Monday, February 24, 2014

London Calling: Downton Abbey, Season 4, Christmas Episode - Season Finale

Downton Abbey's season finale (known as the Christmas episode in the U.K.) packed a lot of story into two hours.

The show centered around a trip to London, for both the Grantham family and staff, for Rose's debut.  We see a flurry of preparation and travel.  The costumes and sets in this episode are lovely!

Cora's mother, Martha Levinson, and her brother Harold arrive from America.  Martha is once again brash and outspoken, while Harold, an unlikely playboy, is actually rather wistful and likable.

Daisy meets Harold's valet, Ethan Slade.  Ethan takes a liking to her.  He asks Daisy if she is excited to be in London and she replies:  "I'm never excited."

Mary is still seeing Blake and Gillingham.  (At one point this episode Violet refers to Blake, Gillingham, and Napier as "Mary's men.")  There is a nice scene of Mary and Blake at an exhibition together.

Tom Branson, alone for a time at Downton, runs into Sarah Bunting in the village.  They have dinner at a local pub and she wants to see Downton Abbey.  He takes her on a tour downstairs.  She wants to go upstairs to look down from the gallery.  As luck would have it, Thomas is lurking in the shadows upstairs and spies them.  This leads to tension between Tom and Thomas, with Thomas later implying to Lord Grantham that Tom was upstairs at Downton with a young woman.  Thomas has been a one-note villain this season, and I have not enjoyed his character as much.  His great anger toward Tom seems out of the blue.

Edith is back from Switzerland, and despondent about giving up her baby girl.  There is a scene where she argues with Aunt Rosamond about the baby, and she says that Rosamond is not a mother.  I wondered at that moment if perhaps Rosamond, who has been so sympathetic to Edith, actually may have been in the same position in the past at some point?

There is an elaborate dinner at the house.  Levinson makes a comment about being in England:  "cold baths, warm drinks, and most of all the food."   Edith and Mary have a brief conversation where Edith says, "I think we should make more scenes about things that really matter to us."

Isobel is becoming closer with Lord Merton, and decides to travel to London along with Violet.  Their scene on the way is one of my favorites from this episode, with one great line after another:

Violet:  "Can't you even offer help without sounding like a trumpeter on the peak of the moral high ground?"

Isobel:   "And must you always sound like the sister of Marie Antoinette?"

Violet:  "The queen of Naples was a stalwart figure.  I take it as a compliment."

Isobel:  "You take everything as a compliment."

Violet:  "I advise you to do the same.  It saves many an awkward moment."

Rose is presented by Cora at her debut.  The Prince of Wales, whom she has met previously, engages her in conversation, so she speaks briefly with King George as well.

When Anna donates one of Bates' old jackets to a charity, Mrs. Hughes discovers a rail ticket to London in the pocket.  She thinks immediately of Green's sudden death, and discusses this discovery with Mary.  Mary debates what to do.

Rose gets involved in a complicated plot involving a missing letter belonging to the Prince's mistress.  It seems the letter has been purloined by Mr. Sampson (the card shark from earlier this season).  During a card game, Mr. Sampson mentions Michael Gregson.  We also learn this episode that Gregson was beaten up by a group of German Brownshirts before he disappeared.   I wonder if Mr. Sampson had some indirect link to what happened to Gregson.

The case of the purloined letter allows the Grantham family to come together in a plot to steal the letter back, with Mary, Rose, and Blake rummaging through Sampson's room.  Mr. Bates displays his gift for forgery and pick-pocketing, and saves the day (and the Prince's reputation - at least for now, until Wallis Simpson comes along).  Out of loyalty to Bates, Mary burns the ticket to London.  Hopefully the Green storyline is now over.  I would like to see Bates and Anna happy together next season.

There is a small picnic where Lord Aysgarth (a fortune hunter) pursues Martha Levinson, but is rebuffed.   Martha says, "Why don't you come and visit Newport and I will rustle up rich widows who want titles much more than I do."  Aysgarth's daughter, Madeline, flirts with Harold Levinson as well.  Harold says, "I would find it hard to respect any woman who wished to marry me."  At one point during this social whirl, Violet says:  "The combination of open air picnics and after dinner poker make me feel as though I've fallen through a looking glass into the Dejeuner sur l'Herbe."

There is a wonderful scene featuring a ball in honor of Rose's debut.  I want to go to a ball!  It looks like fun.  The Prince of Wales arrives, and dances with Rose.  Gillingham and Blake are at the ball, and Gillingham tells Mary that Blake is from a similar background to theirs, and due to inherit.  This seems to change Mary's opinion of Blake.  I think she saw the perceived difference in their backgrounds as an obstacle;  this is no longer an issue.

Upstairs, Martha and Violet exchange words.  Martha is snippish and says that she is the new world and Violet is the old. 

Edith wants to be part of the baby's life in some way, so she approaches Mr. Drew (the handsome pig farmer at Downton) about adopting (or fostering) the baby.  He agrees, so she plans to move forward with bringing her baby to England.

The servants go to the seaside on vacation.  Molesley and Baxter are getting closer, as she tries to remove herself from Barrow's machinations.  

Anna and Bates look happy again.  (Note the tiny beach huts in the background!)

Ethan wants Daisy to travel to America as Harold Levinson's cook.  She rebuffs his offer and Daisy offers to go instead.  This quickly becomes a plan, and so we finally have an end to the Daisy/Ivy rivalry.

In a lovely final scene, Carson is hesitant about wading out into the surf until Mrs. Hughes takes his hand, and they walk on together.

Thinking about next season, here are things I wish for:

  • More of the Mary/Blake/Gillingham storyline, with a satisfying choice and resolution.  (Mary, pick Blake!)
  • Edith's reunion with her baby (hopefully somehow openly parenting the child).
  • Resolution of the Michael Gregson storyline.
  • No more Sarah Bunting!   I find her personality brash and grating.  I would love to see Tom with a nice, intelligent woman who is also warm and sensitive.
  • Happiness for Daisy.
  • Happy Anna and Bates, maybe with a baby Bates.
  • Romance for Isobel with Lord Merton or Dr. Clarkson.
How about you?  What did you think about last night's episode?  What is on your wish list for next season?


Treasures By Brenda said...

I enjoyed the show last night though at the same time I was disappointed. It was a little too neat -- no great cliffhanger to keep us wondering. Of course, if they'd done that, I'd likely be complaining about that, too.

Birdhouse Books said...

Hi Brenda,

That was my feeling as well. I enjoyed the show but would have liked at least one cliffhanger!


Birdhouse Books said...

PS - My biggest complaint is that we now have to wait until January 2015 for a new episode! :-)

Luciana said...

I was devastated this was the season finale; it went so quickly. I'm glad to see the Bates happy and I was pleased Mary tore up that train ticket. I love Cora, she has so much class (for an American - LOL)..I kept wishing I were there, in that time, in that house, in that family.....oh well.

Birdhouse Books said...

Dianne, I agree -- this has seemed like such a super short season!

I also loved that moment when Mary got rid of Bates' London train ticket. Hopefully happiness is in store for Anna and Bates next season.

Luciana said...

Bates and Ana are such a cute couple. I wish I could have found a "Bates" somewhere along the line. Oh well. I also loved the last scene with Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson. Looks like something could be brewing there!!!!!

Birdhouse Books said...

Dianne, I loved that scene with Mrs. Hughes and Carson!

Susan said...

I felt there was too big a gap between the finale and the episode prior. Edith already had her baby -- what??? I do hope she can end up with the child somehow, and with happiness. Not sure why she always gets the "sad ending" edit while Mary seems to have the men falling all over her for no perceptible reason! I, too, love Bates and Anna and Carson/Mrs. Hughes. I read somewhere speculation that perhaps Rosamund really was Edith's birth mom ... hmmmm ... interesting theory ...

Birdhouse Books said...

Susan, I agree about the time leap.

I also am hoping that Edith ends up with her child somehow. I did not like her character at all the first season, but she has come to be one of my favorites, and I wish happiness for her.

I have also heard speculation that Rosamond might be Edith's birth mother - very interesting, and there is a resemblance.