Sorry for the late post–it’s been a fairly hectic last few days in many different areas of my life. More on that in a day or two, but for now, I’m here to give a report on the finale of Downton’s fourth season, an episode that was really just a home run in my book. It did so many things right, that it pretty much made up for most of the messes that the middle episodes stumbled into. After some floundering for a direction and a clue, I’m very relieved that the show seems back on firmer footing. And let’s face it: after last season’s bloody ending, finding a way toward normalcy was far from a done deal. Thank goodness we have no such troubles this time.
Particular story lines that stood out to me:
- Rose has somehow managed to stop being annoying. What a wonderful thing! This was an episode where she did some silly things, but they were silly things that can be forgiven, and she handled the consequences in a sensible manner. It’s much easier to forgive a character for their mistakes if they do the right thing as soon as they’ve discovered they made them. Her whole “coming out” plot line was also a great example of Downton playing to its strengths, exploring an aspect of British society in the early 1900s that most people have very little understanding of. (And by “most people,” I of course mean me.)
- The whole “stolen letter” plot was a lot of fun. Court intrigue on Downton? Sure, why not? It managed to draw on several earlier plot lines that had been introduced over the course of the season (the poker cheat, Rose going to late parties, Bates being awesome, etc.) and tie them together in a big whole.
- Bates is really turning into the “man who can do anything” plot device. If Downton ever has a nuclear bomb set to go off on the property in thirty minutes, I’m sure they’ll just turn to Bates, who will reveal he’s a pro at bomb diffusion and nuclear physics (just to make him even cooler). This just cements in my mind the fact that if the show makes it to World War II, Bates is going to already be dead. Otherwise, the Granthams would just send him over to Germany on his lonesome, and he’d have the whole Hitler thing taken care of in a weekend.
- Edith–The best way to stop being an annoying character and to start being one we can admire is to stop sitting around bemoaning your fate all the time and to start being proactive. I was very pleased to see her learn this at the end of the episode–even though it clearly will cause some troubles in the future. That’s fine by me. She’s trying to do her best with the lot that’s been given to her–although I will say that the acrobatics the show went through to try to introduce some mention of Nazis seemed far fetched to me, to say the least.
- The American family–Great stuff here, with Giamatti playing his role perfectly. I loved the American servant and how clueless he was about the “proper” way of doing things. Lots of opportunity for humor. Fun times.
- Bates and the murder mystery. Did he? Didn’t he? Who cares. I’m glad they burned the evidence, and I really hope that’s the last we hear of that plot. Good riddance.
- Carson Plans a Day Out–Anything to involve Carson in a plot is a good thing. I love his character. He’s consistently excellent and always reliable. Very funny.
- Thomas the Weasel–Thomas being Thomas. I’m still surprised the Granthams haven’t caught on to his weaselness, but what can you do? Not sure what he’s got over Cora’s new maid, but I suppose that’s for next season.
- Tom continues to be in a precarious situation, but it’s one I think the writers are handling well, and it’s an opportunity for continued conflict without resorting to soap opera dramatics.
- Finally, Lady Mary and Her Suitors–She’s changed as a character. The change wasn’t introduced well, but now that I understand that, I’m much more at ease with the plot line. I still think Lord Gillingham is an idiot, and I have no idea what she sees in him, but it’s not like I’m the one who’d be stuck with him if she’s dumb enough to marry him. Next season could be entertaining as we watch them vie for her affections. But I still miss Matthew.
And there you have it. After the rough patch the season hit in episode three, I wondered if it could be salvaged. Thankfully the show seems to have turned a corner. In the end, I’d say this is the third best season. Season one is by far the strongest, followed by season three, then season four, and then season two. So if they keep alternating in quality, maybe we’re up for a smashing season five.
What about you? What are your thoughts?