In Series One, when Sybil insists on helping Gwen find a job as a secretary, Gwen gives a rather touching speech about how members of the working-class do not easily achieve their dreams as the Crawleys seem to:
Gwen: Forgive me, mílady, but you donít get it. Youíre brought up to think itís all within your grasp, that if you want something enough it will come to you; but weíre not like that. We donít think our dreams are bound to come true, because they almost never do.
The whole of episode 205: William dies and marries Daisy on his deathbed, Matthew's spine is damaged and he cannot walk or be "properly married" to any woman, we see Ethel struggling to cope with her illegitimate child, Mary becomes engaged to Richard Carlisle despite still loving Matthew and Bates and Anna still can't get rid of Vera.
The last two lines of series 2. Ouch.Can't poor Mr Bates ever catch a break?
Bates, soft but fervent: I love you.
Anna, halfway to tears: And I love you. For richer, for poorer, for better, for worse.
[they kiss passionately before they are pulled apart]
It gets worse during the Christmas special. The first shot we see of Mr. Bates is him sitting on his prison cot, clutching a photograph of Anna and breaking down in tears. On Christmas Day. And just when you think it can't get any worse, he's found guilty of Vera's 'murder' and is sentenced to die by hanging. Poor Anna freaks out in the middle of the court, and Bates - who's been quite steely-jawed during the proceedings - breaks down AGAIN, calling for Anna as he's been led away by the guards. JESUS CHRIST.
Anna's shriek when she hears the sentence
The look on Matthew's face when Lavina dies.
The funeral as well, when Matthew says he and Mary are cursed is sooo sad if you consider what will happen to Matthew in the second Christmas special.
Mr. Mason and Daisy at William's grave. Stop.
Mr Mason and Daisy adopting each other as family. Many tears were shed.
Mrs Hughes' entire storyline in 3x02. When Phyllis Logan cries, so will you. Oh, Elsie!
Just when it looks like things are going well for Edith, Anthony leaves her at the altar. She's completely inconsolable and devastated, especially when Mary and Sybil - her two happily married sisters - try to comfort her.
Ethel giving up baby Charlie in 3.04. When Mrs. Crawley asks her to visit - with the pretext of offering her a job - she reveals that she's stopped working as a prostitute, rationalizing that 'now she can starve alone' instead of worrying about feeding her son. The implications are heartbreaking.
Tom Branson getting yelled at by Robert when he ran to the Crawleys for help; his description of the burning of a house, his reaction to the devastated families, and that utter, broken look of desparation on his face.
Arguably, he deserved being chewed out by Robert for such despicable behavior — it's all very well being sad afterwards, but joining in with the burning of a family home is appalling, no matter how worthy he believes his political ideals to be. It can also be Crowning Moment of Awesome on Robert's behalf, having endured endless tetchy politicking from Branson for half of the third series, and his incredulity at Branson's change of heart is understandable.
Sybil defended Tom, claiming he had nothing to do with the burning of the house, holding his hand the whole time. But when she finds out he had attended meetings of the group responsible, she lets go. She looked so dissapointrd in him.
Sybil's horrific death via eclampsia in 3x05, complete with seizures, Mary, Tom, and Cora begging her to stay with them, and a lingering shot of Tom looking out the window of Downton while holding their newborn daughter. If you weren't in tears by the end of the episode, you have no soul.
Mary and Edith's tearful reconciliation in the aftermath of Sybil's death. They admit that it's probably too late for them to be as close as sisters should be...but they're still going to try, since there's just the two of them now....
How about Robert himself? If he and Sir Philip had taken Dr. Clarkson's warnings seriously, there's a chance that Sybil might have lived. A fact that Cora harshly reminds him of the next day, and for which he blames himself as well.
Cora's goodbye. "Because you are my baby, you know. My beauty and my baby."
The Dowager Countess, the epitome of the stiff British upper lip, on the verge of tears as she enters the house. It's the only time on the show we've ever seen her this emotionally vulnerable.
Hell, even Thomas breaks down.
Thomas: *Sobs* I don't know why I'm crying really. She wouldn't've noticed if I'd died.
Anna: You don't mean that.
Thomas: No, no I don't. *visibly getting a grip on himself* In my life, I can tell you, not many have been kind to me. She was one of the few *sobs more*.
And all the servants are seen crying when they hear the news of Sybil's death. Even Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes can't hold back their tears
Mr Carson: I've known her since she was a baby.
Mrs Hughes: The sweetest spirit under this roof is gone.
Admit it: you too felt sorry for Thomas when he's forcefully and loudly rejected by Jimmy. Even worse: Alfred sees the whole thing and is then coerced into telling Carson by O'Brien. He just stands there in the middle of the hallway, tears brimming as he realizes that everything he's worked/schemed for is falling to pieces now that his secret is out.
And later when he's outside, crouched in a corner, hat in hands, weeping and Mrs. Hughes asks him what's wrong...
Branson bursting into tears at the memory of his dead wife in the second Christmas special.
Matthew's apparent death at the end of the second Christmas special has already sent fans into outrage.
What's horrible about his death (nothing 'apparent' about it, with Dan Stevens declining to return for series four) is that just before the accident, he looks so happy. For the first time since he's been at Downton, everything is going well, and then the truck...
It's that last shot of Mary in the hospital, looking so happy with her new baby, completely unaware of what's just happened. It didn't help that the scenes with her kept switching back to Matthew's body, bleeding and broken.
Just the thought of what his mother's reaction is going to be has been enough to have fans who otherwise were not fans of Matthew in tears. This is going to shatter Isobel Crawley, and her fans know it.
Then there's the fact that the last time she ever saw him was when the family was going up to Scotland. She smiles and waves goodbye to her only child, neither of them knowing that it's the last time she'll ever see him alive...
A more subtle one from the 2012 Christmas Special: Lady Flintshire has a strained relationship with her daughter Rose that becomes more evident when the Crawleys come up to their estate. The Dowager Countess seems to side with Rose, and when she tells Lady Cora that her mother is overly concerned, Cora says that of course she is, that mothers always worry about their babies (Rose is the youngest of three children)...and there's this quick but devastating and heartbroken look on her face. Branson isn't the only one who still desperately misses Sybil.
When the Dowager comforts her you can see that she realises, this time, that Cora is not being an over-emotional American, but a grieving mother.
Thomas telling Bates, who is working on their new home with Anna, that he envies him for being a part of a happy couple everyone supports, while he will never experience that.
Mary in the entirety of the fourth season premiere, in the six months following Matthew's death. She's pretty much dead to the world, barely holding back her grief and anger at her husband's death, unable to bond with her baby son. Thankfully, she's starting to come out of it now.
There's a short scene when Anna lays out clothes for Mary to wear. Mary immediately asks her to lay out black clothes for her to wear. It's a grim callback to the first episode, where Mary asks Cora if she has to wear full mourning in the wake of her then-fiance's death. It's a subtle sign at how deeply Matthew's death has affected her.
Mary again, when she blankly states that she doesn't see her being a good mother to George, and that whatever softness Matthew found in her dried up and withered away when he died.
Isobel Crawley. Dear God, poor Isobel. She's in a similar state to Mary: locked in grief and refusing to leave her house. When Violet comes to see her and asks her to at least see her grandson, she says she doesn't want to interfere. And then she follows it up with saying "You see...when you're a widow who's lost her only son, you're not much of anything anymore."
4x03. Anna. Raped. Dear God, what viewer didn't leave that scene shaking and crying?
The aftermath of it is heartbreaking as well. Anna refuses to let Bates come near her and ends up moving back into the estate after Edna leaves. She's obviously traumatized, to the point where even Robert asks her what's wrong. Bates is still in the dark, and assumes that he must have done something to push his wife away.
Anthony proposing to Mary, who tearfully but gentle rejects him because she still loves Matthew and grieves him too much to even think of marriage for several years, at least. Even worse, Mary seems to recognize that Anthony is a good man who would treat her and her son very well, and there is a spark between them, and when Tom asks her what's wrong, she tells him that she may have done something she will regret for the rest of her life.
After years of feeling like The Unfavorite, Edith finally says it out loud to her father when he finds her crying.
Robert: Edith? My most darling girl, what's the matter?
Edith: But I'm not "your most darling girl", am I?
Robert: I love all my children equally.
Edith: I don't know why people say that when it's almost never true.
Isobel's reaction to Mary getting friendly with Anthony. She knows full well that she can't expect Mary to pine after Matthew for the rest of her life, but it still hurts for her to watch.
After Edna has taken advantage of Tom's loneliness and the fact that he was, by his own admission, very drunk to get him into bed, she tries to spring the rest of her Baby Trap on him by telling him that if he was good enough for Sybil, she's good enough for him, his knee-jerk response is to angrily forbid her from using his wife's name. But it's Edna's blink-and-miss-it response which really clinches it: "You were free enough with it last night." Oh, Tom...
Daisy putting on a brave face to congratulate Alfred, then breaking down in tears afterwards.
Edith maintaining that the disfigured soldier really was their presumed dead cousin Patrick.
We're his family and we drove him away.
Mary's breakdown back in season 1 because of her father's attention to Matthew. She then lashes out at her mother who is no longer fighting the entail not because she's female but because she believes she's not worthy.
Robert and Sybil's fight over Branson, who was being blamed for getting Sybil hurt in episode 6. She threatens to run away.
And, judging by Season 2's ending, she's probably not kidding here - the comeback may be lame... but she damn well means it.
"Go back with them then, if you think they can make you happier than I will". Branson's voice (and his heart) breaks when he says this.
The Dowager, in Episode 4.08, keeping quiet over the reveal of Edith's pregnancy.
Edith's situation in general for the fifth season. She's still unmarried, doesn't have anyone to turn to for affection (romantic or otherwise), doesn't have any duties to keep her busy, is still in mourning over Gregson and is cooped up in the house all day watching everyone dote on her sisters' children while her illegitimate daughter is being raised by a farmer and his wife in secret. And while she does drop in to see Marigold from time to time, it's clearly not enough for her. Even worse, Margie - the farmer's wife, who doesn't know the truth of Marigold's parentage - is terrified of Edith's interest in their child and thinks that one day she's going to come and snatch her away from them. It comes to a head in episode 5.03, when Tim has to tell Edith to stay away from them for an indefinite period of time. The look on Edith's face is heartbreaking.
And as always, it gets worse for poor Edith. She can't keep away from Marigold, and it gets worse when she brings Lady Rosamund to see the baby. Mrs. Drewe has all but convinced Mr. Drewe to sell the farm and move away if Edith doesn't stop showing up, an ultimatum that causes both him and Edith distress. Rosamund and The Dowager's own solution - to send Marigold away to a French boarding school to be brought up under an alias - is no better for Edith. In either scenario, Edith sends up having her daughter taken away and it's tearing her up inside.
Nasty as Thomas is, it's hard not to feel sorry for him: in 5.04, we discover he's started a course of medicine to "cure" his homosexuality. Whatever's in it, it's obviously making him physically sick as well as miserable.
Mrs. Patmore's attempt to get her nephew, who was shot for cowardice during WWI, a place on the Downton war memorial is pretty heartrending; especially when she defends him to Robert telling him about how he could have stayed at home until he was conscripted but instead had joined up right away.
Edith reaching her Despair Event Horizon when she discovers that Michael Gregson has indeed been killed by the Nazis and promptly taking Marigold and running away from Downton.
Speaking of Marigold, there's Mrs. Drewe's absolute grief and heartbreak when Edith shows up and tells the truth about Marigold's parentage. She screams at her husband for lying to her, tears up Edith's copy of the birth certificate, but ultimately there's nothing she can do. Not only would it be wrong to keep Marigold from her birth mother, but Edith is the daughter of their upper-class landlord. They have no choice but to let Marigold go. The Dowager's subsequent visit to their home finds them still torn up about it.
Anna being arrested for the murder of Mr Green in the season finale. She's upset, terrified and on the brink of tears as she's handcuffed in front of her husband and led away.
Bates brokenly begging Mr Vyner that he can't be without Anna. Robert has to physically step in front of him to stop him from chasing after the police as they take her away.
Even worse is that she doesn't even get to say goodbye to Bates properly, unlike in season two where they were allowed to exchange endearments before Bates was arrested.