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.

Downton Abbey, Series Four (2013) Masterpiece Theatre Review

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).

‘DOWNTON ABBEY,’ SERIES FOUR (2013). Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery co-star in the fourth year of ITV's period drama. Text © Rissi JC

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.  

‘DOWNTON ABBEY,’ SERIES FOUR (2013). Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery co-star in the fourth year of ITV's period drama. Text © Rissi JC
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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.  

‘DOWNTON ABBEY,’ SERIES FOUR (2013). Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery co-star in the fourth year of ITV's period drama. Text © Rissi JC

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. 

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.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Downton posts have been popping up all over the place. Every time this happens I am almost always tempted to watch the show, but I'm never one for dramas – not that kind at least. I stick with the Merlin type dramas and the dramatic moments in Doctor Who. But I love the sets in Downton Abbey. I like looking at pictures from it, everything is so pretty. Makes me wish I could go back in time.

    1. I know, right, Jack!? I noticed that also… and honestly, I love it. It's a fun way to start each year.

      The costumes ARE indeed beautiful. They're gorgeous and the cast wears them all very well – especially Edith. She's got some lovely costumes this season. Going back to visit this era would be epic. How cool would that be to raid these closets!? ;)

  2. I really enjoyed the first episode! I'm also glad they didn't shove Matthew's death under the rug…it was interesting (and heartbreaking!) seeing how the characters were handling it differently.

    I've been able to avoid spoilers for this season, so I'm really glad of that! (I was spoiled by the two deaths last season while Googling something completely unrelated to Downton Abbey, which was ridiculous!)

    And while I'm grateful that I can watch DA on PBS now that we have an antenna (instead of online, which took forever), this whole one-week-between-episodes wait is driving me crazy! :) Needless to say, I will be following my tradition of getting the DVD the day it's released and finishing up the series that night. :)

    1. Me, too, Kristin! Despite the sober mood, it would have been more unrealistic to have forgotten the deaths – that would have been the saddest thing. The aftermath is important to deal with and for the most part, this season was very pleasant.

      Yay for avoiding spoilers… though I'm the opposite – I love them. ;) We still don't get PBS so that's why I'm always trying to find alternative means of seeing period drama plus like you, watching on-line is sketchy – it'll stop to "buffer" one to many times for my liking. ;) It's fun to follow a tradition and I like the way you go about finishing up 'Downton.' Sounds fun. :)

    2. Bahaha… I'm so glad I'm not the only one who goes out searching for spoilers! I have a secret board on Pinterest devoted entirely to Sherlock Series 3 spoilers. I figured I'd keep it secret just because almost everyone I know would be so upset with me if I make it public.

    3. *HIGH FIVE*

      You are SO not alone, Renee. I "live" for spoilers on favorite shows. It's awesome. ;)

      LOL, I'd agree! Most of your Pinterest followers probably would be crying if you're Sherlock board was public. Ah, well! That's just more fun for you, right?!

  3. I've seen all of season four save for episode 8 and the Christmas episode. I think my favorite season is still the second, but that's just my opinion. I get a real kick out of watching Rose. She's so acts so carelessly but I love her lightheartedness. Glad you liked it, Rissi!

    1. …I've not seen the Christmas episode yet either, Rosie though up until that point, I was happy with the ending. Yes, S4 was somber but that's "good." If it'd been sunny like previous seasons then we'd have been upset. I'm not sure which season ranks as a favorite so far. S2 was precious because it FINALLY brought Mary and Matthew together, S1 had the best writing – most unexpected events, etc. – and S4…? Well, it gets a high rating from me, too. Really liked it.

      Rose is fun! She adds some sass and lightens the mood. :)

  4. I've seen the whole season. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I don't think Downton is as good as it once was. What I didn't like was that they pushed Mary through mourning so quickly and into having so many followers after Matthew's death. I mean, sure, she needed to start to work on the estate to keep it moving, but then she's stringing along three men by the end of the series. It just didn't sit right with me. Plus, I'm not all that fond of Lord Gillingham or Charles Blake. Evelyn Napier is the better of the three in my opinion. But I still look forward to the fifth season.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this season and I'm glad you reviewed it!

    1. I'm sorry it wasn't to your liking, Elizabeth and while I respect your opinion, I actually saw Mary's grieving process as one that did not go by too quickly – it was very respectful to the loss. She had not forgotten Matthew nor was she willing to enter a new relationship. With either Lord Gillingham nor Charles and in fact, it was them who were pursuing her (or that's what I felt by the end of the regular season). Mary's always been a bit of a woman used to doing things her own way so… yeah, who knows what will come in S5! ;)

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Elizabeth – I enjoyed getting your thoughts and like you, am eager to see what happens next…! :)

      (PS; thanks for pointing out my mistake.)

  5. I've only seen the season premier.
    Mary and Carson. When they have scenes together, oh my goodness. He is her second father and they have the sweetest moments on screen. He cares so much for the family.

    Even in the somber moments, Maggie Smith has the best one liners.

    Barrow…such a love hate with him. I like how he is looking after Sibby, but my goodness why can't he be nicer to everyone else. On that note…that Nanny, ugh! Yay for Lady Grantham. I'm so glad she did what she did.

    1. Kate, I agree! Mary and Carson's scenes together are… priceless! Sometimes one wants to slap Mary for the careless way she treats him but at the end of the day, they're always there for each other and that is all that matters. If ever Carson leaves, it'll be the saddest thing yet because as you say, he cares for the family far and above his duty. He's like the "cornerstone" that holds them all together.

      Maggie Smith RULES this role. Love her.

      Thomas looking out for little Sybil was… out of place. Yet at the same time perfectly "normal" considering he's out for himself. Thank goodness Cora got rid of that mean nanny – she treated little Sybbie awful. Poor little sweetheart.

    2. Thomas needs to get hit by a bus! There are moments when he seems like he is getting better, then bam! Nope.

      I'm so glad Mary is coming out of the mourning shock, and I'm also glad that she didn't agree to be with the first guy who looked her way.

      I pray that Braithweight (whatever her name was) is gone for good. I could not stand her last year, and I'm sad they brought her back this season.

      With Edith, I have a feeling about what could happen with her after this last episode. She has come a long way since Season 1, but oy, she still has a ways to go.

      Anna…oh Anna. I know people were up and arms over what happened, but in all honesty, her reaction is true to the times then and in some part to today's times. It was sad and I have a bad feeling about where they might go with that story line. :-/

    3. Amen! You won't get any argument from me about your first point, Kate. So annoying is the dude.

      Sad though it was, I felt like Mary's character progression was genuine and very realistic this season. Of course it made the mode more somber however Matthew was an important part of her life – he made her better, he brought out so much good in her and losing him as she did was the greatest, worst shock of her life. I think the writing needed to reflect that and it did. That being said, I agree. It's nice to see her smile again and finally be part of a family. From the start of S4 to the Christmas special well over a year will have passed since Matthew's death and with that, she is finally ready to think about marriage again and I'm pleased with how it's set itself up. Hope you wind up liking it, too!

      Edna(?) does need to stay gone. I didn't think she was to come back in S4, so I was surprised to see her pop up. Edith, poor dear. She keeps making such bad decisions. *sigh* Wish she'd get her happy ending by the time the show ends. She's not a bad person, she just makes unwise choices.

      The aftermath/reaction IS realistic in regards to Anna's trauma. It was awful but I appreciated its filming as well as the fall-out. The only thing I'm unsure about is the implication in the Christmas special. Hope it doesn't end up the way it's leading.

      Thanks for dropping by with your thoughts, Kate! I enjoyed reading what you're thinking about S4 very much. Hope the series winds up being okay for you. :)

  6. The only reason I'm watching the series at all is to spend quality time with my family. My folks love the show, even with all its craziness, but I have almost no fondness for it. No love, no hate, just mostly indifference except for certain characters.

    It's funny how much I disliked Branson in the first season, and I love him now! I know what happens with him in this latest season and am bracing myself for it.

    And, of course, Maggie Smith is incredible!

    I just wish I saw in it what everyone else sees. It's just mostly one, big soap opera for me and I know I'm missing out.

    1. Aw, I'm sorry you don't enjoy the series, Carissa. My mom LOVES it and while my dad watches parts of it, he grew tired of all the "drama" – Rose acting out, etc.

      Branson has matured SO much and I appreciate the growth he's gone through even if part of the price we paid for that is seeing Sybil die. I dealt with his one indiscretion though it made me… disappointed. Still, I am curious what – if anything – happens in the Christmas special. Maggie Smith is one of THE best things about the show. She's hilarious and each one-liner keeps getting better. ;)

      Ah, well! That's okay you aren't a part of the mass, Carissa. I've chosen not to be part of some fandoms and honestly, it doesn't bother me that I'm skipping it because in the end, I don't mind missing out and it's my choice not to care.

      This is indeed a British, soapy drama, but oh, my! It sure is a fun, classy one! :)

    2. I'm not sure it's an indiscretion on Branson's part, but I'll have to wait until I see the scene to make a judgement. It sounds more like, well, something else. I might post my thoughts on the 4th season too once I finish it. We'll see! :)

      But yes, Branson has matured, and for the better. He's now one of my favorite characters. I just wish, oh how I wish, that Thomas would go away! I'm sickened unto death of him. Even when he's right about something, he's such a jerk about it!

      It's not that I'm uninformed about the series because I have seen most of it. I like to be informed of a fandom by watching it before I make a judgement call on it. I can't imagine not trying a show or movie at least once unless it's really bad and I won't watch it for moral reasons! :)

    3. I know what you're saying about the indiscretion being on Branson's part or someone else's. For me, things weren't crystal clear as to "how" he became so… willing to fall prey to she-who-shall-not-be-named and her schemes. I think the implication was there, it was just never spoken of.

      *HIGH FIVE*

      I detest Thomas; he's an annoying jerk to say the least!

      When there is a popular fandom I usually have basic knowledge of it – from reading, or conversations – so that's what I make a judgment call off of if I don't try it. I basically know what I'll like and what will "bother" or annoy me so save for rare occurrences I stick with my initial feeling of whether or not I'll enjoy something and go from there. In the end, I think everyone has to make the call whether or not to watch/read something, no matter its popularity. :)

      Ooo! I hope you do write about S4. I'd like to read it. :)

    4. I suppose that's true about fandoms, but I've also been wrong before by making a judgement call about something before seeing/reading it. I can't make that type of decision simply based on someone else's opinion. They might be wrong, and I might not share their opinion if I do watch/read whatever it might be. Just something to think about.

      At least Downton gives me something to do on Sunday nights. ;)

    5. …you make good points, Carissa. However I have snubbed fandoms even if someone else I know LOVES it. I feel educated enough (though my own research, i.e., extensive reading) in what I know about them and don't feel like I'm missing out. I did recently "take a chance" on a movie (Warm Bodies) and wound up adoring it, so obviously, yes, my initial feeling can be proven wrong. ;)

      Downton is a gem even with all its flaws; hope you end up liking S4. Even if only a little. ;)

  7. I love Downtown Abbey!! I just got back into watching the show a few weeks ago. Season 4 was a surprise to me, honestly. I was not expecting Sybil to die (that was so sad!!) and I thought it was interesting that Matthew's death was only implied/talked about but we never actually see a scene or even a flashback of it, unless my player started into the episode after that or something. And Edith really came out more in this season too; it will be interesting to see what happens w/ her whole side of the plot in the next season and also how Tom gets on w/ the schoolteacher – I think they're cute together. Sorry if I'm spoiling this season for people, it's just fun to be able to talk about the show w/ others who know about it. Thomas though, oh my goodness, sometimes I just want to punch him or something!! He's so mean and conniving and just plain not very nice to people. I guess they have to have one person in the show who's not all good. Mary and "her" 3 men: I like her and Lord Gillingham the best but the next season should hopefully bring her to a choice or she might be single too, who know. A great show nonetheless! :) Thanks for your review, Rissi!

    1. Me, too, Rachel! It's such a pleasure to watch. Save for Thomas, I generally like all of the characters which is half the struggle.

      Spoiler Conversation Ahead;

      The deaths were sad however in regards to Matthew, I think leaving it at the reaction of the characters was wise. How they coped was "flashback" enough to the jarring loss or that was my thought. Mary was so somber and that spoke volumes – Violet telling her to chose to "live" was a precious moment. Edith has been such a heartbreaking character just because the writer doesn't seem interested in giving her a happy ending. Makes me sad. She deserves that much. Tom and the schoolteacher were cute together though I have doubts about them lasting. Hoping they do! :)

      As for Mary… if series five is to be the show's last, she will need to make a choice. In that era for a widow to stay single seems unrealistic however perhaps with the times (Downton has entered the "Roaring 20's") becoming more "wild," maybe she will. Only time will tell.

      End Spoilers

      Even with the things we rant about, I concur, this is a fabulous show. Thanks for chatting about it! I enjoy chatting with someone who's seen it, too! :)


    Blake and Gillingham! I love them both — not as much as Matthew but still… ;-) I totally called the fact that Blake and Mary could be a "thing". That said, I also predicted the whole situation with Edith. I'm not sure where they will head with the series but I hope next season is a little less predictable. I still love it, but I like to be surprised by the shows I watch.

    1. Spoiler Conversation:

      Yay! There's another viewer who likes Mary's would-be suitors!? ;) I'm so happy. I liked both guys also, Renee and of course, it was fun to meet up with Napier again too – poor guy! It seems he's destined to forever stand by and watch Mary choose another man.

      Poor (poor) Edith…! That girl cannot seem to catch a break. I like her character (she's grown a lot since S1) but heavens! She keeps being spurned and yeah… her latest predicament… sigh.

      End Spoilers

      Despite the predictable script (S1 was probably the best in terms of surprise), I still LOVE this show. I'm invested in the characters (save for weird Thomas ;D) and cannot wait to see how it all ends. Hopefully with a smile! :)

  9. Oh my gosh, I am like, DYING to see it! But the only problemo is…the video/dvd rental shops near us don't have it..yet. So now I'm patiently waiting to watch it.
    Another series that you could check out, is White Collar. The second season has one or two iffy scenes, which my dad just forwarded, but season one is pretty clean. (We've only watched season one and two, so far.) It's really good.

    PS: Go check out my last post!

    1. The U.S. release of this is not yet available on DVD, Nine, so perhaps your region hasn't released it yet either…? Hope it arrives soon. In my opinion, S4 is delightful even with its faults.

      Thanks for the show recommendation – I absolutely LOVE White Collar. It's one of my favorites. Neal is a fun character, and the marriage of Peter and Elizabeth is beautiful; it's unusual for a show to portray marriage positively and this show has gotten it "just right." :)

      Off to catch up on your blog. :)

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