OK, can we all agree that the enchanting final shot of Carson and Mrs. Hughes, wading into the waters of Brighton hand-in-hand, was worth waiting an entire season for? And can we now look forward to a bit of middle-aged downstairs romance next season? Might they, in fact, start addressing each other by first names? (Charles and Elsie, for the record.) Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
Season 4 of “Downton Abbey” definitely had its ups and downs, but cheerio to Julian Fellowes for ending things on such a happy note. Overall I was pretty pleased with the final episode, if not entirely thrilled. Paul Giamatti as Cora’s playboy brother Harold seemed a wasted opportunity — shouldn’t he have been much naughtier, and way more fun? — and Shirley MacLaine’s Martha Levinson, despite a promising opening scene out on the sidewalk, didn’t find anything new to say this time around. (Her final scene, with the Dowager Countess, was disappointingly rote.) And was anyone else bothered by Mary’s apparent line of reasoning regarding Bates? Specifically: “well, he’s definitely a murderer and that’s not OK, no matter what . . . oh, but he’s a really good servant so we’ll just let that murder thing slide.” Certainly an argument could be made, and Mrs. Hughes made it eloquently, for what Bates so clearly seems to have done, but Mary’s logic seemed awfully . . . convenient. Anyway, thank goodness that we’re done with that plotline, and can enjoy Anna smiling again.
Along with learning a few new things — i.e. that it’s shocking for a servant to encourage guests to try the food (Mr. Carson’s expression at this was priceless), that women wore strange feathers with veils on their heads to be presented at court, and that gentlemen should not leave important letters in their coat pockets while playing cards — this episode left us with some hope for season 5; namely:
- Edith’s plan to sort-of-keep her daughter seems endearingly crazy — does she really think her parents (not to mention the entire village) won’t put two and two together, particularly when Edith seems to be constantly hanging around some mysterious new baby who looks just like a Crawley? But good for Edith for taking control of the situation. Will next season bring the return of Mr. Rochester? Will his madwoman wife conveniently die, a la Lavinia, thus freeing the way to happiness? Will he explain his mysterious disappearance in Germany as just a gentleman’s intermission?
- Mary, who’s back wearing pretty colors again, now has three suitors vying for her (and yes, I’m counting Sir Evelyn Napier, despite the fact that apparently the actor who plays him wasn’t available to shoot the Christmas special). Why don’t they just get out their swords or their pistols or whatever swanky gentlemen of the time had, and just have it out? Mary isn’t the type to faint at a little blood.
- Tom and Miss Bunting . . . OK, let me just say that it make me sad to see how Tom has been reduced to such a bundle of nerves. Why on earth should he care what Thomas thinks? What happened to the firebrand who married Sybil? Anyway, perhaps Miss Bunting will give him a good slap in the face and bring him back to his senses. It was a treat, though, to see him dancing with the Dowager Countess — because yes, he does know how to steer.
- Daisy’s clearly still holding out hope for Alfred — and, now that Ivy’s out of the picture (off to America, thank goodness), maybe he’ll return. Though I rather hope he doesn’t. What would Mrs. Patmore do without Daisy?
- Rose . . . sorry, I couldn’t care less about Rose. Though she did look awfully pretty in her ball dress.
And, a few unanswered questions:
- What is it that Thomas has over Miss Baxter?
- Will we ever see O’Brien again?
- Will Fellowes ever give Cora a plotline that makes her anything other than a ninny?
- Will Isobel, that trumpeter on the peak of the moral high ground (ha! good one, Dowager Coutness!), marry Sir What’s-his-name, and will that bring an end to her cozy card games with Violet? Oh, I hope not.
No, it hasn’t been a perfect season, but I’m not done yet with these characters; Season 5 can’t come soon enough. And what do you think?