DOWNTON ABBEY Recap: “Season 4, Episode 4”

     January 26, 2014


Downton Abbey narrowed its narrative scope in this hour of drama, while teasing quite a few plot-lines for upcoming episodes.  The Anna and Bates saga, which needed some kind of emotional finality, finally got it (though with somewhat of an open ending), and Downton taking time to focus on this was completely necessary.  But things stayed very busy elsewhere in the house, with more than a few question marks left unanswered about doctor visits, torn aprons, and revitalized socialism.  Hit the jump for more.

downton-abbey-series-4-cast-photoThis year’s fourth episode was one that has started pivoting the series into the back half of the season, by promising a whole host of new and evolving stories.  It also spent a lot of time on one of the most difficult things the show has tackled, which had an effect on viewers as well.  Anna and Bates have already been through so much, it was especially cruel to put both of them in this situation.  Anna, suffering from her silence about her rape and attack, shut Bates out completely, which naturally caused his heart to break because of the misunderstanding of it all.  There wasn’t much more that viewers could bear when it came to these two this hour, but it all led up to a beautiful moment of reconciliation that didn’t come a moment too soon.  Downton Abbey rarely drags plots out, but the twisting of the knife with these two, emotionally, was a plot that for once we could be grateful ended quickly.  Of course, Bates assured us (via Mrs. Hughes) that things aren’t over.

Bates’ coda was but one of many teased upcoming plots, including Edith’s visit to Gregson’s office (which was instead a Doctor’s office … is this because Edith is pregnant from her overnighter?  Or is she somehow taking part in the visitation and transportation of Mrs. Gregson?).  Gregson has also been uncharacteristically silent with her, so if there is a baby, we can assume of course that he’s dead, because Downton probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

In happier news, a birthday for Robert is on the horizon, giving more opportunities for Mary to be visited by suitors, although the reappearance of cult-fan-favorite Evelyn Napier is cause for celebration on its own (especially given Mary’s warm embrace of him — possibly because of her stark realization that Gillingham is definitely gone out of her life now).  Previews show that his boss may also be a noteworthy consideration for Mary, and how long will it be, really, that she keeps deflecting so many new love interests?

downton-abbey-season-4-episode-4Downstairs, Thomas is working to create a new O’Brien in Baxter, but she’s wary of him.  Though she goes along with his schemes, she clearly doesn’t like him.  What does Thomas have over her that she would play this game with him?   Or is she a Molesley-like character, someone desperate for a job and therefore indebted to Thomas helping her win favor?  Speaking of Molesley, Carson was uncharacteristically cruel with him when it came to the footman’s position, prematurely promising him a position and then ridiculing him for not accepting right away what would have been a huge step down.  Alfred’s failure to make it into the cooking course leaves Molesley without recourse for now, but him staying also retains Daisy’s love interest (will she, like Edith, ever find anyone worthy of her interest and affection?)  Ivy and Jimmy continue their flirtation without much expansion, but the kitchen staff has often been overlooked when it comes to good plots.

Elsewhere, Isobel and Violet clucked at each other over do-gooding, and the Mystery Of the Stolen (or misplaced?) Letter Opener begins (they should consult Anna, who became a kind of Sherlock, Jr. when Bates was in jail).  And while Robert clings to the past (per usual), Branson is desperate to set forth into a future that might mean America … even though the Crawley’s desperately need him to oversee the farming that the estate takes on, which no one seemed to consider when he was making this statement.  It’s not like he doesn’t have anything to do, and even though he would be making a new start in America class-wise, why give up the resources that would be afforded him and his daughter by Downton?

Too many questions and not enough resolution in this episode, which isn’t a bad thing.  It led to a fractured episode, but at the same time, Downton has almost always been a whirlwind of plots and characters, not all of which (almost none of which, usually) fit together.  It’s a peek into the Abbey’s world.  In that regard, it was a decent hour, particularly thanks to that necessary resolution with the Bates.

Episode Rating: B+

Musings and Miscellanea:

downton-abbey-season-4-jim-carter-carson— “My life is perfect, and in the course of one day it’s nothing” – Bates

— Didn’t Anna and Mrs. Hughes make clear to Bates that him becoming privy to this info meant he couldn’t go kill anybody?  We’ll see what he has in store for Green …

— Rose has had very little to do this season.  Seriously, what does she get up to all day?

— Alfred’s turn on Top Chef: London was kind of a waste.

— It’s interesting how mean Carson can be to Molesley, but now encouraging to Alfred in the very next instance.

— Sewing machines!  Refrigerators!  The future is now!

— “I haven’t abandoned all of my socialism!” – Branson.

— Beautiful dress on Cora (the seafoam green) and on Mary (the purple). Such flattering coloring.

— There should be a Miss Marple-esque spin-off with Violet, Isobel and Clarkson.

— I think Maggie Smith actually clucked in this episode, with her extended chuckle about Isobel’s causes.

— Has the show ever mentioned Yorkshire so much in the course of any hour?

— Baby Sybie was beyond cute!  Hurricanes in Yorkshire! (how does she know about hurricanes?)

— Carson: “You’ve missed your opportunity.” Molesly: “As I usually do.”

— Mrs. Hughes should start charging for her psychiatrist work at Downton.

— “Wars have been waged on less fervor” – Violet.