Some things never change, but Downton isn’t one of them.
Downton Abbey always has been a show about change. Whether it was the changing role of the old English estates as presented in series one, the changing world as a result of the war in series two, or the post-war effect upon Downton in season three, no one could ever say that Downton remained the same for long.
And with the way they ended season three, it’s clear that they intend to continue changing things on Downton, whether for good or not. There’s been a lot of talk about new developments for season four, some of which I’m so excited about, and others that make me a bit nervous.
Be warned, the rest of this article contains spoilers, so if you haven’t watched yet, don’t read on!
Last week, the Daily Mail featured an article about the beginnings of a filming process for series four, featuring a headline that stated “cast at the graveside of Matthew Crawley.” The article showed images from set, including some of the actors smiling and laughing together, in stark contrast to the bleakness of their surroundings.
According to the article, the season will begin six months after Matthew’s death. Now, I know Downton has been known to skip time periods (such as by cramming an entire war into one season), but why skip the immediate mourning period for Matthew?
It seems to me that some of the greatest drama would be in that time, where the effects of his absence would be most palpable. Mary would be adjusting to life both as a mother and a widow, and after six months, those adjustments would have been worked out a significant amount. Of course, she’d never fully recover to the death of her husband, but I wonder what drama we will lose by skipping ahead that much.
In the not-so-surprising department, there are also rumours of a new love interest for Mary. I mean, now that Sybil has been married and died and Edith has had numerous boyfriends to the point where it’s a bit silly, it’s only logical that they’d write in a new love interest for the new widow.
Lord Anthony Gillingham seems a perfect match for Mary, with the article stating that his riches would be a great aid to Lord Grantham for the still-failing estate. He sounds wonderful, but we all know he can’t be too perfect – where’s the fun in that?
In regards to love interests, I couldn’t help but notice a photo in the article of Isobel Crawley and Dr. Clarkson walking side-by-side on set. We thought we saw the end of that relationship when put Dr. Clarkson in the “friend zone” at the fair – but maybe we were wrong!
It’s also come to light that Matthew is not the only character who won’t be returning for season four. Siobhan Finneran has made it public that she’s left Downton Abbey. She has said that she’d be open to making guest appearances, but she will no longer be a regular on the series.
I have to say, I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me is grateful. I’ve gotten a little bored with the cat-and-mouse games that O’Brien and Thomas have been playing the last series and a half. However, I really feel that her character has only just begun developing.
Early in the series, she was purely evil, with no redeeming qualities to speak of. But after purposefully miscarrying Cora’s baby, her character gained a level of depth we hadn’t seen before. There was so much more to O’Brien, and I was much more interested in her than I ever had been previously. It’s sad to see her go, but I’m sure there will be new maids to make drama downstairs.
One of the things I am most excited about, however, is the inclusion of a new black cast member. It’s been said that the drama is currently looking for an actor to play Jack Ross, a musician, for a storyline about race relations. All I can say on that is “Thank God, finally!”
I felt that last season a lot of possible storylines about the social climate of the 1920s were ignored in favor of silly, soap-opera drama. For example, when Edith went to work at the newspaper, instead of focusing on the idea of women taking jobs that traditionally belonged to men after the devastation of the war, they made the job solely into an opportunity for her to fall into another relationship with too much baggage.
The Roaring Twenties were a period of so much exciting change! It seems that the writers are finally catching on to this fact, and though I’ve heard nothing about expanding Edith’s career plans, it’s fantastic to hear that they’ll include a storyline about another social aspect of the 1920s, race. We’re also finally getting a black actor on this show, which is fantastic, considering how white-washed it is.
I mean, can we honestly say that in the entirety of the Downton world, there wouldn’t be one black person? I’m glad to see that this problem will be rectified. And since the description of the character given to potential actors is “A real man (not a boy) with charm and charisma,” I’m looking forward to seeing another good-looking face in this already attractive cast.
After the way season three ended, I vehemently said to myself and anyone that would ask that I would not watch season four, because I didn’t want to give patronage to bad writing. Okay, maybe I was being a little dramatic – of course I would watch season four, even if it was only out of curiosity.
But with the addition of the new storyline and an ever-changing cast, I think season four sounds more promising than originally thought. Here’s hoping Downton returns to its original clever, deeply thought out storylines and turns away from the petty drama we’ve seen for a while.
Read this article for more cast additions.