So Downton Abbey’s fourth season starts this Sunday (January 5) and you just realized that the sudden toasting of a certain golden English muffin at the end of Season 3 pretty much wiped your memory of all things related to the Crawleys. There’s just been this perpetual loop of sad going round and round the Downton Abbey corner of your mind with little room left for less depressing details.
Well, it’s time to hit pause on that because Season 4 is a-comin' and there are lots of characters still up and about causing trouble. Here’s a primer on where the show’s leading lords and ladies (and their help) stand at the conclusion of Season 3 as well as a slight hint at what Season 4 has in store for each:
Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery)
Despite looming fears she would die in childbirth like her younger sister Sybil, Lady Mary made it through safely...only to lose her husband in a tragic car crash as he’s on the way home to pick up the rest of the family. To make things even worse, Season 3 ends with a blissful Mary completely unaware of what’s just happened to her Matthew.
What to expect: Tears. And black. Lots of black.
Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael)
Bruised and battered after once again being stood up by a man she thought loved her, Lady Edith was on a campaign to breakaway from the confines of her cloistered family. She took a job writing for a daily paper in London where, of course, she once again fell for an unavailable man. This time, however, Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) actually seemed interested in Edith. Too bad he’s married.
What to expect: Independence and heartbreak, not necessarily in that order.
Robert and Cora Crawley (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern)
Season 3 saw this long-standing couple hit rough waters as they faced looming bankruptcy and the sudden death of their youngest daughter. By the season finale, however, the ship seemed back on course.
What to expect: Weathering the storm, once again.
Tom Branson (Allen Leech)
Devastated by the death of his love Sybil, Tom rallied all the courage he had to face life as a single father to baby Sybbie. He considered leaving Downton for good but when he was offered the role of estate agent, Tom decided to try and make a go of it with the Crawleys.
What to expect: A new chapter begins but not without a few missteps along the way.
Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith)
The Dowager was in fine form after cleverly suggesting Tom take a new role as Downton’s agent. She continued to be one of the family’s strongest pillars, offering Cora the comfort she needed as she struggled with Sybil’s untimely death.
What to expect: As sassy as ever but advanced age does rear its ugly head.
Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton)
After politely declining any further advances from Dr. Clarkson (David Robb), Isobel headed to Scotland with the rest of the family to visit Duneagle Castle, only to turn right back around for the arrival of her first grandbaby. In the Christmas Special, Isobel journeyed to Downton where she saw her son for the last time.
What to expect: Depression followed by a renewed interest in others.
Rose MacClare (Lily James)
The troublesome Scottish cousin of the Crawleys showed just how hard her home life was in the Season 3 Christmas Special when the family came to visit her in Scotland. She makes her escape, however, by snagging an invite to stay at Downton while Mummy and Daddy go to India.
What to expect: More antics, bigger consequences.
Mr. John Bates and Anna Bates (Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt)
Our parting memories of Downton’s leading downstairs couple are of Mr. Bates and Anna merrily painting the walls of their cozy little cottage and Anna dancing up a reel in Scotland. Everything finally looked sunny for the pair, who spent most of Season 3 apart as Mr. Bates fought to survive in prison and Anna struggled to clear his name.
What to expect: Nothing good.
Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier)
The rarely selfless Thomas put his neck on the line to help fellow staff member — and total eye candy — Jimmy Kent (Ed Speleers). But as Jimmy made clear, there’s no chance of love blooming between them. They can, however, be friends and, you know what, Thomas really needs a good friend.
What to expect: In search of a new partner in crime, he’ll still be up to his old tricks.
Looking for even more Season 4 spoilers? Well, not to rub it in, but we’ve already seen the whole series! Check out our spoiler roundup for all the deets but, like we said, spoilers lie ahead.