I am a complete romantic at heart.

Taking that into account, it probably won’t surprise any Downton Abbey viewers that I was right behind Matthew and Mary at the end of the last series, willing them to forget Lavinia and her simpering loyalty, and give in to their obvious passion for each other. I was indecently pleased when Lavinia was out of the picture, only to be knocked back again by Matthew’s guilt trip about her death. Therefore, the opening episode of series 3 – aired in the UK last night – made me smile as the couple were caught up in the planning of their wedding.

This could quickly have become uninteresting, but things are never quite that simple at Downton. Lady Sybil has now adopted the name Mrs Branson after going against her father’s wishes and marrying the outspoken Irish republican and former chauffeur, Tom Branson in series 2. Unsurprisingly, there was conflict over her choice of husband and his inclusion in the family, as he refused to compromise his beliefs to fit in. Cue awkward family dinners, drunken outbursts, and catty remarks!

To add to the tension, we were introduced to Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine), mother of Cora, who quickly engaged with Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith) in an amusing battle of words. This light-hearted tone adds a little fun to the otherwise serious drama, and hopefully this dialogue is set to continue.

On the subject of serious plotlines, Lord Grantham is also having trouble, this time financially. After receiving a mysterious phone call, it is revealed that a bad investment has lost him nearly the entirety of the family fortune. The family face losing everything, including Downton itself. Matthew Crawley could be the answer here, as he’s set to inherit a large sum of money from Lavinia’s father, but somehow I don’t see things working out quite as easily as that. Quite frankly, I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t include a few twists and turns before this is all resolved!

Things are not plain sailing downstairs either. Anna and Bates also continue their struggles, with him imprisoned for murder, and her leaving no stone unturned in her effort to clear his name. Her unwavering belief in his innocence was one of the emotional highlights of the episode for me, and I hope it continues as the series progresses.

O’ Brien is being her usual interfering self, going behind butler Carson’s back to hire her nephew as a new footman. He’s apparently too tall, and pretty inadequate, but there is potential in all this for another good storyline, so we’ll see where they go with it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode; although it wasn’t quite as exciting as previous episodes have been, it left a lot of unanswered questions and potential for interesting plotlines. Once again, Julian Fellowes and Brian Percival manage to pack so much into a 60-minute episode, and the trailer definitely leaves me excited for more.

The next episode of Downton Abbey shows at 9pm on ITV1 next Sunday. For US viewers you’ll have to wait until January 2013. I suggest you rewatch series 1 and 2 on DVD and drown your sorrows in chocolate!

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