Although Season 4 of Downton Abbey kicks off six months after Matthew’s untimely demise, Mary remains such a Debbie Downer that it might as well be six minutes after. That is, until she receives a letter from the dear departed that changes not only her demeanor but, frankly, everything. Pour yourself a cup of tea – or, better yet, ring for it – and read on. I’ll fill in the blanks.
BLACK IS THE NEW BLACK? | When word of Mrs. O’Brien’s departure spreads in the first few minutes of the two-hour episode – she’s been poached by Rose’s mother – it’s all the servants can do to refrain from breaking out in a chorus of “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead.” Mind you, Mary, doing her best Mrs. Danvers impression, is quick to fill the void of unpleasantness. Leaving no one off the guest list for her pity party, she refers to her son as a “poor little orphan,” lashes out at Carson (dear, sweet Carson, of all people!) for urging her to rejoin the living and becomes so hysterical at dinner that she almost makes Violet lose her appetite. (Almost. Violet does love a good mousse.) All the while, Robert encourages everybody to continue coddling the widow so that he can look after baby George’s inheritance – half of Downton – and, in effect, be the estate’s sole lord and master once more. Even after he receives a letter in which Matthew states his intention to make Mary his sole heiress, he throws tantrums and fights to maintain control. (To the point that his mother is “tempted to ring for Nanny and have [him] put to bed with no supper.”) Finally, however, Robert’s attorney rules that the pseudo-will is legit, and Mary, not her infant, is her father’s new partner! With color returned at last to her wardrobe and Tom to tutor her in property management, Mary seems likely to do just fine, too. But that, of course, is anything but fine with Robert. You can practically feel his teeth grinding when she says – with that familiar spark back in her voice – “I have ideas, you know!”
GOOD GRIEF | Nearby, Matthew’s mother is also in (a less aggressively sour kinda) mourning. In fact, the born busybody is so blue that she won’t even rehire Molesley, who’s been left unemployed by his master’s passing. “These days,” she tells the butler, “I’m just an old widow who eats off a tray.” To which Violet responds – in classic Violet fashion – “Just because you’re an old widow, I see no necessity to eat off a tray.” Thankfully, Isobel is snapped out of her funk by the opportunity to help Grigg, a down-on-his-luck theatre performer to whom Carson once lost a lady love. And Molesley is bailed out of debt by Anna and Bates (and Violet’s money).
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THIS ONE’S A KEEPER | While the rest of the household goes on about Mary, Mary’s depression, Mary’s future, Mary’s inheritance and Mary’s spilled perfume (no kidding – an actual plot point), Edith keeps bopping off to London, where she dresses to kill and canoodles – in public, no less! – with Michael. And who can blame her for going both all out and all in for her editor? He’s so enamored of her that he’s willing to become a German citizen so that he can divorce his mentally ill wife and marry her!
CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS | In her haste to replace Mrs. O’Brien, Cora rehires Edna, the manipulative minx who, unbeknownst to her ladyship, was tossed out for throwing herself at Tom. “It all sounds like a ticking time bomb to me,” sighs Mrs. Hughes. And how right she is. (Isn’t she always?) After ruining one of Cora’s garments, Edna takes Thomas’ advice and lets him put the blame on Anna, who, naturally, has warned the newcomer to steer clear of the troublemaker. So, in short, she’s just Mrs. O’Brien without the poodle ’do!
THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS | Bored at Downton, Rose fibs that she’s a servant at a dance for commoners (with Anna in tow as chaperone), then is forced to dress up as a housemaid for real – and invent a fiancé! – when her partner, Sam, shows up at Downton with hearts in his eyes. Speaking of hearts, Daisy’s is dinged when she learns that her Valentine’s Day card is from Mrs. Patmore, not Alfred, whose crush, Ivy, comes home from a pub date with Jimmy drunk as the proverbial skunk.
Okay, your turn. What did you think of the premiere? Were you relieved that Mary (sorta) got her groove back? Or do you prefer brittle, bitchy Mary? Will you miss Mrs. O’Brien, or are you looking forward to the new scheme team of Edna and Thomas? (By the by, do you think the show made the nanny that he got axed vile so that we’d dislike Thomas less? If so, #fail. He only did that good deed by accident, didn’t he?) How nice is it to see Edith coming into her own? (If she has to do it away from her family, so be it, I say!) Isn’t it time for there be some movement in the Alfred/Ivy/Jimmy/Daisy quadrangle? Grade the episode below and then elaborate in the comments!