Here’s a better question: What doesn’t happen to Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) in Season 4 of Downton Abbey?
Last we saw the eldest Crawley daughter, she was beaming over the arrival of her first child, son George, alongside her equally blissful husband, Matthew (Dan Stevens). Indeed, the new dad was so at peace with the world he couldn’t keep his eyes on the road and died in a bloody car crash immediately after leaving Mary’s bedside. And so Season 3 ends. Ugh, it still hurts even now, almost a year later.
But enough living in the past. Season 4 is here and Lady Mary’s still alive... barely. The series opens six months after Matthew’s crash and Mary can barely be persuaded to leave her room. She can’t stand to look at baby George and won’t wear anything but black. Things are looking so somber it takes the combined forces of Grandmama Violet (Maggie Smith) and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) to show Mary the choice in front of her: Either give up on life and leave George an orphan, or turn toward the light and move forward.
Thankfully, Mary chooses the latter, relying on that same inner resilience that got her through the sudden death of Kemal Pamuk (Theo James), blackmail from a fiancé, and a world war. Mary also finds new meaning in running the estate, which she’s now heir to in her own right thanks to some legal wizardry worked by her late husband before his untimely death.
Life isn’t all pig farming and crop rotation, however. The beautiful young widow soon catches the eye of several new suitors. The top contenders for Mary’s hand — Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen) and Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden) — find her not exactly opened to their offers. Gilly even goes so far as to propose with Mary telling him flat out that she’s not ready to love again after Matthew.
But time passes and Mary slowly rediscovers the joy in her life. She starts wearing color again and constantly critiquing her younger sister Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) every move — just like old times!
By the end of the season, Mary has a stronger relationship than ever with her lady’s maid, Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt), and seems to be warming up to her duties as a single mother. She even appears open to letting love back in, much to the delight of both Gillingham and Blake. Whether or not she will marry again, however, remains to be seen.