Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary and Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley. © Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television Ltd.
On Sunday, after nearly a year’s wait, TV’s most anticipated dog butt will return. For those of you who are not Downton Abbey addicts, the first shot of the manically popular Brit import’s opening credits is a rear-end view of Isis, the beloved yellow lab owned by Robert, Earl of Grantham; her waggy tail’s become one of the show’s iconic images. Here in anticipation of Season 4 (to air at 9 p.m. on KCTS) are reflections on Season 3’s most volatile plot lines, where they might lead, and miscellaneous Downtoniana.
Matthew and Mary Since each season airs on the BBC in the fall and on PBS only afterward, spoilers were nearly impossible to avoid on the Internet last year, and so like millions of American fans, I prematurely found out about the death of Matthew, Robert’s son-in-law and heir. This year I learned my lesson, and have basically kept my browsers shut since September. Matthew did manage to come up with a boy baby, born literally hours before his death, at last putting to bed the first season’s driving plot: the search for a successor to the Grantham title. It looks as though his widow Mary’s romantic life is going to be Season 4’s focus.* (It’s been speculated she and Branson will hook up, which seems ridiculous, like those who thought Harry and Hermione would be a thing.)
*Earlier dubious Marital Advice “In these moments, you can normally find an Italian who isn’t too picky.” —Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
“Find a cowboy in the Middle West and bring him back to shake us up a bit.” —Robert
Branson So handsome. So self-righteous. What will happen to the ex-chauffeur’s fiery egalitarian ideals now that he’s stumbled into being the cricket-playing, white-tie-dining undersquire of the estate? As devastating as his wife Sybil’s death was, I foresaw friction down the line; frankly, as progressive as Branson seems, I had doubts his view of women would turn out to be any more enlightened than, say, Carson’s. These radicals talk a good game, but only one person in that marriage would have been changing nappies.
Edith After being abandoned at the altar by Sir Anthony Strallan (but rewatching Season 3 these past few weeks, she really did sort of steamroll him down the aisle, didn’t she?), it looks like she’s destined to rebound with Michael Gregson, the noble newspaper editor, handsome in kind of a Michael Palin-y way. But he’s anchored to a wife in the loony bin, and so can’t divorce her—expect her to drop dead, however, at whatever convenient moment series writer Julian Fellowes chooses. (BTW, what’s up with Fellowes’ obsession with the romance of journalism? All three Crawley daughters have been linked to the Fourth Estate at some point.)
Bates and Anna How will downstairs’ adorable dream couple remain interesting now that they’re at last reunited? As Fellowes puts it, “Any writer . . . always dreads allowing lovers finally to come together, because once you have, there’s very little left you can do with them in terms of narrative . . . [but] there comes a time when the audience thinks, oh, for Christ’s sake . . . to spin it out any more would be wrong.” Given Anna’s sleuthing skills, uncovering the evidence that sprung Bates from Death Row, I see a spinoff in which they solve murder mysteries. (In the pilot: The tiresome Reverend Mr. Travis is found smothered under a pile of chasubles.) Bates & Bates. Who wouldn’t watch it?
Thomas Usually so shrewd, what was he thinking? Did he really believe that the way to further his pursuit of the strapping footman Jimmy, aka Yorkshire’s Next Top Model, was to sneak into his room and grope him? And after this semi-rape, they’d just stroll off happily and open a B&B?
More questions Will O’Brien’s replacement as Cora’s lady’s maid have a tongue as sharp, a hairstyle as improbable? Will downtrodden kitchen drudge Daisy become the artisanal-preserves queen of the Midlands?
I hope we see more of Branson’s surly brother Kieran; Robert’s vinegary sister Rosamund; “Patrick,” the burn victim and possible missing Crawley heir from Season 2 And less Of That odious tart Cousin Rose.
The Dr. Clarkson drinking game Every time he misdiagnoses something, down a shot of cinnamon and warm milk.
Most-anticipated cameos Paul Giamatti as Cora’s wastrel brother; Kiri Te Kanawa as real-life opera singer Nellie Melba.
Local connection Maria Doyle Kennedy—who as Vera Bates was such a spectacular psychobitch she tried to wreak revenge on Bates posthumously—is also a cabaret performer, and is scheduled to play the Kirkland Performance Center on Saturday, June 3. I’m totes serious!
potential DA -themed punk band names Isis Ass, Ethel the Whore, The Dead Crawleys, Her Ladyship’s Soap.
Best Episode recaps Patton Oswalt’s Twitter feed (twitter.com/pattonoswalt) andSarah Ball’s synopses for vanityfair.com, both hilarious.