'Downton Abbey' Season 4 episode 1 spoilers: It's all about family
The big theme this episode is family. We thought for much of the first half of the episode that it felt so off -- the title music was weird, Mary was being so sad (and mean), the nanny was off-putting. There were all sorts of things that felt wrong.
But in the end, it was all about the core family and their servants looking out for one another, which is what we love about "Downton."
Lady Mary is so blinded by her grief that she barely comes out of her room, barely pays attention to her new baby boy. Cousin Isobel is likewise paralyzed by her grief. But industrious Branson and Mrs. Hughes find them new things to focus on, encouraging them to re-join the land of the living -- with a little help from the Dowager Countess -- and all is right with the world. We actually are quite keen on watching Lady Mary help run the estate with Branson.
The callback to Carson's old Vaudeville buddy was kind of weird, but Cousin Isobel always needs a project and Mrs. Hughes was right to help her, we thought.
In other news, Lady Edith is having a grand romance with Gregson, who purports to become a German citizen so that he can divorce his wife on grounds of lunacy (which is not allowed in England at this time) and be with Lady Edith. While we are waiting for the other shoe to drop, we love that someone appreciates Edith for the wonderful woman that she is.
There is still some romance afoot in the downstairs area, as Alfred sends Ivy a valentine and Daisy gets jealous. Daisy's own valentine turns out to have been from Mrs. Patmore (awww!) and it looks as though our favorite kitchen maid is once again getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
Meanwhile, Carson is trying to help Branson wrench Lady Mary out of her despair and in an absolutely gut-wrenching scene, Mary is so, so cold to him: "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."
That was one of the most terrible non-death scenes the show has ever done. Lady Mary is not the warmest person at Downton, but she has always had such affection for Carson. It was heartbreaking to watch her be so cruel to him. Thankfully, she came to him later -- her Grandpa Carson -- to have a cry and apologize. That was lovely.
Thoughts & Tidbits
- This Edna Braithwaite getting the new lady's maid job after coming on to Branson ought to prove interesting. Just what does she have going on with Lady Rose?
- There were many good lines in this episode, but Cousin Isobel just ripped out guts out with, "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." Oof.
- Likewise Lady Mary's worry that all of her softness is gone now that Matthew is gone, which is a very real concern and feels very organic to us for the character: "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."
- It's interesting that Thomas' problem with Nanny West turned out to be real, at least in her regard towards the children. The way she spoke to baby Sybil -- ooooh, we were hopping mad and thank goodness Lady Cora was there to sack her on the spot.
- Lady Violet was not exactly rolling in the one-liners tonight, but she did dispense some very solid wisdom to Robert and Lady Mary. "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."
What did you think of the Season 4 premiere of "Downton Abbey"?