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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The return of ‘Downton Abbey’

Downton Abbey airs Sundays at 8pm on PBS.
Downton Abbey airs Sundays at 8pm on PBS. Photo courtesy of IMDb.

This is the first recap in a series of recaps of “Downton Abbey” season four. This recap covers the first three episodes. Caution, contains spoilers.

After a brutal wait, season four has arrived to Downton at last. Season three broke the hearts of fans worldwide, as we had to say goodbye to the beloved Lady Sybil, who passed away during childbirth, and Matthew Crawley, who died in an automobile accident. Yet, even with the deaths of two key characters, season three also celebrated life with the birth of two new children to add to the Crawley family.

Despite the arrival of baby Sybil and baby George, a cloud of sadness looms over Downton Abbey. Season four begins six months after burying Matthew, and Lady Mary is still grieving the loss of her husband. This grief causes her to neglect not only life, but her son as well.

While her family and the staff empathize with Mary, they cannot help but try to get her back into “the world of the living,” as Granny, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, said. However, Mary refuses to move on with life and solve the issue of who will be given Matthew’s inheritance.

Lord Grantham, Mary’s father, thinks it’s best to keep Mary out of the decision making process in order to spare her the trouble, believing she has enough to deal with. However, it is clear Lord Grantham’s past biases influence his thinking, as he does not believe that a woman is capable of managing the estate. He would rather take control of Downton himself. It’s archaic thinking like this that remind me that the 1920s were not just a glamorous time with fancy dresses and jazz music.

Meanwhile, Edith’s romance with Mr. Gregson is starting to heat up. Her visits to London are becoming more frequent, and her time spent with Mr. Gregson longer. He begs for Edith to stay with him for a night on multiple occasions, and although she declines each time, she admits that “it’s getting harder and harder to say no.”

I believe this implies future conflict for Lady Edith. She is often overshadowed by her sisters, but I believe season four will turn the spotlight toward her. She often falls in love too quickly, and I believe this to be the focal point from which her conflict will arise this season. However, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy may not be the type of attention Edith is looking for, and season four will not be about Edith’s stability, but her discord.

Of course the drama does not just impact the Crawley family; it trickles downstairs to the staff as well. Ms. O’Brien “mysteriously” leaves Downton and is replaced by Edna, former housemaid and love interest to Tom. Jimmy starts to take an actual interest in Ivy, upsetting Alfred, who also likes Ivy, which in turn upsets Daisy, who likes Alfred. Looks like a complicated web of romance is blossoming in the basement of the Abbey.

Yet, the biggest shock of the show’s return is the rape of Anna by Mr. Green, Lord Gillingham’s valet. Mr. Green takes a liking to Anna when he first arrives at Downton, which makes Mr. Bates, Lord Crawley’s valet and Anna’s husband, uncomfortable. Anna, suffering from a bit of naivety and her disposition as a good person, does not find Mr. Green’s behavior to be inappropriate, until the night of the concert.

The Crawleys invite an opera singer to entertain the guests at Downton. It is during this concert that Anna leaves and goes to the kitchen, with Mr. Green following her. He confronts her about Mr. Bates and offers to give her a break from “an old cripple,” but when she refuses, Mr. Green gets violent.

Mrs. Hughes enters her office to find Anna, beaten and crying, realizing what has happened. She tries to convince Anna to tell her husband, as well as the police, but Anna begs Mrs. Hughes to tell no one. Believing the rape to be her fault, she begins to hide from Mr. Bates and excludes herself from the others.

I feel like I learn something new in each episode of “Downton Abbey,” whether it is referencing a historical event or portraying the culture and social life of 1920s Britain.

While seasons one, two and three focused primarily on pre- and post-World War I, I foresee season four tackling issues of society and social justice and how these two ideas are linked to the ideology of the times.

With Anna’s attack, Edith’s love affair with a married man, Rose’s fascination with a black band singer and the ultimate decision on how to preserve Downton, season four is loaded with hot button issues of the time. It will be interesting to see how these conflicts unfold.

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  • M

    Marlette Marly Armstrong JonesJan 24, 2014 at 7:13 am

    Great recap! As we’ve been watching the episodes I have been thinking how modern conveniences change our lifestyles, but many social issues tend to be timeless. Downton allows us to peek into the pre-WWI lives of the characters at the abbey. Watching how people treated one another and how others react to life’s every day obstacles are intriguing to me. The show is appealing because it is riddled with secrets of love, scandals and the way characters respond to their circumstances.

    I admit I liked when Mrs. Hughes outwitted Edna and I can’t help myself wishing Mr. Green gets his as well! I’m a sucker for karma! I would also like Isobel to find happiness with Dr. Clarkson as her love interest. As far as Mary goes…hmmm, will Tom and her hook up? I am torn about this because it would be so odd to marry your sister’s husband. (okay, back then they did that more often – but ewww!) What would Mary, Tom and the children call one another? My cousin-brother / cousin-sister / mom-aunt Mary / dad-uncle Tom…at least Grandpa and Grandma would be the same – ha!

    Until next time!