Downton Abbey Review: Series Two Comes To A Dramatic End (SPOILERS)

So Downton Abbey's second series drew to an end last night, and what a cracker of a final episode it was.

From the start, there was a lovely sense of all the stories we care about coming to a head, against the bustly background of wedding preparations.

We had the Earl of Grantham's continuing nonsense with his maid, an infatuation that seemingly went from "I hope your son gets into school" to "I want you with every fibre of my being" in two whole episodes. The good news about upstairs-downstairs unions such as these is that when everyone re-remembers their place, the maid can have her notice given, bags packed and tidied out of the storyline with all the trouble of a pensive look and a train fare. Thank goodness.

Not so with Lady Sybil's own trans-status romance, which moved from overnight elopement to sluggish sulk, until Lord Grantham finally gave his blessing. I wonder if this will prove to be one of those relationships that depends on communal defiance, whether it will actually flourish once everyone gives in and there's no longer any reason to keep saying to each other, "I don't care what anyone says."

Meanwhile, ladies' maid Anna took a leaf out of her mistress's book and put her foot down, demanding she be married to Mr Bates - a world away from the mousey figure she struck in Series One. Poor Mr Bates - no sooner had he put a ring on the finger than he had a cuff on the wrist, accused of murdering the first wife and led away - surely Julian Fellowes won't let anything happen to him?

And the Dowager looked in horror at the new gramophone, yet another ominous symbol of change in the house.

Meanwhile, the fevers began to flow as one inhabitant after another succumbed to Spanish flu, making for mopped brows and bedside revelations. O'Brien continued her tireless penance to her Lady, still fretting over her ill-doing with a bar of soap from Series One. I'd just like to say it - I adore O'Brien. Could we put in a request for a sniff of romance for her, and the accompanying hair-unpinned scene, in Series Three?

And troubled Matthew finally wound up the gramophone. In a wonderfully filmed piece, Mary joined him in the hall for a dance, kiss and confession of love. Meanwhile, poor Lavinia got weaker and weaker, finally setting Matthew free to marry the right woman - as she put it with her last breath, "we have been lucky."

This was where Sir Julian Fellowes really came into his own. By giving Lavinia this final moment where she talked of self-worth, and depicting Matthew's agonies over her loss - realising it would be "all wrong" to be with Mary now - the writer gave all these characters a depth of reflection, a nobility, that is at the heart of this excellent drama, and ultimately avoided the soapy pitfalls we had seen hints of previously.

It also means, of course, we have plenty of reasons to keep watching into the third, and probably final series, next year, to be set in the 1920s. Surely, Mary and Matthew will finally make the fine couple poor Lavinia saw they were destined to be? Just what is Thomas up to, back in the house and giving it 'humble'? And what of poor Bates? I'll be making a date in my diary for sure, for all these things - plus the hope of seeing the Dowager Duchess tiptoeing up to the gramophone herself and dancing a jaunty Charleston when no-one's watching.

SLIDESHOW: Downton Abbey's leading ladies...

Downton Abbey series 2