I think this episode was a lot like previous years, in that much of the hour was used to set us up for the Christmas special. We already know that Cora's brother and mother will be visiting, and Robert confirmed that when he returned. (From what he said, I guess the story will make another time jump, this time about 10 months to Summer 1923.) If this is true, that means that Edith's baby drama will already be over and done with -- unless we are surprised with a third child in the nursery.
We may also actually see what goes on during a debutante's "coming out" since Rose will be going through it -- when it happened for Sybil in season 1 it all happened off-camera.
But I'm not sure how a near-year jump will be good for the Bates story -- either Bates won't be implicated and they will have put it behind them, or else he would already be in prison for murder. But they will probably do something else, like have a relative of Green's come around to start sniffing for clues. (Which would be silly but it's right up Julian Fellowes' alley)
And will Tom and the schoolteacher be in limbo until the next episode, or will their relationship have already grown, with her being included in family gatherings and such? (It's inevitable, or else why would they have brought her on?) And will he be running for office, or just content to manage the estate?
I guess Alfred is gone for good...makes sense, since O'Brien was his aunt and she's gone, and they've ground this non-existent love rectangle into fine dust. I guess Isabel now has a suitor -- this mysterious "Mary's godfather" we've never met before. I'm glad they've given her something to do other than trade insults with the Dowager. That's been done to pieces, especially since the two have gone through enough experiences together over 10 years that they should annoy each other a little less by now.
I'm not sure I have a favorite in the 3-way race for Mary's hand. I notice they practically ignored Evelyn during the whole episode, so I wonder if he'll be the last one standing after the other two knock each other out.
I don't mind that the story isn't resolving itself quickly -- Mary is an interesting enough character without a beau or husband, so I'm in no hurry to pair her off again just for the sake of doing it. Matthew was a big act to follow.
Can't wait till Christmas!