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Downton Abbey Review: Let the Battle Commence

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The best news about the Downton Abbey Season 4 Episode 8 - better known as the season finale - was that this year we weren't made to suffer through a Christmas episode at the end of February.

Instead, we had to suffer through cousin Rose's presentation to society, which featured a historical romp through the royal life of the Prince of Wales, later known as King Edward VIII, and his early affairs before he abdicated the throne because of his love for and marriage to Wallis Simpson.

Whew! That's a mouthful.

As usual, for that portion of the festivities the costumes were impeccable and it was nice how they keenly wound the Prince's affair into the life of the Crowleys through the nefarious card sharp Mr. Sampson. But the Prince, King George and Queen Mary were all unnecessary and filler -- much like cousin Rose herself, poor dear.

The more important fare belonged to the people we know best - and wasn't that expected? Much like Rose's affair with Jack Ross, she's not going to stick just because they've thrown her character in front of the camera.

Grandma Martha made the trip across the pond and brought along Cora's brother Harold, played by heavy hitter Paul Giamatti. Shirley MacLaine could hardly show up with just anyone on her arm. While the latter didn't do much this time in England, Harold made an impact. 

If ever the series makes a move to America with Tom taking Sybil to a new life, there is a lot of material they could mine with the Levinsons and the actors on board playing the family. A spinoff out of England would be difficult given the U.S. doesn't have the historical locations available that they're used to shooting with on Downton, but it would be interesting to see the family continue on in the States.

Harold wasn't eager to visit England but by the time he left the country and its people had won him over. He even wanted to take Daisy back to America with him he so enjoyed her cooking -- almost as much as his valet Ethan fancied Daisy herself.

Daisy was finally on the receiving end of some much-deserved male attention. Even though it wasn't reciprocal, it gave her a spring in her step and the confidence to send Ivy away with her suitor in her stead. That's right -- it appears we are finally done with the insufferable Ivy. 

If the letters from Alfred continue, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if Daisy eventually found her happy ending with the man she had the guts to turn away. He's making an honorable living in London at The Ritz, Daisy is chuffed at receiving attention and friendships can always change down the road.

Nobody knows more about the nature of changing relationships better than Mary. Still not certain who the right man for her might be, she wavered for many different reasons before those offering their hands. It was surprising to learn at one point she felt she might be a burden to Charles Blake as his star seemed to be rising while hers was on the way down. It's not all about the money, after all. 

As much as I have been leading the charge for Blake to win the race (and continue to do so), Tony Gillingham setting Mary straight about Blake's true place in society was quite admirable. With the competition already very stiff, he didn't hold back information that made Blake look even better in Mary's eyes -- Blake is set to inherit one of the largest estates in Ulster. 

Of course this changed things, but not for reasons expected. Mary felt as if she and Blake would come to things more equally if they shared a similar plight -- not monetarily, but with respect to their circumstances in society and trying to run an estate. When she asked why he never mentioned it, he admitted he hoped she would choose him based solely on his other merits. More cards in the deck were immediately stacked in his favor, don't you think?

Edith returned to Downton after eight months away, deciding to wean her baby daughter before giving her up. Clearly she was attached and unsure of her decision. She learned Michael Gregson got into a fight his first night in Munich and that's when he went missing. He's likely presumed dead. 

After a conversation with Tom about how they are different than everyone else in the family, Edith realized her daughter didn't belong in Switzerland any more than she did. Is there any doubt Edith will eventually come out of the closet as an unwed mother?

Edith has been a feminist from the start and it would be highly unlikely she'll stop that train now that it's roaring down the tracks. Sybil would be quite proud of her big sister.

Thomas Barrow, unable to get the extraordinarily large chunk of wood out of his behind, has found his latest annoyance -- that he is required to call Tom Branson sir when if Tom hadn't fallen in love with and married Sybil he would be below him in the household rank.

Enough already. It's time for a chandelier to fall on his head, a horse to trample him or for Bates to trip him while he's on the street in York so he tumbles in front of a lorry. He's old and unwelcome news.

Meanwhile, the mystery of Bates may never be solved. Mary and Mrs. Hughes grappled with what to do once they found confirmation of Bates' presence in London on the day of Green's death, but they never really came to any conclusion. When a man is willing to do just about anything for you, it's difficult to turn your back on him.

Upon Bates' assistance in clearing things up with the Prince of Wales' affair, Mary came to that realization and threw the evidence into the fire, apparently content to let the issue die. Whether it come back to haunt Bates or the family we'll find out in the future.

It was cute watching Mrs. Hughes trying to subliminally persuade Carson to choose a day at the beach for the staff's day out. To Carson, that option was an utter failure when they could be doing things like visiting museums and Westminster Abbey. He's a bit dull until he gets some fresh air.

Closing out Downton Abbey Season 4 with the staff at the seashore, out of their formal attire and enjoying each other as friends was a perfect ending. That's where Daisy learned of Ethan's feelings for her and got rid of Ivy and Bates and Anna looked gloriously happy for a change.

Mr. Carson, usually so stuffy and formal, finally rolled up his pants and put his feet into the water. The connection we've been witnessing between him and Mrs. Hughes grew a little deeper as they flirted, grasped hands and agreed they always had each other to lean upon.

Mrs. Hughes: You can always hold my hand if it will make you feel a bit steady.
Carson: I don't know how, but you managed to make that sound a little risque.
Mrs. Hughes: And if I did, we're gettin' on Mr. Carson, you and I. We can afford to live a little.

It was a beautiful moment and a high note to carry the story forward into Downton Abbey Season 5.

If you want to relive any of this season or last, watch Downton Abbey online to get your fix of all the glorious costumes and brilliant colors from the award-winning series.

What story did you most enjoy?

 

Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.6 / 5.0 (24 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

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We'll I guess I'm in the minority. I liked this season of DA. I like how Fellowes will jump forward in time & cut out the boring, extraneous parts to get to the meat of the stories, like completely skipping over the "Edith & Rosamund road trip to Switzerland." I don't mind that we don't see the babies because I prefer watching Isobel & the Dowager Countess to Sybbie & George. LOVED the scenes at Grantham House & watching the Crawleys in the social whirl of London. And, yes, I like Rose. Without her, the Crawleys would still be talking pigs back in Yorkshire. Thank God she got them out of their rut (and Tom away from the snobby schoolteacher), and forced Lord Grantham into his Lord's uniform. Downstairs, there weren't a lot of changes in staff. But, it's been nice to see Daisy grow from a scared scullery maid into an experienced cook in her own right. Watching Mrs. Patmore mentor her is touching. Just seeing all the relationships deepen has been fulfilling. And, frankly, I don't care if Mr. Bates did push that rapist to his death. He had it coming.

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@ KansasGuest

I don't like the snobby schoolteacher either. I hope they don't bring her back next season. I love Daisy and Mrs. Patmore and Daisy with her father in law. I also loved how Daisy is growing into her own. What do you think about Mrs. Patmore and Daisy's father in law as a couple? They already are like her mother and father.

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@ Grimmfan#10

I think that's a wonderful idea - Mrs. Patmore & Daisy's FIL! There was a dearth of romance downstairs this season. Next season, I hope thinks look up for Mr. Moseley, Baxter, Daisy, Jimmy & the Bateses. Those two need a baby IMO. It would bring in another aspect of service that hasn't been shown - how servants raised families while waiting round-the-clock on someone else's family.

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@ KansasGuest

I agree 100% about Anna and Bates having a baby. That would have been a lot more interesting than her being raped. From what I understand being married and in service in the same house was rare. The better storyline would have been how do you handle being married and having children while in service. I have never really been a fan of Moseley but I love him and Baxter together. They make each other stronger and that is what real love is. Love Daisy but Jimmy he can go to America. Yes they need more love downstairs next season.

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I agree, this season was not very good. The stories got old after awhile, but this finale injected new life. Lots of possibilities for next season. I am not sure if the writer of this review knows much about America, but we have more than enough historical locations to film at. Martha Levinson even mentioned her Newport "cottage", they could definitely film at one of those. And any number of historical estates in New York City. Hopes for next season: -For the business with Mary to finally be over, marry Blake!
-For Paul Giamatti to have a lot more appearances
-Go to America!

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@ Rob

You tell her, Rob. The U.S. doesn't have historic locations among which to shoot?!?! Er, Carissa, have you ever travelled anywhere in the U.S.? We have an entire CONTINENT of estates that could easily double as Martha Levinson's New York mansion, Newport "cottage," Harold's yacht digs, & many, many more.

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@ KansasGuest

You guys -- I LIVE in America. Of course I've traveled here. HOWEVER, to shoot on location with the ease you can do it in Britain is not guaranteed. A cottage or a yacht? They have entire towns to rumble through that have barely been touched in centuries. We've not been so kind to our heritage. They would have to resort to sets. It would have a different feel. As a history buff, I wish we had preserved more and used the wrecking ball less. New is NOT better.

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DA was boring this year. The season final was the best show of the season. It really set the show up for season 5. I don't think Bates killed what ever his name is. They said he fell and there was lots of people around who show what happened. If Bates had pushed him I think someone would have seen it. I think that ass show Bates coming towards and was running and fell. I really loved the Edith storyline this year. I guess we will learn the little girl's name next season. Also what about Michael's wife? I think the farmer gentleman knows Edith had the baby and that is why he wants to keep it between Edith and him. He comes off as a real gentleman with class. I don't think he will use this information against Edith. I also got the feeling that Aunt Roseamond may have had a baby out of wedlock too. I loved the Daisy storyline. I think Daisy and Alfred will end up together. This epi really got on my nerves with the we hate Americans. We can't stand you just give us your money so we can keep our rich lifestyle. That is really getting old. I loved at the end when Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson walked hand in hand into the water...wow touching hands in public...so scandalous! Mrs. Hughes: You can always hold my hand if it will make you feel a bit steady.Carson: I don't know how, but you managed to make that sound a little risque.Mrs. Hughes: And if I did, we're gettin' on Mr. Carson, you and I. We can afford to live a little. So funny and sweet. Cheers to DA being better in 2015!

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@ Grimmfan#10

I had forgotten about Michael's wife! Thank you for reminding me. So has Edith apparently because if Michael was arrested in Germany before he had a chance to get a divorce (his entire reason for going there), then Edith is being a little presumptuous about inheriting anything from his will IMO. Power of attorney as editor is one thing. Expecting money when you are not a legal spouse is quite another.

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@ KansasGuest

I have also been wondering about Michael's in-laws. His wife doesn't have any family? I guess him and his wife didn't have children. I really like Edith and I hope things work out for her and Michael. I do feel like he loves her and respects her because he gave her so much control of his business. This is the only storyline that I cared for this season. I see legal problems ahead for Edith.

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Well....I'm sad it's over, but I'm not anxiously awaiting Season 5. That business with the letter was ridonkulous and while I like Paul Giamatti, he played such an unlikable character. Tom, STOP bringing stray women home--did that episode with Braithwaite teach you NOTHING?!?!?!?!?!? Good on Daisy; cheerio Ivy. Good on Baxter; get stuffed Barrow.

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Most of the entire series from the first series was bad soap opera, but this last one struck the right chords, and is to be commended for its pacing, dialogue and resolution of conflicts.

Downton Abbey Season 4 Episode 8 Quotes

Your niece is a flapper. Accept it.

Mary

I'd rather sleep on the roof than sleep with Edith.

Mary