Downton Abbey Season 4 Episode 8: The London Season

This final two-hour ending reminds me of the beginning two-hour opener of Season 4, fast paced, short scenes, too busy to dwell deep. But here we have a plethora of characters and grander moments, the Prince of Wales with his parents King George V and Queen Mary joining the cast? A bit surreal I feel.

Rose meets King & Queen

Interesting too that despite the spectacular scenes, these final two hours are relatively uneventful, not many threads leading to new story ideas. Mary will keep on being pursued. Now that she has found out Charles Blake is a much more eligible bachelor than she first thought, will that make a difference to her? That heart-to-heart talk between Mary and Tony, with her hand gently placed on his arm, welcoming whatever future life might bring is one of my favourite moments.

And Rose, after her débutante ball, will pursue even more.

Bates’s status quo will remain the same too. He won’t be investigated further as far as Mary is concerned. Mrs. Hughes has already released him. Bates’ loyalty to The Crawley family has exchanged a pardon from Mary, whereby she burns the train ticket, evidence proving his presence in London on the day Green was accidentally killed. So far of course. All things are in the hands of the powerful Julian Fellowes, who BTW, has thrown us a case of debatable ethics.

Bates has proven himself to be more resourceful than we first thought. Why am I not surprised? Now… that makes me think of Michael Gregson winning back all the poker money from Sampson in one night. Sampson should have learned his lesson by now. The Crawley household is his nemesis, even their guests and servants .

Eight months after Edith has gone to Switzerland and come home more tired than ever, she begins to have second thoughts. Having given birth to a baby girl and weaning her, she has put her up for adoption in Geneva with the Schroeders upon the persuasion of Aunt Rosamund. Back home, Edith misses her daughter and revives her initial idea of asking the tenant farmer Mr. Drewe to raise the baby incognito, to which Drewe agrees. But why would he agree though, and to keep it a secret just between the two of them? Now this could be the beginning of a dramatic storyline in Season 5.

Michael Gregson is still nowhere to be found, although we know what has taken place before his disappearance. And that just makes me tip my hat and raise a little respect for him. Although in Rosamund’s eyes, he’s just plain stupid. Why, to ‘take exception’ to what some men are saying, men wearing ‘brown shirts’? If he had known they were, exactly, ‘The Brownshirts’ (Sturmabteilung), Nazi goons, would he have shown his opposition so readily? But I say, kudos to him. Another case of debatable ethics thrown to us by Julian Fellowes.

Sarah Bunting turns out to be much more annoying. Her insistence to visit the Crawley home in their absence and going upstairs is more than a little imprudent. She sure has made a huge leap from Elizabeth Bennet in terms of social courtesy. Remember how uncomfortable Lizzy is in visiting Pemberley in the absence of its host. I sure hope Tom can stand his ground with this gal. Her seemingly innocent and assertive demeanour just may hide a more malicious intent. After all, Downton represents the aristocracy that she loathes.

London Season

The main attraction of this finale is of course Martha Levinson and his son Harold sailing the ocean blue to Downton Abbey. I first had high expectations for Paul Giamatti. MacLaine we had seen her in Season 3, so she keeps the critical face towards the British aristocracy, that’s consistent. Hers and Violet’s harsh and honest exchanges against each other add colours to the gentility that has prevailed the night of the ball.  

But I must say, Giamatti’s constipated (can’t think of another word) performance is a surprise and disappointment. I had expected a much more animated screen presence. Even Daisy saying: ‘I’m never excited’ is funnier. BTW, that’s got to be one of my favourite lines in this episode. Back to Harold, he and his initial qualm with Madeleine Asslop is fine, having many fathers ‘shoving their daughters’ at him. But falling for her right after? Julian Fellowes is a master matchmaker, but we all hope to see compatibility, at least just in appearance.

Like, ah… Isobel and Lord Merton. Isobel is not interested, at this stage. When he asks her to dance and she says “I’m really not much of a dancer,” I like his prompt reply: “O all right. So we’re a perfect match.”

The most cinematic scene has to be the seaside relaxation for the staff. There are very few scenes in all Downton Seasons that are just composed of the downstairs characters alone in the great outdoor. Here by the seaside, mood changes. We love to see them enjoy themselves for a change, like Mrs. Patmore buying an ice cream cone, Molesley playing football, Anna and Bates finally taking a relaxing stroll (love their hats), and Baxter becoming brave. Daisy is sweet even when she turns down Levinson (ok, Ethan Slade); Ivy is excited to have the chance to go to America. But the final scene belongs to Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson:

“We can afford to live a little.”

At the seaside

Season 5: Something to look forward to. Just another year, that’s all.

***

Downton Abbey Season 4 Recaps:

Episode 7

Episode 6

Episode 5

Episode 4

Episode 3

Episode 2

Opening 2-hour Special

***

Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

29 thoughts on “Downton Abbey Season 4 Episode 8: The London Season”

    1. Ellen,

      Daisy sure has grown up a lot. And yes, aren’t we all glad there’s still one more season, at least. After that, we can all look forward to Julian Fellowes’ The Guilded Age, the American version of Downton.

      Like

  1. I couldn’t agree more about packing a lot into an episode that didn’t really take us much of anywhere. (Although it looks like we may be rid of the annoying Ivy.) At one point, Rick said to me, “Boy, they sure do jump around a lot!”

    That said, I found the Bates thing a pretty satisfying conclusion with Mary backing off on her plan to snitch, knowing she owes him big time. And my, didn’t he learn a lot while in prison!

    I was OK with Wales and Freda Dudley Ward — that seemed somewhat likely to me and it did open up a nice bit of action there. I have to say I was relieved that the band wasn’t Jack Ross’, although that might have made for an interesting pass by, too. But with no point.

    Edith — I’m not surprised she brought the baby home in a way, and it does open up plenty of plot lines.There was a nice moment with Edith and Tom and I thought, “Gee, that would solve a lot.” Get rid of the annoying Sarah Bunting (whom I started out liking — I hadn’t thought about her having a malicious intent; that’s good — she certainly manages to be in the right place at the right time), have a father for Baby Girl Gregson-Crawley. I like seeing how the family has really warmed to him and he to them, taking his responsibility of a family member thoughtfully.

    I’ve always really loved Shirley MacLaine (and Paul Giamatti) but for me, those were two performances I could do without — her more than him. She looks like a Splitting Image puppet — a caricature of herself. And even the exchanges with Violet were a little lame this time. Giamatti just left me cold.

    But my favorite — the last scene. Beautifully filmed, lovely images, sweet stories. Good for Baxter! (Something might happen there next year, too!) Now, Mr. Selfridge is up next. Those are good — but not nearly so engrossing!

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    1. Jeanie,

      Yes, Tom and Edith will make a good pair. You’re right about that scene, where they are face to face, very close, as Tom says: “We may love them, but if we don’t fight our corner, they’ll roll us out flat.” Definitely a hint for some stronger bonds in the future. I love the seaside scene. Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson are lovely, albeit I’d rather JF will leave them be, as loyal friends. Now, another year to go.

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        1. Antoinette,

          Yes, I remember. Loyal friends can have such deep sense of caring too. I think in my mind, pure and loyal friendship is even harder to find than romance. So I just wish they could remain like that. Be then again, it’s not up to me. 😉

          Like

  2. Another great series but of course it will always be difficult to make it perfect. I have to defend one of America’s greatest actors, Paul Giamatti. Personally, I don’t believe the actor was given much to work with either by action or dialogue and this is the fault of Julian Fellowes.
    My major qualm about series four was the inclusion of the rape of Anna. Though it was handled well and of course Joanne Froggart who plays Anna was excellent I don’t believe that particular storyline added anything to the overall series. I believe that Mr Fellowes took the easy option in his conclusion of that particular plotline. It would have been more interesting if Anna had reported the incident to the police and the plot followed how a servant and a woman would have been treated by the criminal system and those ‘upstairs’ at Downton during the 1920s in Britain. But, Anna and Mr Bates are my two favourite characters so I am happy that they are still together.
    I think the Edith storyline regarding her baby will be a big part of series five. Like Marmaladegypsy I also wondered about Tom and Edith and whether that would work.
    Being a big Virginia Woolf fan I was annoyed that her character was edited out of the series which involved Edith meeting the writer during one of her visits to London.
    Looking forward to the new series that Julian Fellowes is writing about Downton Abbey in the 19th century.

    Like

    1. Chris,

      You’re right about the role Julian F. had written for Paul G., unclear and undeveloped. G. seems to be unsure how he wants to portray Harold, albeit, with his experience, he can always improvise and develop that character according to his own fancy. Maybe, just maybe, he hasn’t been a Downton watcher, therefore, the lack of interpretation and ownership. Anyway, I’m not going to analyze more, as you said, it’s almost impossible to make a show perfect. And I’ve enjoyed Downton all these seasons. Just glad that we can look forward to another season. You’re lucky to see it much sooner than we in North. Am. while I’ll try to avoid spoilers and restrain from getting the DVD’s. And, I’ve no idea about the ‘Edith meeting Virginia Woolf’ storyline. That would be great! Just too bad about that being cut. I wonder why. Hopefully in S5 we can see something more to that effect, making Downton a bit more literary.

      Like

  3. LOVED LOVED LOVED!!! the season finale. I thought it was Brilliant! Paul Giamatti and Shirley Maclaine are two of my all time favorite actors but I would have to agree with earlier views that their roles were lacking something. They certainly were nowhere near the potential either of them have nor the charisma each can carry by themselves when given the right roles. One of favorite movie lines of all time is Shirley Maclaine “I’m not crazy M’lynn, I have just been in a bad mood for 40 years!” Now I need to watch Season 3!

    Like

    1. Courtney,

      We all look forward to S5. Hopefully Julian Fellowes can even surpass himself in this what had been suspected, and dreaded, the last season. He’s already signed on to write an American version of Downton, The Gilded Age.

      Like

        1. Courtney,

          That’s a major link, S3. S3 begins to see the story shift direction. You must watch it. So if it’s free, go for it! But how, why would it be free on Amazon?

          Like

          1. Well it’s not really free…but I have an Amazon Prime account which allows me to watch several things for “free”. Yes I agree a lot of things happen in Season Three and I have a synopsis of it. I know about Matthew and Sybil (I also know why each wanted to leave the show) 😦 and I was going to wait to watch S4 but curiosity got the best of me..LOL! And I just ran out of time. Saw S1and 2 while I had the flu over the holidays. I had never watched DA before then. Now I’m hooked…of course 🙂

            Like

  4. I never thought I’d be laughing out loud while watching Downton Abbey. Some scenes I watched 3 times over they were so funny. This episode was so well written as it presented the clash between the American’s and the English in such a humorous way The scene with the young man who worked for Harold asking Carson about Daisy was priceless. The looks on Carson’s face stole the show.

    My favorite episode of the entire series.

    Like

    1. Annette,

      O I’ve LOL many times watching Downton, especially in Episode 7. And yes, Carson is wonderful for his very nuanced expressions. Don’t you just love the last scene at the seaside? Nice way to end the Season, if only to compensate for our shock and loss at the ending of Season 3. If you’ve missed some of the previous Downton seasons, now’s time to catch up before next January. 😉 But hopefully they would not have us wait so long. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to watch new Season 5 at the same time as UK viewers?

      Like

  5. In the last episode I said that I didn’t like Sarah Bunting and I still feel that way. I have a different slant on the Bates/Green situation. Bates may have learned how to forge and pick pockets in prison but I don’t think murder, since he was acquited of that. My idea is that Bates searched for and found Green , put a chase on him and gleefully watched him meet his demise in the traffic. I think that Tom and Edith might make a good pair, but I think that somehow Michael will show up again. Frankly, I think Tom would be the best match for Mary, even though he has no money of his own. Since she has Matthew/’s money does she really need any more? Who is going to come along for Daisy so she can get married and inherit the farm from her father-in-law? (I know she doesn’t have to marry but it sure would be easier for her to run the place. ) I thought her comment that the joy she found in knowing that someone was interested in her would carry her through the season was great, especially since she had made the comment earlier that she doesn’t get excited. Also, the scenes between Molesley and Baxter were nice, especially since Thomas seems to be left out in the cold by her. Lots to look forward to in 2015–sigh!

    Like

    1. Gloria,

      I think what you’ve conjured up about Bates/Green is a highly plausible scenario. Let’s just leave it at that so we don’t have a murderer at large living in Downton. As for Mary, I think Julian Fellowes has something perfect for her, if only just to please us the audience. After all, the whole show will be winding down after one or two more seasons (rumour has it, and my own speculation), JF has to do something to leave a sweet taste for us to savour. As for Tom, I think he deserves someone who matches his social concerns, don’t think Mary is that kind of a gal. Edith might, but what if Michael shows up again? There’s the rub. I think ultimately, he just might move to America if the show goes off air. Who knows. After all, JF’s next project is The Gilded Age, ‘Made in America’. 😉

      Like

      1. Yes, I’m thinking and hoping that Bates didn’t do it but that he may have been there in some way. The final beach scene was wonderful.

        My husband who enjoys the series too – it’s he who buys the DVDs as soon as they’re available in fact – was a little disappointed in this series. He felt that it was mainly a set up for the next series. I can see his point. There was pretty much nothing resolved in this one, don’t you think? But that didn’t stop me enjoying it. I can just watch those people interact forever!

        Like

        1. WG,

          I think Julian Fellowes had let us recuperate in S4 after the horrific ending in S3, not unlike the characters who had suffered such a devastating loss in Matthew. We’re to vicariously experience the recovery with them in S4. That’s why the uneventful Season I suppose. One resolution I really like in S4 is the downstairs bickering being wrapped up nicely, and all the three young characters, Daisy, Ivy, and Alfred have all grown from their experiences. Too bad for James. He just might not have a raison d’etre to come back in the future I’m afraid.

          So here we are at the end, all prepped and ready for the future, quite like Mary, excited with whatever the future might bring. Let’s hope S5 is a fantastic one, such that we’ll have more of Downton before JF retires to another show, ie, ‘The Gilded Age’. I too would love to see them ‘interact forever’ even nothing exciting happens. Just like Bates and Anna, I don’t mind to see them just sit and look at each other and smile. 😉

          Like

          1. Yes, I agree … Oh, and not to mention looking at the clothes and other details! Someone mentioned recently that Michelle must be pleased to get out of those dowdy clothes but I love that era … Those dresses are just what I like, long, soft and comfortable … Nothing to constrict you here or there!

            Like

  6. I have been observing something about the character “Tom”. He is in inner turmoil because he feels that he has “sold out” his socialistic beliefs in his time spent with the people at the Abbey. But, I’ve noticed that; as he is confronted with others who hold to his beliefs in the narrow way in which he had once held to them in the past, (having had no personal with the people they were bigoted against), you see Tom defending the people he has come to know and love at the Abbey. They are no longer the faceless aristocracy which, for some, could make them much easier to hate but, he has come to know them as family and, as people who love, who suffer loss, who show mercy and compassion, and, who, themselves, are also growing, as they too learn to drop some of their own bigotries.

    So, if the story should continue in this vein (maybe I should contact the writers:) and, the character Tom, doest allow a guilt of selling out rule him but rather, lets his recent life’s experiences settle down and come together and incorporate into a life’s lesson, I see it having the potential of making him become more tolerant and well rounded in his beliefs because of the time spent with the people at the Abbey. Anyhoo….my 2 cents.

    Like

    1. Annette,

      I think you’re spot on with your analysis of Tom. He is an effective bridge, so to speak, between the aristocracy and the ‘common people.’ His defending The Crawley Family before Sarah Bunting is a good example. I have a feeling that in S5, writer Julian Fellowes will give him a larger role by using his socialistic ideals and activism, maybe even political fervour, to pull the two sides closer to each other. By all means, write to Julian Fellowes, I’m sure he’ll appreciate your 2 cents. 😉

      As for me, I’d appreciated your coming by the pond and throwing in your 2 pebbles, stirring some ripples. 😉

      Like

      1. I have GOT to pay more attention to my spell checker.

        In my previous post, I meant to say, “…and, the character Tom, DOESN’T allow a guilt of selling out…”

        And also, I meant to say:

        “having had no personal EXPERIENCE with the people they were bigoted against”

        But, by your response Arti, at least I know my goofs did not throw off what I was wanting to get across. And how cool that you see these things in his character as well, which you so eloquently put in your anticipation of Tom possibly bridging the gap between the two classes in future episodes. Now I REALLY want to write to Julian. Haven’t found a contact address for him yet but I am a persistent bugger so, we’ll see 🙂

        All the best,
        Annette

        Like

  7. Everything has already been said so I won’t add much – just that I love Paul Giamatti too. His portrayal of John Adams is indelible. I’m hoping his character gets developed more and will meet our expectations in S5

    Like

    1. Michelle,

      Definitely agree with you there about S5. Actually, there are lots of potentials still for Downton to continue moving ahead. But of course everything depends on its ‘creator’ and ‘sustainer’ JF. On another note, just heard that another winter storm is heading to the U.S. ‘from OK to NY’. Hope not too bad a weather system. Good time to stay home and rematch Downton past Seasons. 😉

      Like

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