Cora tells Robert.  Robert tells Mary she doesn’t have to marry Carlisle just because of it.  Mary tells Matthew, and he tells her that she doesn’t have to marry Carlisle, that he doesn’t hate her and that there is nothing to forgive.  Carlisle tells everyone that he will put the whole story in the papers as soon as he gets back to London.  Matthew punches him and the two of them fight.  Carlisle tells Mary he really loved her.  Mary decides to go to America to stay with her maternal grandmother, and Anna offers to go with her.  Matthew proposes in the snow after the servants’ ball and she accepts. It’s very sweet and very romantic.  I had a smile on my face and tears in my eyes after it was all over.

We had several other subplots, too.  Daisy accepts her role as William’s widow and William’s father takes her under his wing as the daughter he never had.  It’s also very sweet.  Daisy is still a naive girl, but she starts to grow up and stand up for herself in this episode.  Yes, she takes the wrong advice at first, but by the end she and Mrs. Patmore come to an understanding — Daisy is ready to take on a bigger role in the kitchen and to really learn to be more of a sous-chef instead of just the scullery maid.

The bad advice Daisy got was from Shaw, Lady Rosamond’s new lady’s maid.  She is a nasty piece of work from the get-go. She looks down upon all of the DA servants, including those who outrank her, namely Mrs. Hughes and Carson.  And, speaking of Lady Rosamond, her latest suitor, Lord Hepworth (Nigel Havers), is also around a lot.  Violet tries to warn her daughter not to marry a fortune hunter like Hepworth, but Lady Rosamond is old enough to do what she wants and she wants Hepworth.  But Anna keeps noticing Shaw and Hepworth together, and then, during the servants’ ball, she sees the two of them holding hands, sneaking up the stairs.  Next thing we see is Anna leading Rosamond and Mary up to Hepworth’s bedroom.  They open the door and there are Hepworth and Shaw, in full pre-shag mode.  Of course, Hepworth tries to tell Rosamond that it’s not what she thinks it is, but Shaw is not quite that stupid.  The two of them are out on their ears the next morning.

Sybil and Branson are absent, but we learn a reason why; Sybil is pregnant.  Cora desperately wants to see Sybil and, of course, her first grandchild, and she stands up to Robert on the subject.

The servants’ ball was lovely.  It was such a hoot to see Carson dancing with Cora, Mrs. Hughes with Robert and Matthew with O’Brien.  I loved it.  The family’s Christmas gift to Carson was a book about the royal families of Europe. How appropriate!  Carson looked so proud and pleased to see Lady Mary dancing with Matthew. Everyone knows they adore each other.  I wonder if series 3 will open with a wedding or with Matthew and Mary telling everyone the big news.

All in all, this is the best episode of DA in a long time.  See if it you can. My copy of the DVD is on its way from the UK as I type; I can hardly wait. 🙂  What did the rest of you think?