Overall: I liked Season 1 better than Season 2. Season 1 did a better job of maintaining the illusion that I was not watching a soap opera. It is true that Season 2 took the action up a notch - there were actual, literal explosions taking place on screen and some pretty horrific flu symptoms - but the plot took some ridiculous turns.
Favorite plot points: Thomas' new role at Downton, and then him re-insinuating himself into the situation when the house was short-handed. Branson's non-assassination of the general. O'Brien trying to be good but getting sucked into backstabbing plots.
Plot points I didn't care for: Lord Grantham and the maid. There was one scene last night where I said, out loud, to Jeremy, "If they kiss, I'm not sure I can keep watching this show"...right before they kissed. The episode made it up to me by the end, though, kind of. I want to like Branson and Sybil more than I actually do. How did the writers not give them something to DO? Besides sit around and mope about their love in Downton Abbey's garage, anyway.
Mary & Matthew: I love Mary more than ever. She's such a noble pragmatist this time around. But when, WHEN will this show deliver these two to us? They gave us everybody else but them. Hmph.
Predictions: I think Sir Richard is involved in the death of Vera Bates, and he's going to get found out, and then Mary can break off her engagement with him, and then she and Matthew can finally get married. At least I hope that's what happens in Season 3. If the show spins it out too much longer, she'll be 35 by the time they get together. And they WILL get together.
Links: Two different friends sent me two different links to two different articles about speech anachronisms in Downton Abbey (though the articles are written by/interview the same person - my old boss). Here is the short NPR version, and here's the more thorough reckoning. Before you break out your indignation, I'm pretty sure that Mr. Zimmer is not trying to sneer at the writers of the show. It's more of a "hey, check out these funny anachronisms of speech that crept into a period drama script. Aren't the linguistic origins and time periods of certain phrases and words fascinating?" thing. I think it's super interesting.
PS: That was the last episode, right?