Somber as it is during its primary episodes, as the Masterpiece Theatre viewers discover, I’m still transfixed by the delights of Downton Abbey. Finally I’m sharing my thoughts on what is the proper finale for season four; the always anticipated Christmas special.
During the summer of 1923, playing guardians to their headstrong cousin, Rose (Lily James), Robert and Cora (Hugh Boneville, Elizabeth McGovern) prepare to take part in yet another London Season. Giddy with excitement over the pageantry, the family takes up residence in their London home for the season. This includes select servants, Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Carson (Jim Carter) as well as Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) who begins to return to her old self. Joining in the festivities is Cora’s mother, Martha (Shirley MacClaine) who clashes with the Crawley matriarch, Violet (Maggie Smith), and her son Harold (Paul Giamatti). When the young, Madeline (Poppy Drayton) is pawned off on Harold by her father in the hope that a match will be made between the wealthy Harold and Madeline, Harold’s prejudice towards the British slowly begins to fade away…
At the Downton Abbey estate, Edith (Laura Carmichael) is suffering from guilt and second guessing a recent life-altering decision. Attempting to reassure her that her missing lover will turn up, Rosalind (Samantha Bond) affirms that Edith makes the right choice yet Edith’s heart says differently. Tom (Allen Leech) feels misplaced in the family’s society – particularly with Rose’s London ball imminent and his expected attendance. Only his own moral is called into question when – surprise! – Thomas (Rob James-Collier) makes trouble.
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Rounding out this dramatic and sober albeit a necessary season of healing is this 90-minute gorgeous special. By the time everything closes, I’m in a happy mood (also, Anna is actually smiling again, folks). Aside from one revolution (that could confirm suspicion or mislead us), everything that happens is pleasant. Mary makes a comeback, and even enjoys a bit of playful flirting with her would-be suitor Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden); plus has an important heart-to-heart with Tony (Tom Cullen). Rose is still a fun presence though I confess I’m growing weary of Tom’s restlessness; his character needs resolution. Since first we met him, he’s matures to a point that he’s no longer an outsider but an important member of the Crawley clan. Despite this, his feeling of inadequacy should be put to rest. Either he stays (as so many of us wish for) and realizes he’s important or he leaves to begin again.
Then, of course there is Thomas’ continuing evil shenanigans. (I must give a “hurrah” for Baxter – you go girl! Thank goodness someone finally put him in his place even if only temporarily.) Finally, there’s Edith. Sigh… I’m not sure she’ll ever understand the ramifications of her choices or will get a happy ending. Poor thing may have a beautiful wardrobe but it seems she’s forever falling short of being truly happy.
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Speaking of the costuming, same as always, it’s gorgeous. From Rose’s season ensemble to those gowns Edith dons, the beauty in each parlor or ball room spectacle is breath-taking. If you’ve watched from the start, the costumes has evolved so much given its range of time frames; at the beginning it’s the sinking of the RMS Titanic to now, the roaring 20’s. Furthermore weaving into the script is some cute bits of sleuthing as well as Daisy getting a small albeit darling story. By the time the final moments roll around I didn’t wish for it to end and if anything, my expectations are again in a tither over what’s to come for season five. Well done, Downton Abbey.
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Photos: Masterpiece Theatre