AS ever, the show’s producers are holding onto the key storylines which lie ahead.
But, having seen episode one, we can let our readers into a few of the details of what’s ahead.
“Times are changing”, butler Carson notes, but things are operating as normal, as far as Barrow’s scheming and the Dowager Countess’ quips are concerned. In one brilliant little scene, the former is seen eavesdropping on the daughters of the Abbey.
Highclere Castle plays as important a role as ever; it’s captured in its full glory in the first shot and takes centre stage for the first episode’s dramatic conclusion, in which a fire breaks out.
Elsewhere, Lady Edith is paying regular visits to her illegitimate daughter Marigold, the two legitimate grandchildren are charming their relations – and little Sybil calls her grandfather ‘dog’!
Ivy has gone and her old love rival Daisy the kitchen maid (Sophie McShera, below) has an eye on self-improvement, as does poor old Moseley, who tries to better his physical appearance but causes a stir.
Romantically, Lady Mary’s love life is still a matter of key concern, footman Jimmy is the focus for someone’s ardour and the Dowager Countess feels the need to do some matchmaking of her own.
And the Earl and Countess are celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary with a party which culminates in some tense political chat about the building of a war memorial in the village.
Fans will also rejoice in the return of Spratt the butler, and in the appearance of Anna Chancellor as a rather determined Lady Anstruther.
They'll have to wait until episode two to see Richard E Grant in action as Simon Bricker. He'll be involved for four epsiodes in a row.