THE DARK ROAD DOWN THE GRIEVING PROCESS
Following the devastating deaths last season, the Crawleys find ways to move on. Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) faces the reality of being a widow while Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and Branson (Allen Leech) continue their work of saving the estate. However, they aren’t the only ones within the Downton Abbey household that must face changes.
The biggest thing going into this new season was the prospect of Lady Mary’s future. Matthew (Dan Stevens) was beloved by all. It was painful to let him go and by the way, Dan Stevens apologizes for upsetting you. Perhaps I loved Matthew too much but I can’t quite say that I was impressed with Mary’s new suitors. This season brought the return of Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) but, just like in Series 1, he pretty much has no chance with Mary.
An old family friend, Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen), is open about his feelings for Mary and even breaks off his engagement to another woman to be with Mary. Unfortunately, she’s still mourning for Matthew. Finally, there’s Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden) who butts heads with Mary at first but after a muddy bonding session there appear to be some sparks. These are the two main contenders are really Gillingham and Blake and while Blake seems to resemble Matthew a lot I was disappointed to find out that he in fact came from a privileged background. The last thing I want is a Matthew replacement. However, Gillingham is so forward with Mary from the start that I was turned off that he asked for her hand in marriage when it was clear that she wasn’t over Matthew. Mary hasn’t made her decision but for now they were underwhelming.
In fact, I enjoyed watching Mary bond with Branson a lot more than her suitors. Not that I think sparks should fly between them but they clearly experienced what it is like to be widowed and left with a newborn child. Branson is also able to snap Mary back into reality and continue the work that Matthew has started as a way to move on from her grief. As a viewer who mourned after Matthew myself, I found that Mary/Branson relationship to be very comforting.
In the downstairs part of the house, they faced their own share of turmoil. Miss O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) departs to serve Lady Flintshire, Lady Rose’s (Lily James) mother. Thomas (Rob James-Collier) is up to his old tricks especially with the new lady’s maid, Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy). And after all they have been through with Mr. Bates’ (Brendan Coyle) incarceration, Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr. Bates have their own relationship problems. I’ll start with the one I find most troubling.
Mr. Bates and Anna have been through a lot but managed to be an incredibly loving, unselfish couple. After all they’ve experienced, I just wanted a little bit of happiness for them. But no, not the writers or the producers. I don’t really get scared of much but watching what happens to Anna is most terrifying I’ve seen in a long time. And I hated how it changed the dynamic between her and her husband. Sure, the series concludes that horrific storyline by the end of the season but I am still haunted by it. Downton Abbey has a way to rehash old storylines and I fear that they could bring it up again.
While Edna Braithwaite (MyAnna Burning) tries to weasel her way back into the household, I am glad to see the new lady’s maid end up being Miss Baxter. It seems like she has a past but she’s not a malicious woman the way Miss O’Brien was. Thomas bullies her but it is Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) who gently advises her against listening to Thomas. I always found Mr. Molesley to be unappealing but he certainly steps up to the plate when it comes to Miss Baxter and it’s kinda charming.
Romance seems to still be blooming between Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Editor Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards). When Gregson goes to Germany to become a citizen so he can divorce his wife, he disappears. Unfortunately Lady Edith discovers that she’s pregnant and with the help of Countess Grantham (Maggie Smith) and her aunt Lady Rosamund (Samantha Bond), she goes away to Switzerland to secretly have her baby and give it up for adoption. Later on, she gets the baby back so that a neighboring farmer could raise the child so that she could be part of her daughter’s life from a distance.
I hated Edith in the first series but I can’t help but feel bad for her. She’s tried to find love and offered her heart so many times and nothing seems to work out for her. I agree that as the middle child she often gets looked over and I still hope that she’s able to find happiness one day. I do prefer to see if she’s able to find love with a man her own age as her tastes are quite elderly.
Although Lady Rose and her impulsiveness irritates me, she is a woman who is ahead of her time. As much as I grew up in a different generation, I agreed with most of the conservative characters on the show that her relationship with jazz singer Jack Ross (Gary Carr) wouldn’t have worked out well. Lady Rose has lived a sheltered and privileged life and while she appears adamant, I don’t think she would have been able to withstand the stress of all the naysayers that she could face or give up her rich lifestyle. I think Lady Rose loves thinks the idea of challenging authority as romantic but after some time I could see the relationship fizzling.
Series 3 was a blockbuster of tragic events after another and this season feels like a transition period more like Series 2. I wish we could get some further character development with some characters like Thomas. I loved that we got to see his vulnerable side last season but he’s gone back to that same guy he was in Series 1. Though I do like that we keep exploring Daisy’s (Sophie McShera) growing maturity. Of course, it’s growing at a snail’s pace. And can we please stop bombarding Mr. Bates and Anna with more tragedy? They’re a fan favorite couple and the fans will be in an uproar.
This season brought some new faces to the Downton household and while I love some additions, I can’t say that I was thrilled about them all. Certainly Paul Giamatti’s addition felt crammed into the Christmas special. It was alright but unnecessary. As for Mary’s band of merry suitors, I guess we’ll have to wait until next year.