In the year before WWII, 165 Eaton Place reopens its doors and welcomes viewers back into the lives of its inhabitants, upstairs and down. Lady Agnes and Sir Hallam’s family is now complete with the addition of two small children, but Sir Hallam is drawn into dangerous waters by his preoccupation with the threat of Nazi Germany and the return of troubled Lady Persie. Lady Agnes catches the eye of charismatic American multi-millionaire Casper Landry, and Sir Hallam’s aunt, Dr. Blanche Mottershead, has made herself comfortable in the house after Lady Maud’s death. Meanwhile, life downstairs adjusts to the absence of Rose and the addition of the spirited new nursery maid, Beryl. With upstairs and downstairs harboring life-changing secrets, and the menace of war creeping ever closer, the smooth running of Eaton Place threatens to come to a halt.
Nearly as popular as the original series, the new version returns starting October 7th on Masterpiece Classic. The returning cast includes Keely Hawes as Lady Agnes Holland, Ed Stoppard as her diplomat husband Sir Hallam, and Claire Foy as Agnes’ obsessively defiant sister Persie, whose latest love affair finds her in bed with fascist politics and Nazis. Repeating their roles downstairs are Anne Reid as the fractious gourmet cook Mrs. Thackeray, Adrian Scarborough as the resourceful butler Mr. Pritchard, Neil Jackson as the hunky chauffeur Harry Spargo, and Art Malik as Amanjit Singh, the private secretary to Hallam’s recently deceased mother.
It is now 1938, and 165 Eaton Place has become a well established and thriving household in the heart of London; Lady Agnes and Sir Hallam’s family is complete with the addition of two small children, yet below the surface of a well-run household, both upstairs and downstairs are harboring life-changing secrets. London faces tumultuous times with the threat of the World War II looming and later impacting everyday life, and while romance, heartbreak and revelations engulf the household, its inhabitants discover that the real threat to 165 Eaton Place is much closer to home.
Episode 1: A Far Away Country about Which We Know Nothing
A new baby has arrived at 165 Eaton Place in the hands of Lady Agnes Holland, who is weakened from giving birth. Meanwhile, Sir Hallam Holland’s aunt, Dr. Blanche Mottershead, is stirring up tension in the house. Mr. Pritchard is doggedly trying to maintain peace and order in the absence of Miss Rose Buck, while also readying for an unnerving prospect – war.
Gas masks are issued and long-buried secrets about the staff are revealed against an increasingly uneasy political backdrop. While the house staff struggles with the juxtaposition of patriotism and conscience, Sir Hallam stands firm in his diplomatic convictions, helping to negotiate what may be the final chance to avert war. But as the possibility of maintaining peace becomes more apparent, will England be able to sleep quietly for long?
Episode 2: The Love that Pays the Price
The full, formal settings come out as an array of luminaries arrive for a grand evening at 165 Eaton Place. Amidst the jocular conversation, Sir Hallam Holland receives an unexpected and serious offer – one that could significantly alter life for everyone at Eaton Place.
Mrs. Thackeray, the cook, has reconnected with family, opening up the prospect for a different life. And the tug of familial bonds is felt upstairs as well when Sir Hallam and Lady Agnes receive an alarming 2 AM call from Lady Persie, who in the middle of the fiery chaos of Germany, is frantic to come home.
With the pact between England and Germany broken, Sir Hallam discerns that England is on the edge of the abyss. And as darkness encroaches, those upstairs and down unite to intervene, offering hope in fragile times.
Episode 3: A Perfect Specimen of Womanhood
Lady Agnes Holland has cheerfully taken up a class at the Women’s League of Health and Beauty, which holds the dual ideals of exercise and equality. She has eagerly enlisted several of the female staff to participate as well.
But back on the home front, a scandal is brewing involving a torrid new novel and its potential ties to a household resident, drawing the attention of the press and the ire of the house staff.
Lady Agnes and her modern ideals are tested when the welfare of the women working at the house is called into question. A visit to a trusted advisor offers reassurance and comfort.
Meanwhile, a crisis is playing out at 165 Eaton Place, causing Lady Persie and Sir Hallam to clash and share an explosive secret. In the battle of these two strong wills, who will win and what is right?
Episode 4: All the Things You Are
England needs good fighters, and when it comes to the Belgravia Servants’ Boxing Championship, 165 Eaton Place will be well represented by chauffeur Harry Spargo and young servant Johnny Proude. Yet Spargo seems intent only on winning the affection of maid Beryl Ballard, while Proude is looking for distraction from the specter of war.
Hallam is utterly absorbed with the shifting political landscape — but that’s not all. Lady Agnes, feeling rebuffed by Hallam, finds an engaging enterprise of her own. As the deception and distance grows between the couple, the real sparring isn’t confined solely to the ring.
Episode 5: The Last Waltz
Lady Agnes Holland decides to take the children away to keep them safe, but the real motive may be her exasperation with her marriage. Sir Hallam, bereft by her absence, sees the consequences of not acting sooner to improve things, while at the same time, still continuing to make them worse.
Downstairs, excitement brims over at the prospect of Lady Malcom’s Ball, and a new romance blossoms as a result. Another relationship is solidified, and a dream pursued, but in the face of war, ambitions are easily thwarted.
The war preparations have the feeling of being real this time, but the prospect of violence in the world is overshadowed by the betrayal and conniving at 165 Eaton Place.
Episode 6: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
War is inevitable, and so it seems too is the realization that the secrets of 165 Eaton Place are about to come to light. Lady Agnes returns to London, soon aware that she wasn’t didn’t know half of what happened in her household – upstairs or down.
Downstairs, a member of the staff mysteriously disappears while others are called up for service in the war. No one knows what the days and months ahead will bring, but change is inevitable. And, once again, a beloved voice from the past offers direction for the dire days.
As the final march towards war seems inevitable, Sir Hallam desperately tries to sort out his own situation, and restore order to the household. But it becomes painfully clear that the clock can’t be turned back, and that the time has arrived for the household’s greatest test.
Season 2 airs Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28 and Nov. 4 & 11, 2012 on PBS.