Downton Abbey Review: Series 4, Episode 8

Alex Straker

Downton’s darkest series to date concludes with broken hearts, spurned lovers and new mysteries. Business as usual, basically. In a finale as full of sumptuous costumes as it is melodrama, the various storylines that have dominated this series are brought to a close, setting up plenty of material for the show’s fifth series in 2014. Not all of the stories are wrapped up satisfactorily, but there’s still plenty on offer to keep viewers happy until the festive instalment later in the year.

Having realised that it was Mr Green who attacked Anna, Bates makes a mysterious trip to ‘York’. His absence happens to coincide with Green’s suspicious demise in London, leading Anna and others to question whether some degree of foul play was involved. There’s a shock proposal in store for Lady Rose, one that leads to Mary’s intervention as she tries to put an end to her whirlwind romance. The presence of both her suitors leads Lady Mary to reach a decision about her own romantic future. And after weeks of crossed wires and missed opportunities, Alfred, Daisy and Ivy finally confront their true feelings.

In true Downton style, it’s fitting that after eight weeks of tears, tantrums and troubles very few characters end up getting what they want. While all the central developments are dealt with in turn, some of the storylines end somewhat abruptly. Viewers know that Rose and Mr Ross could never have sustained their romance in the period, so it would have been helpful if they’d turned just a few more heads when out in public together, as a way to demonstrate more of the struggles and difficulties they would have faced.

This doesn’t mean that there’s an absence of strong dramatic moments on show. The episode contains lots of small but significant character revelations. Violet and Isobel continue their rivalry, Tom discovers the Rose/Ross scandal that closely mirrors his own with Sybil, and Mr Molesley steps in as Baxter’s knight in shining armour. Molesley in particular is a delight throughout, as he’s a character viewers have become accustomed to seeing as the butt of every joke, but reveals he has something resembling a backbone after all.

The conclusion to Mary’s romantic storyline is the best one possible, leaving the door open for potential romance in the future. If Mary is to find love again it will have to be delicately handled (and it’s unclear whether either of the men we’ve met this series is up to the task) but for the moment she remains firmly on Team Matthew, which will be a relief to many.

As expected, the Bates/Anna/Mr Green conclusion was perhaps the highlight of the episode, with Green’s ‘accidental’ death placing Bates in rather dark territory. The brilliance of it is that we can’t know for certain that Bates was at fault, but it offers excellent story potential for the Christmas Special and the next series.

The long-awaited resolution of the Daisy/Alfred/Ivy story is the other big conclusion. Thankfully, Fellowes and his team have steered clear of giving us a Daisy/Alfred love declaration scene, and provided a much more realistic (and therefore emotional) goodbye. They part as friends – Alfred admits that he was a fool and failed to recognise her love for him, and in return she gives him some cider for the train. He definitely got the better deal in that exchange.

Overall it was entertaining, inventive and enjoyable, with very little death… which possibly means we’ll be subjected to a bloodbath over our turkey and stuffing in a few weeks time.

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