Credit: © Copyright ITV plc 2013

UPDATE (October 7, 2013):

ITV Press Centre reports Episode 3 of Downton Abbey brought in 9.9 million viewers, a steady increase from the September 29 episode but lower than the premiere episode’s 10.5 million viewers. Some critics speculate the show may see a significant drop in ratings with the Episode 4 UK premiere on October 13 because of the controversial plotline involving Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt).

Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE (September 30, 2013):

Downton Abbey continues to bring in the viewers in the UK. The second episode of Season 4 had 9.6 million average viewers, reports Deadline; that’s a jump of 100,000 since the premiere episode on September 22. Even more impressive, Episode 2 of Season 4 had more than 1.5 million viewers than last year's second episode. We wonder how Dan Stevens feels about the show’s boost in popularity.

ORIGINAL STORY (September 23, 2013):

Who needs the Emmys when you’ve got ratings like these? The hit series Downton Abbey may have only won one award from its 12 Emmy nominations (for Outstanding Music Composition For A Series) but its fourth series started at an all-time high. The season, which premiered the same night as the Emmys (September 22), drew a record number of fans eager to see what remained of the Crawley family after Season 3’s devastation.

In fact, the premiere episode attracted more viewers than last year’s first episode and was the highest rating UK drama of the year thus far, according to English broadcaster ITV. The night peaked with 10.5 million viewers; that’s almost 1 million more than the 9.6 million who watched the 2012 opening.

The turnout may come as a surprise seeing as the last scenes of series three featured beloved Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) bleeding and broken in a ditch on the side of a backcountry road — scenes that almost set the UK on fire when the tragedy aired on Christmas Day 2012. So what brought people back?

Credit: © Copyright ITV plc 2013

Our theories as to why include the two adorable new additions to the cast, babies George and Sybbie. Although, unfortunately, we didn’t see as much of either as we would have liked last night, both will play a pivotal role in the fourth series particularly seeing as George is the new heir to Downton. There’s also George’s mother; seeing how the widowed Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) would cope with the death of her soul mate made for devastatingly fascinating TV.

Plus, there are all the storylines outside of the Crawleys, including the self-serving schemes of of underbutler Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) and the heartwarming love of the recently reunited Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and his beloved Anna (Joanne Froggatt). Really, why wouldn’t you watch?

Didn’t get to see the episode for yourself? Never fear. Our recap has all the Downton details you could hope for.

Sources: Deadline, The Telegraph, Deadline, ITV Press Centre

Elisabeth Kramer is an Assistant Editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident Downton Abbey expert. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!