February 24, 2014

Downton Abbey Season Four Wrap-Up

To quote Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities as a very appropriate way to wrap up Season Four of Downton Abbey: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." 

Aside from the expected story line of how Lady Mary will survive her beloved Matthew's death, the fourth year of the series seemed to play out like an elongated cruise on television's Love Boat. It seemed everyone was eventually bitten by the bug- even Thomas Barrow, who seems more in love with himself than ever.

As perhaps expected, the most powerful performances came in episode one. Michelle Dockery's deft handling of Mary's widowhood was surpassed only by Penelope Wilton's subtle and extremely moving portrayal of a mother grieving her only son. Not to be outdone, Maggie Smith's delicate engagement of Mary with a rare confession of love for her granddaughter ranks right up there with the best the show has offered this year.

The Daisy/Ivy/Alfred triangle has run its course and much silliness ensued before it ended. Mrs. Hughes, it seems, has turned into quite the plotter, by necessity manipulating circumstances to save the day. Even though she found herself in the middle of what could be a great storyline, Lady Edith continues to bore, yet it seems to be more of the writer's fault than that of Laura Carmichael. Of course, Cora is always silly, more than a bit naive to everyone around her, and her husband the Earl of Grantham continues his downhill slide into insignificance. Let's not talk about Rose, but I will say that Gary Carr as Jack Ross deserves an extended time on the air.

The "Desire of Suitors"- well, it is a quite well chosen description. Evelyn Napier never stood a chance. The name betrayed him from the beginning. Tom Cullen's Lord Gillingham is charming, kind, but overly enthusiastic much too early. Clearly, Mr. Blake is the lead contender for Mary's affections, positioned as the one with a backbone but a good heart- shades of Matthew. Yet, I'm rooting for Tony. I'd love to see him do and say something unexpected to win Mary's respect and help her realize she doesn't know everything about him. 

Rumor's of Michelle Dockery's departure persist. I do hope she hangs around long enough to bring a satisfying ending to the show.  It's her wit, her resilience, and her dedication to taking care of the estate that make her appealing and propel the reason for watching. At this point in the series, should she leave, the cast and story would be lost without her. 

(Photograph by Nick Briggs.)

No comments: