Even unexpected regret and clichés isn’t enough to pull fans away from the soapy drama of Britain’s jewel as it plays to impressive numbers. Only question left on the minds of fans was how the passing of a beloved character would affect the house.
News and rumors spread quickly among the morning hustle-bustle at Downton Abbey. This fine morning, the staff passes along their astonishment that O’Brian steals off in the night without a word. This leaves the household short-staffed. Young Daisy (Sophie McShera) is still pining for footman Alfred (Matt Milne) who is busy explaining he knew nothing about his aunt’s sudden departure – and trying to catch the eye of kitchen maid, Ivy (Cara Theobold). Newly married to Bates (Brendan Coyle), the vacant position leaves Anna (Joanne Frogett) with more duties and Thomas (Rob James-Collier) with new possible candidates to corrupt. All of these events are carefully watched over by housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and the trusty, but orderly butler Mr. Carson (Jim Carter).
Above stairs, the family Crawley mourns the loss of Matthew. Mary (Michelle Dockery) withdraws to the point that no one can inspire her to leave the comfort of her dark mood. Tom (Allen Leech) believes Mary should begin to live again; to take an interest in something, which he believes is the running of Downton. Whereas Lord Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) protectively coddles his eldest, urging her to do nothing but concentrate on feeling better. This sets him against the Countess (Maggie Smith), and for once, she agrees with her grandson-in-law. Elsewhere, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) engages a new ladies maid who causes nothing but trouble; and Edith (Laura Carmichael) pursues more potential heartbreak in the form of her handsome – and very married – editor, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards).
This has to be said, and that is, the writer’s do a good job of making sure no one forgets Matthew. This can be both a good and bad thing however I chose to see it as a testament. Either way, the creators are going to take flack, yet they handle a tragedy with grace and respect. It’s unrealistic for the family to never talk of Matthew or for the mood to be generally happy. Mary goes through dark places and happier times, intermittently which is the best version of her character right now. It’d be disappointing for the sixth month’s later lapse not to discuss the passing of Matthew. His absence is a running thread, which presents a realistic picture of grief… and healing. Really I think what this season does is bring viewers to a place of transition. If you cannot accept the deaths of beloved faces and revel in the growth, then it’s probably best to bid adieu.
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Moving beyond that, I cannot help but rejoice in this series’ return. 24 hours after I got my set, we’d watched all but two of the episodes. It’s just that good minus one major overstep that rests squarely on Fellowes direction (though kudos to the filming of this scene – it’s much more terrifying behind closed doors). There is a lot of change though some isn’t in the best taste overall there is more pleasure than discourse. Young Rose (the Crawley’s cousin whom Lily James plays) is now a permanent presence at Downton and adds sass. Then, of course, there’s the three men vying for the affections of Lady Mary.
We ‘re again re-acquainted with Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) which is brilliant; meet the ambitious Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden); and the wealthy lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen). The former candidate is a meeting that doesn’t get off on the right foot (reflections of the Mary/Matthew saga, anyone!?) and the latter is a re-kindling of a former childhood relationship. Both men are interesting but, what this love triangle does is lighten the mood; especially the “pig scene.” And if you’re wondering what that’s all about, just wait. Only trust me, you’ve never seen Mary like this before and what’s even more ironic is of the three sisters, she’s the most stuffy.
Since it first invades our television screens, we experience many highs and lows with Downton Abbey. Even now in its current state (one that suffers a less refined script), there is still something hypnotic. Perhaps it’s the costumes and grandeur – which by the way is again breathtaking; this costume design is one to try and rival. Or maybe, it’s simply that fans invest in the outcome of this family, and there is very little that could persuade me to quit the series. Meeting the new character’s in no way disrespects this transition of saying good-bye though I will admit to surprise one of the reported plots isn’t exactly accurate. Fortunately, it’s a pleasant diversion. No matter its faults, series four has slowly teaches us it’s okay to experience something new. The characters are also divine at convincing us of their sorrow and blossoming reawakening to life, laughter and joy.
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You can find Downton Abbey, series four digitally on Amazon Video
Content: There is rape of a beloved character [it all happens behind closed doors although we see her smacked around briefly and hear the screams] and another character has a drunken one-night stand after careful scheming. There’s an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and brief thoughts of abortion. Racial issues are dealt with [in a surprisingly classy way]. The series is TVPG.