After deciding to stall her engagement to Matthew despite her feelings last season, Mary finds herself grappling with Matthew’s return, his pending marriage, and a new love interest of her own in Sir Richard Carlisle (Iain Glen).
“Mary is more complicated in the second [season], because she’s more vulnerable,” said creator Julian Fellowes. “At the beginning of the first [season], she was young and beautiful, and the daughter of an Earl, and on the whole, had the world on a string. But that isn’t so after Pamuk, after losing Matthew, after the war generally. I suppose she’s a deeper person, really.”
Perhaps that new depth to Mary can be attributed to the fact that she’s forced to face the real world when Downton becomes a convalescent home during the war. “Mary’s slightly more reluctant to get right in there,” said Dockery, who plays Mary. “Sybil and Edith are much more willing. But she doesn’t say at any point that she’s unhappy with the changes. She actually just goes along with it. But her priorities still lie in her future, and who she will marry. And at the beginning of the first episode of [Season 2], it’s very, very clear that Mary is still deeply in love with Matthew and is full of regret for what happened before he left for war, and made a very bad decision in stalling their engagement. She learns very quickly that he has moved on.”
But, Dockery adds, “Mary moves on very quickly, and she sets up this visit at Downton with Richard Carlisle, this newspaper tycoon that she’d obviously met in London through Rosamund, her aunt. He’s a very handsome, successful man, and has a very high status within society. However, he doesn’t come from inheritance: he’s new money, which alarms the family. Violet doesn’t warm to him very quickly, and neither does Lord Grantham or Cora. But obviously, they were all still hopeful that Matthew and Mary would end up together.”