Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley are back! (AFP/Getty Images)

“Downton Abbey” returned to PBS last evening, along with its beautiful sets and costumes, Lady Mary’s frustrating love life and, thankfully, the Dowager Countess’s acerbic one-liners.

(Dame Maggie Smith was particularly wonderful when noting Lady Cora’s flower arrangements “always look more suited to a first communion — in Southern Italy.”)

For those of us who waited for the British show’s second season to air legally across the pond, there was a lot riding on Sunday’s premiere. I, for one, was slightly panicked after reading early reviews that indicated “Abbey” fans were in for a big disappointment. The Post’s Hank Stuever wrote:

At 10 sumptuous hours in total length, “Downton Abbey” lacks surprise and is stretched precariously thin, a house full of fascinating people with not nearly enough to do, all caught in a loop of weak storylines that circle round but never fully propel.

I put aside my fears for a weak season to enjoy Sunday’s two-hour premiere, and enjoy it I did.

(Spoilers below.)

A lot happens to the Crawleys, their downstairs staff and those who weave in and out of their lives during the first episode. Matthew Crawley, on leave from the First World War, brings his new fiancee to Downton, while Lady Mary pretends she doesn’t care and considers a marriage proposal from a newspaper tycoon. Lady Edith drives a tractor, kisses a farmer and continues to be a bit of a mess. Lady Sybil becomes a nurse, Mr. Bates does something honorable and so much more!

Each character got a very satisfying re-introduction in the thoroughly enjoyable season premiere.

But I can’t help but return to Stuever’s critique that the season “lacks surprise.” It’s pretty clear where Season 2 is headed and, according to Stuever, it’s headed there pretty slowly.

Gawker’s Max Read tried to warn fans to not bother with the season at all: “The thing is, you’ll watch the first episode on Sunday and you’ll probably like it. That’s the problem: you won’t realize that season two [stinks] until you’re about halfway through: until it’s too late to bail.”

That’s a hard pill to swallow. But for the time being, I’m just going to enjoy the soap-tastic premiere.

Tell us, “Abbey” fans: What did you think of the season premiere? Sound off in the comments.

View Photo Gallery: The popular period drama has reintroduced WWI-era style to international audiences and has fueled several fashion trends seen on runways and celebrities this year.