Friday, March 28, 2014

Downton Abbey: The Ups and Downs - Series 4 Recap

It's that time of year again!  That time when I finally get to open my mouth about the latest season of Downton Abbey because the Americans are all caught up.  Because you all know I can't stand not watching it right away and totally had it finished back in December.

SPOILER ALERT, read on only if you've watched Series 4!

This season was view by many as a weaker season, with a lot of reviews saying it had jumped the shark.  And I'll admit, it wasn't my favorite.  But it was still a compelling story for me to watch, and I looked forward to every episode.  Here are my abbreviated thoughts on the season...

I like how they started the seasons months after Matthews' death, because it allowed them to pick up with a bit more "normal" life than if they'd shown everyone in the throes of intense grief.  I feel like Mary's emotions throughout the series bring her back to the way she was pre-Matthew (less likeable, but authentic) and I enjoyed seeing her come back into her own.  She's even considering suitors, one of whom I see as particularly up to the task (and even possibly more worthy than Matthew).  Isobel's grief was particularly hard to watch, as she's the one essentially orphaned by the death without other family, but I was happily surprised how the Dowager Countess stepped up as her cheeky pal.

What impressed me most throughout the Upstairs story during the season was Edith's transformation.  Forced out of the "middle child" syndrome by the death of Sybil, she took advantage of the grief and swirl around her family to escape.  From her manner to her clothes, she has gone from being one of my least favorite characters to one I empathize with a lot.  While her judgment is still often flawed, she chased love and lost in some terrible ways... but I'm still rooting for her after all.

The rest of the Upstairs stories seemed to be short and sweet, filled with mystery and funny capers, and frenemies at parties.  Not much to report.  Lord Crawley is still an old-fashioned sexist despite having such independent and sassy women in his family.

In between Upstairs and Downstairs is poor Branson.  I started the season really loving him (and seeing myself choosing him above the other men in the series) until EDNA came back.  Seriously, Branson?  WTF?  As for Edna (and evil Nanny for that matter) good riddance to bad rubbish.  I was much more inclined to encourage Branson's interest in Sarah Bunting, who seems a good match for him intellectually.  I feel for the fact that he is a man without country, not an aristocrat like his in-laws but no longer fit for his previous occupation.  He represents the rise of the middle class, I suppose!

Downstairs this series was chaos.  CHAOS.  There are many more evil people lurking below apparently.  I'm not going to gloss over Anna's rape or the death of her rapist.  It was awful.  And it was hard for me not to get mad at Anna for pushing Bates away like she did, because they were portrayed as perfect lovebirds before.  But it's telling that she didn't confront her rapist because of her fear that Bates would seek revenge... because I'm convinced she realizes there's a bit of psychopath in him.  She's in love with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, don't you think?  And it was interesting to see Thomas try to regain footing with a new alliance with the exit of O'Brien.  He's back to his evil ways, and it kind of makes me sad.

As for the other Downstairs characters, Carson, Mrs. Hughes, and Mrs. Patmore continue to be favorites for me.  Their personalities and wisdom just make me smile so much.  They're secretkeepers and mentors to the rest of the ninnies.  I really enjoyed seeing Daisy bloom (pun intended) under Patmore's watchful eye, even parting with her crush on Alfred in a very mature way.

If you didn't like previous seasons of Downton, you won't like this one.  But if you're inclined to view the inhabitants of that house as family, like I am after these years, you'll enjoy it.  My friends and I have a "BBC Book Club" on Facebook where we share our thoughts throughout the UK season to prevent spoilers for our US-watching friends... and we all agree we liked it.  We'll keep watching!

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  1. I did think the season was a little bit of a letdown, but it started picking up towards the end. I cannot even with Anna's rape, it seemed to only have occurred for shock value and ratings, and the creator even said something like "I wanted it to happen to Anna because she's the most purely good, lovable character." WTF.

    I think the other seasons had a little more historical interest and a central problem--The Titanic/the heir, World War 1/will they won't they, post-War Europe and a shifting class system/will Downton be saved. They tried to make the Jazz Age happen this season but it didn't seem that important, and the main question was who will Mary end up with, when the answer is no one. Or at least I don't care who, because it's not Matthew. Which one are you rooting for?

    I am glad that Mary came out if her stupor and put her sassy pants back on.

  2. I'm rooting for the guy she ended up in the mud with over the pigs because he feels very Mr. Darcy. And you're so right about the Jazz Age thing, it's just not that important. It's almost like they need to fast forward even more. Though I am interested in Edith and the baby thing for next season, how that plays out. And WTF happened to her boyfriend? Does he have a new family in Germany or something?

    Same feeling as you over Anna. And it made Bates creepier and creepier.


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