“Downton Abbey” Season 4 continued in its familiar Sunday night timeslot on PBS on Jan. 12. After two new episodes have aired, fans are starting to express displeasure with the popular show’s macabre storyline.
The dismal tone of Season 3 continued into the first episode of Season 4, but viewers almost expected that since the last season ended with the death of Mary’s husband, Mathew Crowley. Reminiscient of the death of Sybil in childbirth, Mary’s husband died in a car accident on the day she gave birth to their son.
The new season picked up at the six months point, and Mary’s grief was still very fresh. While “Downton” fans may have anticipated Mary’s dark brooding, it seemed very tiring on the heels of Tom’s quiet grief and the family’s mourning of Sybil last season.
In addition to the pall that surrounded Mary’s story, all the other bits and pieces of the storyline created an oppressive experience instead of a beautiful escape. The second episode was so stark that it required a parental warning at the beginning, probably because of Anna Bates’ violent rape. The only really festive part of the show, an elegant opera performance at Downton, was punctuated with screams and flashes to the rape scene going on downstairs. Looking ahead in the synopsis, it appears viewers are in for another long, sad season of troubles for Mr. Bates and Anna, which viewers have had more than enough of already.
In addition to the above mentioned harshness, viewers of the second episode were treated to what appeared to be a heart attack with Miss Patmore, a friend of Carson’s in a horrible workhouse, and the late Mathew’s grieving mother, Isabelle, who seemed in tears the entire program. There was also the destitute and unemployed Mr. Mosbey who had previously attended to Mathew Crowley.
The fans of “Downton Abbey” will probably always come back for the beauty of the setting, the house, the scenery, the costumes, and the music. Some truly come for the history that is carefully detailed in the costumes and props on the show, and Downton Abbey is indeed a real place called Highclere Castle. However, there have been so many lapses in historical accuracy in the storyline over the past few years; one fan called it hysterical instead of historical.
It seems that the writer attempts to address social issues that are current to 2014 in a 1922 setting, and it detracts from the historical accuracy. They have faced: homosexuality, female power roles and breast cancer awareness, among other themes. In episode 3, an upcoming theme includes interracial dating among the higher strata of semi-royals. None of these themes would have been openly accepted or much less discussed in polite society in 1922 England.
One thing that fans seem to all agree on is their love for Dame Maggie Smith who plays the mother of Lord Grantham. Her lines and her delivery could well be the highlight of every episode.
There is no other show like “Downton Abbey,” but it seems that the writer Julian Fellowes needs to lighten up a bit to keep the fans happy.
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If you missed the first two episodes of ‘Downton Abbey,” you can catch up here.