The “Downton Abbey” Season 4 premiere in the U.S. encompasses the first two episodes of the season from the U.K., so we’ll be addressing them each separately here since there was a lot going on.
The first half of the “Downton” premiere is a bit off-putting from the normal tone of the show, but since the entire household is still reeling from Matthew’s death, that was maybe to be expected — the somber opening credits were a bummer, though.
Lady Mary and Cousin Isobel are obviously taking Matthew’s death the hardest. Mary barely leaves her room and hardly shows any interest in baby George, while Isobel breaks our heart with how lost she seems — “You see, when your only child dies, then you’re not a mother anymore.
You’re not anything really. And that’s what I’m trying to get used to.”
It’s the reappearance of Carson’s old vaudeville buddy Charlie that shakes Isobel back into her old ways of finding a project and plunging full-speed ahead. She invites Charlie to stay with her and help get him back on his feet. That’s the Isobel we all know and love.
Branson, meanwhile, is put into an awkward position of being his father-in-law’s house agent (and former driver) without having either his wife or his comrade Matthew there to help fight his corner. It’s nice to see Mary finally come out of her grief a bit and help him. Watching them work to run the estate should prove enjoyable, they are good foils for each other — friends, but also not afraid to butt heads.
Lady Edith continues romancing her editor Michael Gregson. He has plans to become a German citizen so he can divorce his wife on grounds of lunacy. It’s nice to see someone appreciate what a smart, wonderful woman Lady Edith is, so hopefully something will finally go right for her.
Carson takes it upon himself to try to bring Mary back into the world and in a punch-to-the-gut scene, she completely rebuffs him, coldly saying, “I’m afraid I may have encouraged you to
feel you have the right to address me in this way. … You do not seem
to understand the affect Mr. Crawley’s death has had on me. … I’m
sorry you feel entitled to overstep the mark.”
It was awful. Mary has always been so kind and caring about Carson, he’s almost like her grandfather. It was nice that she eventually realized what she had done and came to him to cry and apologize.
The reappearance of that awful maid Edna Braithwaite is unfortunate, especially since she seems quite ready to take up with Thomas — though score one for Thomas in that he had a measure of how awful Nanny West was. The way she called baby Sybbie a little half-breed was disgusting. Thankfully Lady Cora was there to fire her.
Lady Mary: “Somehow, with Matthew’s death, all the softness in me seems to have
dried up and drained away. Maybe it was only there in his imagination.”
Lady Violet: “No,
Robert, it is our job to bring her back to the world. … I can only
say while I will overlook Mary’s poor judgment, I find it hard to
Lady Violet: “My dear, I’m not really very interested in whether you behaved badly or
well. I’m not your governess, I’m your grandmother. The difference is I
love you. Mary, you’ve gone through hideous time. But now you’ve got
your son, he needs you.”
In the second episode of the premiere, it’s another Letter Ex Machina. Deux Ex Mail? Either way, it’s another letter from beyond the grave that conveniently helps out our “Downton” folks — remember how Lavinia Swire so graciously absolved Matthew of his guilt so he could take her father’s money? This letter names Mary as the sole heiress of Matthew’s estate, making her co-owner of Downton along with her father, which is an interesting wrinkle indeed.
Robert is unsure about having his eldest daughter help run the estate and is actually quite rude to her when he finds out about the letter — another example of the running theme of this season, the new ways of doing things versus the old ways. Robert must be dragged kicking and screaming into the 1920s, it would seem.
An upside to this new family tension is that Lady Violet has her granddaughter’s corner (naturally) and schemes to get Branson to help Mary out in learning how to run things. That Violet doesn’t miss a trick.
Lady Rose is ready to cause a ruckus around Downton, heading out to a dance hall with Anna as her on-the-sly chaperone. Rose a non-nobleman named Sam, so she pretends to be a common maid so as to be able to socialize with him. But when Sam comes calling after her at Downton, Anna again must help Rose by dressing her up in a maid’s uniform so Rose can let Sam down easy without having to reveal she’s actually a lady of the house.
Something tells us Rose is going to be a handful for the Crawley family.
Anna and Bates also help Molesley out, with Bates figuring out a way to “pay back” some money he “borrowed” from Molesley, whose only job right now is working on a street crew. In a nice turn of events, Bates actually gets the money from Lady Violet, who can pretend she’s tough all she likes, but we all know she’s a big ol’ softie.
And of course, Thomas and Edna waste no time in causing trouble for Bates and Anna over a shirt belonging to Lady Cora that Edna ruined. Is she O’Brien 2.0, with the added “bonus” of having romantic designs on Tom Branson? Blech. Be gone with you, Edna.
In the most touching story of the episode, Carson’s old Vaudeville partner Charlie is still staying with Isobel and it comes out that Carson has been sore all these years because Charlie took away Alice, the one woman Carson ever loved. Before he leaves for a new job in Belfast, Charlie reveals to Carson that Alice realized right before her death that she loved Carson — and that Charlie did not actually steal her away.
There is also the on-going love triangle in the kitchen between Daisy/Jimmy/Ivy/Alfred, which is kind of a boring retread of what was going on last season.
Lady Violet: “When you talk like that, I’m
tempted to ring for nanny and have you put to bed with no supper.”
Mrs. Patmore: “Nothing’s as changeable as a young man’s heart. Take hope and a warning from that.”
What did you think of the two-hour “Downton Abbey” premiere?