After the September 22 UK premiere of Downton Abbey Season 4, we were hoping the sunny weather would continue — both literally and in terms of Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) mood. Although Mary’s not quite up to dancing to one of Cousin Rose’s (Lily James) jazz records in Episode 2, she does seem to be firmly back amongst the living. It’s a huge relief; we were starting to worry our tears would never dry.
Matthew Returns from the Grave
Within the first 30 seconds of the episode Matthew (Dan Stevens) returns...kind of. Sadly, our fantasies of him somehow not being dead — think more Patrick Swayze in Ghost, less Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — didn’t come true but we got the next best thing: a handwritten letter.
It’s been six months but finally the folks at Matthew’s office got around to sending the Crawleys his personal items including—brace yourself—that little toy dog Mary gave Matthew to keep him safe during the war. If only he’d had that lucky charm the day he went driving home from the hospital!
Also in the box, a note addressed to Mary. Its contents turn the question of who will inherit Downton upside down — again. It seems Matthew wanted his wife to be his sole heiress because, as he so wisely wrote, he knew that no matter the sex of their as then unborn child, “I do know it will be a baby” and so unable to properly run the estate. Great news, right? Not for the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville).
We want to think Robert has Mary’s best intentions in mind but the pout he puts on upon hearing he might have to cede rights to his eldest daughter reminds us he’s pretty much a spoiled rich kid. Thankfully, Robert’s own mother, the Dowager Countess Violet (Maggie Smith), is there to set him right. “When you talk like that, I’m tempted to ring for nanny and have you put to bed with no supper,” she says upon hearing his plans to keep the letter from Mary. Score one for the Dowager.
Still pouting, Robert consults the family lawyer who confirms that Matthew’s letter will count as his will, and so just like that, Mary becomes owner of half of Downton. Most of the family (Robert’s still put out) seems thrilled by the development. Particularly happy is Tom Branson (Allen Leech) whom Granny commissions as Mary’s tutor in the ways of the Abbey. Funny how Tom always seems to find himself playing chauffeur to the Crawleys.
Of course, just because Mary owns half of the estate doesn’t mean it’ll be easy going with Daddy. We expect much debate over how to pay the death dues owed on Downton. Start reading up on your early 20th century English tax code.
Poor Mr. Molesley — Round 2
As we’d already seen in a special sneak peek, life hasn’t gotten any easier for Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle). In fact, after running into him, downcast and desperate, in the village, Anna is quite dispirited, too. Seeing his dear Anna so sad, Bates sets out to make things right for his beloved’s one-time suitor. He’s so determined to help, Bates even seeks out the aid of the Dowager with the expected hilarious consequences.
Through some careful planning and a little light forgery (“Prison was an education,” he’ll later tell Anna), Bates makes it seem like he owes Molesley the staggering sum of 30 pounds from an earlier loan. He strategically presents the money in front of several witnesses so a flabbergasted Molesley can do nothing but accept it. Well played, Bates. Well played.
Edna Braithwaite: The New O’Brien?
Now that O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) is out of the picture, Thomas needs a new sparring partner and who better than established troublemaker Edna Braithwaite? As the Countess of Grantham’s (Elizabeth McGovern) new lady’s maid, Edna has a position of power that appeals to the conniving Thomas. She’s also got just the right streak of evil to help him execute his most fiendish plans.
Unfortunately, the duo decide to make Anna the target of their first scheme together despite Anna going out of her way to give Edna a little advice. “Mr. Barrow never bothered with you when you were a housemaid,” she rightly points out to Edna. “I would keep him at arm’s length if I were you.”
Of course, Edna thinks she knows better and perhaps that the handsome Thomas likes her (bad news, honey. He plays for a different cricket team). As a result, she goes along with his plot to make Anna look bad in the eyes of the Earl and Countess. We foresee a showdown at a later date: Bates and Anna versus Thomas and Evil Sidekick. Our money’s on the guy who made it through prison.
Carson's Hidden Secret Revealed
During the premiere, a long lost acquaintance of Mr. Carson’s arrived in the village through the combined efforts of Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and Isobel (Penelope Wilton). Grigg’s arrival brought up memories the typically stoic Carson had long tucked away including painful recollections of a pretty lady known as Alice.
As we suspected, Carson, or Charlie as we will now always refer to him in our heads, had his heart broken by Alice when she chose his stage partner over him. After some conjoling by the forever good intentioned but perpetually meddlesome Isobel, Carson decides to “close the wound” once and for all. This leads to an amazing scene of him walking through the steam on a railway platform that we hope someone made a meme of.
Once the smoke clears, Grigg tells Carson what we totally knew was true: Alice did indeed love him, she was just too young and foolish to realize it at the time. Her final words to Grigg? “Charlie Carson was the better man.”
The look of muted joy that washes over Mr. Carson’s face upon hearing this makes us want to give him a hug as big as the one he gave Mary in Episode 1.
Romance Returns to the Abbey
Despite a rather loveless premiere, Julian Fellowes turned up the romance-o-meter for Episode 2. This week we follow Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) as she lunches privately at the home of her paramore Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) (the scandal!) and we join Cousin Rose as she two-steps her way over to a tea dance in York.
Despite the presence of Anna as chaperone, the pretty young Rose immediately gets into trouble when she catches the eye of a local named Sam. Thankfully, Jimmy Kent (Ed Speleers) is there to break up a fistfight and rush the two ladies home. Who would have thought Jimmy would ever be a calming force? Perhaps his newfound affection for Ivy has tamed his wild side. Maybe.
The same isn’t true for Sam from York who is so mesmerized by Rose’s beauty he tracks her down at Downton where he thinks “Rose Smith” works as a housemaid. In a scene that reminded us of Anna scurrying around to help Lady Mary cover her tracks when Kemal Pamuk died unclothed in her bed during Season 1, Anna outfits Rose in a maid’s uniform so she can say her goodbyes to Sam.
As much as we would have loved a little upstairs-downstairs, star-crossed love affair, Rose, surprisingly, does the mature thing and cuts Sam free — after she kisses him and a baffled Jimmy walks out to see her dressed as a maid. “Say nothing and I’ll be your friend forever,” she whispers while waving goodbye to her Yorkish crush.
The quote of the night goes to Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) when she tells the never lucky in love Daisy Mason (Sophie McShera): “Nothing’s as changeable as a young man’s heart. Take hope and a warning from that.” We’ll be stitching that on a pillow during the next episode.
In the previews for Episode 3, we finally get a look at Lord Anthony Gillingham (Tom Cullen). This old family friend or, as Earl Robert refers to him, “that glamorous pirate” has his eyes set on Lady Mary much to the disapproval of Matthew’s meddling mama. Sorry Isobel, but we’re totally Team Tony.