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Groin Tarasov
Groin Tarasov

Downton Abbey - Season 4 ...

It seems to me that what we just enjoyed in this premier episode was watching all the pins being set up for the season. The bowling balls will come rolling down the lane soon enough, but for now it was a sweet pleasure to simply relax and watch new depths and shades being explored in these expertly drawn characters. We do love them so!

Downton Abbey - Season 4 ...

To this point, Season 4 is the year where Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) comes to the fore. Given the unexpected and therefore deeply traumatic death of Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) in the third season, the Crawley sisters have been a fragmented lot, though they're joined in the estate's well-appointed drawing room by Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James), who appears within the show to both create mischief and lower the average age of the characters by pushing out the youth contingent once more. While Edith has featured prominently in the show's myriad of plots, the middle Crawley sister has often been given short shrift, typically reduced to being either a foil for Mary or a doormat of sorts, either driving a tractor or getting left at the altar. But in the fourth season, Edith finally blossoms, becoming a truly modern woman with both her own desires and her own secrets.

When Edith enters a gorgeous London restaurant to meet her married editor, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), there's a realization that she is one of the few members of the Crawley clan to look toward and embrace the future and its possibilities. And Carmichael seems to relish the opportunity to play Edith not as a nag nor a misunderstood villainess, but as the heroine of her own story, one whose romantic impulses have been thwarted in the past (poor, poor Edith) but who is approaching her first blush of love with the ardor of a woman who is determined to change her fate in a way. It's even more unfortunate then that her storyline is advanced at such a minute level that it quickly becomes infuriating, particularly when the season ends without much clarity on that front. (And, yes, I'm being intentionally vague here for reasons that will become clear once you view the season as a whole.)

The ongoing romantic tensions surrounding Branson also fall flat, including a head-scratching decision to bring back the particularly odious Edna (MyAnna Buring), who seems to have wandered in from an entirely different show altogether; another potential match for Branson fails to generate any excitement or chemistry whatsoever. These all add up to the feeling that there's a lot of treading water going on within the fourth season of Downton Abbey, or a sense that storylines are being deliberately held back for Season 5, which has already been commissioned.

Downton Abbey has always thrived when it's taken chances with its now-familiar characters and plots. Season 3 was a gloriously fraught rollercoaster of emotions, resulting in dizzying highs and shocking lows (and a truly bizarre finale). But Season 4 doesn't quite live up to expectations established by last season or the show's glittering, perfect first season. There is still joy to be had within its hallowed halls (Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess forever!), but it's tempered by the loss of some of the show's most intriguing characters and by the feeling that too many plots are being retread upon at this point. Ultimately, Season 4 of Downton is a year of rebuilding, but the result, while pretty, isn't particularly structurally sound.

When Downton Abbey first aired, Julian Fellowes (creator and producer) was annoyed at the media for pointing out anachronisms like TV aerials and the use of the word 'boyfriend'. (The word 'boyfriend appeared in print in 1889, long before the period setting of Downton). Fellowes said "they think to show how smart they are by picking holes in the program to promote their own poshness and to show that their knowledge is greater than your knowledge". In a later article coinciding with the start of the second season, Fellowes apologised and commented "I behaved rather badly by getting the hump."

Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton announced the official U.S. airdate for Season 4 of the award-winning period drama Tuesday at the PBS Annual Meeting. Downton's fourth season will run for eight weeks, from January 5 to February 23, 2014, roughly the time timeframe as its third season, which aired in the U.S. earlier this year. (In the U.K., Season 4 will air this autumn on ITV.)

"Masterpiece fans will not be disappointed: Julian [Fellowes] has done another brilliant job," Eaton wrote in an email to The Daily Beast, "this time, portraying the Downton family moving on from the tragedies of last season."

I'm actually more sad about her departure than Matthew's death for three reasons 1) O'Brien provided more drama in one episode (remember when she tried to out Thomas last season?) than Matthew did in 3 seasons 2) O'Brien could always be relied upon for a good, evil glare, and 3) her presence in the house in and of itself provided conflict. Lord Gratham hated her, but Cora loved her, putting her right in-between husband and wife. She and Thomas were allies against the rest of the household, until Thomas ticked her off, and then it was O'Brien vs. Thomas in the most epic downstairs power struggle in the history of the show. Even her relationship with Cora was full of conflict (she did try to kill her, after all, and did succeed in having Cora lose her baby).

The last chapter of season four starts with Rose being presented to society. Decked out in a big fancy dress and an elaborate veil, she ascended down the stairs, in front of the king and queen of England gracefully. And much like my version of being presented to society, otherwise known as prom, the night was filled with drama.

For three seasons, the British period drama has held viewers worldwide spellbound, but for some, that spell was broken with the tragic events of the Season 3 finale. After an idyllic visit to the hospital in which Downton heir Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) visited his wife Mary (Michelle Dockery) and their newborn son George, Matthew perished suddenly in an auto accident on the way home. 041b061a72


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