Sep 7, 2016

[TV] Downton Abbey: Series 4

I consider the Christmas episode of every season of Downton Abbey to be considered the end of the season and not the beginning. And that seems fair enough given how many major plot twists tend to work their way into that last episode, sometimes erasing all the hard work that had taken place throughout the regular season.

The third season of Downton Abbey was a tragically good example of this phenomenon, and it certainly made getting into the fourth season more than a little difficult. But given the skilled writing talent behind the show, this series was largely a nice way to recover from the shock of the last series.

This is not to say that the series was not without its own share of shocking twists, tragedy and intrigue, but what else can be expected from the residents of Downton Abbey after all?

And this series does have quite a few remarkable, memorable moments - both good and bad.

Synopsis: Downton Abbey is a British-American historical drama created by Julian Fellowes and is a co-production between Carnival Films and Masterpiece. It airs on ITV in the UK and on PBS in the US.

It has been six months since the events of the last Christmas special and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is still mourning the loss of her husband Matthew. This has gotten in the way of her truly being a mother to their son George. Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) continues to have arguments with Tom Branson (Allen Leech) with the estate feeling the burden of the inheritance tax owed after Matthew's passing. Thus the question of how to manage the estate continues given Matthew's shares would have to go somewhere. As for the servants, we have Anna (Joanne Froggatt) trying to find a way to feel worth of Mr. Bates (John Bates) given an incident early this series and thus defines the tension for the rest of it.

What I Liked: The dual-world drama of Downton Abbey continues to entertain with its odd mix of subdued humor, wry wit, and surprise tragedy. I think Lady Mary's character had some major development in this series outside the will he or won't he romances of the prior series episodes. Now it was all about making her way in the world and defining a new path for herself, one that even challenges station.

And we had a lot of interesting contrasts such as Anna and her secret shame along with the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) thinking she was right but finally being proven wrong and the Dowager Countess getting sick and being nursed back to health by the most unlikely character. I feel like we got a lot of fan service through her stories alone. Then we had an illicit romance with a person of color? Oh the scandal indeed!

What Could Be Better: The stories downstairs were not quite as gripping this season except maybe for the bit about Alfred (Matt Milne) wanting to become a proper chef. There was also some rotational drama with Edna (MyAnna Buring) and her little schemes not that she's a part of the household, but they don't get too far.

And admittedly I'd like a season where the Crawley finances aren't being brought into question so severely and with such great scrutiny. Really, can we write about something else now?

TL;DR: This series felt a little lighter than past ones but that's only by comparison since bad stuff continues to happen. But after everything else, I think we needed the breather and we had some good moments. The fourth series gets 4 secret moments of scandal in the city out of a possible 5.

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