Stale Tea, Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 1

The first episode of the new season of Downton Abbey was like my New Year’s resolutions, same resolutions, different year.  After the untimely exits of Matthew and Sybil in season 3, the show runners seem to have run out of ideas.  The first episode focuses on the characters most affected by Matthew’s death, his widow Mary, mother Isobel and  butler Molesley are coping with the loss six months after his accidental death. Instead of moving ahead, the characters seem to be in some kind of a loop, where they keep repeating what they have already done before.

The estate is again in financial difficulties, this time it is because of death duties. Lord Grantham is both pompous and clueless while earlier he was just clueless. Everybody is worried about Mary, this time its because she is mopey. Meanwhile the chopped liver middle child, Edith fancies another unsuitable potential suitor. This one is married and supposedly has a crazy wife who he wants to get rid off by becoming a German citizen so that he can get a divorce.  Yes, that will end well.   Cora’s lady’s maid, the evil O’Brien has ditched her and gone to India but don’t worry before the episode is over Lady Gullible hires herself another conniving she-monster, Edna. If you remember Edna was last seen flirting with the chauffer turned son-in-law, Branson which led to her being fired by Mrs. Hughes.  Branson plays the voice of modernity and reason since both Matthew and Sybil are now dead. Bates and Anna have gone back to being a boring perfect couple. I am sure that’s not going to last long.  We also get some laughs at poor hapless Molesley’s expense, like we did in the past two seasons.  Isobel, Matthew’s mother also manages to find herself another rescue human, courtesy Mrs. Hughes.  Rescue human, is Carson’s old friend and recent blackmailer.  We have a new character, an evil nanny who gets herself fired through the machinations of evil Thomas who everyone now calls Mr. Barrow. There is tedious quadrangle between Daisy, Ivy and the two footmen.  Somewhere in there was Rose, Lord Grantham’s niece, being an infernal busybody in a sack-like outfit.

The highlights of the show remain Maggie Smith and the gorgeous production values. I have to say that I am not loving the sack-like 20’s fashions much either.  I will probably still end up watching it though, because bad as it is compared to the earlier seasons, it is still better than most of what passes for entertainment on TV, plus Maggie Smith!

Grade: C

ETA: Betty Cracker over at Balloon Juice has some excellent suggestions for Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey.

@schrodinger’s cat: I would have left a comment to your Downton review at your blog, but I can’t because FYWP. Here’s what I would have said:

Maggie Smith could carry that damn castle on her back. Here’s a possible plot twist: The Dowager Countess is secretly a witch — Professor Minerva McGonagall of Hogwarts, in fact, who is only imitating a Muggle whilst hiding out during a faculty row at the school. Disgusted with the wretched behavior and whinging she constantly hears all around her, she resorts to transfiguration, turning Thomas into a ferret, Lady Mary into a stoat, Lady Rose into a stinkbug and His Lordship into a slug, which is promptly swallowed by Isis, the adorable Labrador retriever and most admirable cast member. Hilarity ensues!

I don’t know about you,  but I would definitely watch that show!


Posted on January 6, 2014, in Movies, TV shows and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. The Fat Kate Middleton

    Totally agree with your review … didn’t quit watching, because I’d been so looking forward to this. I thought about it, though.

  2. yup, I think that sums it up. I’m always awed by the fact that this show started after the sinking of the Titanic in ,,what, 1912..?? and now it is 1922 and the characters don’t seem to have changed much at all, except for poor Edith who is either finding herself or getting involved in another unsuitable and destructive relationship.

    If anything has some redeeming social value, it is the way the show portrays the changing role of women in that turbulent time. And I can’t stop watching……..

  3. I sort of like the Bateses as the perfect loving couple amid all the sorrow. Of course, what I want them to become is monsters of happiness, a force in the house that all the other grouchy people unite against. But I doubt the writers go there. Also, I was getting rather tired of servants stepping up and telling the richies what to do. I mean, yay for them, but richies hardly ever put up with this in the history of ever. But then Mary just eviscerated Carson! I hated watching it, but it was real. Alas, it was only so Downton could play takeback! Ah, well, we’ll always have, “Oh, yes, it’s Valentines Day.”

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