Disappointed in Downton

downton4I’ve been devoted to Downton Abbey since it began, and I never thought I’d say this:  I was disappointed in the Season 4 opener.

I remember a non-fan two years ago who said it was just a soap opera set a hundred years ago, and I suppose I agreed to some extent, but it had good story lines, great acting, and stellar writing.  Even the over-the-top murder conviction of Bates eventually turned into a strong story line.  This episode, however, seemed all soap opera.

*SPOILER ALERT*
Do not continue reading if you haven’t seen the episode yet!

Sunday night, it seemed like there was just too much crammed into too short a time.  I thought Mrs. Hughes convincing Mrs. Crawley to take in the old performer was good, and a good way to get her out of her grief.  Fitting for the character, and time to start living.

With Mary, however, it didn’t work for me.  She’s horribly depressed, has no energy for anything, and doesn’t seem to take much joy in the baby.  I think getting her involved in running the estate is a workable idea, but it just happened too fast.  She goes from being listless in black to being poised in half-mourning lilac and very interested in plans for sheep.  Wouldn’t it have been much better to have her say yes, but start gradually?  To listen to Tom and her father, and voice an opinion later to Tom?  To eventually show up at the meeting, still wearing black, and have a few questions or things to say, without turning immediately into the take-charge person she used to be?

And don’t get me started on the Nanny.  Julian Fellowes gave us a character and situation with a lot of possibility, which could have been spread out over at least several episodes, and it turned out to be all a set up to get Lady G to trust Thomas.  They didn’t even come back to the need for a new nanny – who would be a major/minor player throughout!

Rose’s storyline fit with how she was introduced last season, but dressing up in a maid’s uniform and kissing the guy was a bit over the top.  I’m not thrilled with Molesly’s story, either.  I understand that valet positions are dwindling, but so many men were killed in the war – there had to be something else he could do besides road work, which was about as low as you could get.  And the other butler’s reactions? Total soap opera again.

And I really don’t know how I feel about Edith’s editor wanting to become a German citizen so he can get a divorce.  It didn’t come across as overwritten or overplayed, it just seems really far-fetched.

Lest you think I completely hated Downton Abbey this go-round, let me share some things I thought were great:

  • The moments when Lord Grantham (and someone else, but I’ve forgotten who) told Tom to remember how hard it is for Mary having lost the love of her life, when Tom had gone through the exact same thing.
  • Maggie Smith’s line to Lord G about how she’d like to send him to bed without supper.
  • The understanding of the other women in the family that Mary and Mrs. Crawley needed to begin to live again.
  • The storyline with Carson and his old song-and-dance partner: how Mrs. C and Mrs. Hughes got him on his feet and helped find a job for him, and Carson’s reticence, the story behind it, and the resolution at the train.
  • Anna’s & Bates’ quiet but obvious love for each other – that’s always a high point for me.

I hope Downton’s Season 4 opener was just to grab everyone’s attention again after such a shock to end Season 3.  I hope it settles down to the richness and the pace of the first three seasons.  But if it keeps going like this, I may find myself watching less and less.

What about you?  Was Sunday’s Downton Abbey all you hoped for?  Or were you disappointed too?

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7 Responses to Disappointed in Downton

  1. Piper Bayard says:

    I didn’t just love it, but I wasn’t disappointed.

    I see Mary as being an all in or all out character. I find it totally believable that once she decided to take charge, she would compartmentalize her grief and dive in with gusto, right down to the sheep.

    I agree that they could have done a bit more with the nanny. Seemed a bit forced to have it all happen so suddenly without a few clues. But no one wants to see children abused for long. It couldn’t go more than three episodes without becoming too uncomfortable for the audience.

    As for Rose, I can totally see the maid outfit and the kiss. She’s just the kind to get a rush out of both.

    Edith’s editor is a skank. I don’t like him one bit, but I can see how she would. As for becoming a German citizen to get a divorce . . . Divorce was very difficult to obtain back then, as it was here in America. I’m sure people did more than change their citizenship to get one. However, it does seem like an obvious set up for the conflict that it will create in a few years.

    If I was disappointed with anything, it was that the story felt a bit choppy in places, as if the writers were pushing the drama to a different place rather than letting it flow there naturally.

    Thanks for the chance to discuss. 🙂
    Piper Bayard recently posted..Fun Stuff We Found at Bass ProMy Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Hi, Piper. Thanks for your comments! I think I probably would have taken any one of my dissatisfactions with no problem, but the fact that they all crammed together did me in. I guess it seemed both too forced and too rushed for me. Or maybe I’m just thinking of past seasons with nostalgia – I remember cringing at some of those, too.

      For some more fun, I just found this recap of the episode as Facebook posts, and it’s hilarious: http://happyplace.someecards.com/28432/downton-abbey-facebook-recap-season-4-episode-1

  2. Melissa Garvin says:

    I’ve seen the whole season 4. It does get better. At least in my estimation. I don’t think I had as many issues with the opener as you did, but nonetheless, it should get better. As always, a few surprises in store along the way. 😀

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Hey, Melissa! I’m glad to hear it gets better, and thank you for not throwing spoilers into cyberspace! Check out the link I put in the above reply to Piper – you’ll like it.

  3. Lynn Ryan says:

    I’m a newbie to Downton Abbey having just watched the first three seasons during the last two weeks. I also felt the different story lines were rushed. I love the way you recapped everything, Jennifer. But then, I’ve always loved the way you write.

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Hi there, Lynn! All three seasons in two weeks, huh? Welcome to the world of Downton Abbey obsession! I fell in love with BBC/A&E productions with Pride & Prejudice (Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle), and then really became a sucker for them when we were in Ireland. And go check out the link to the “facebook version” above – it’s a riot!

  4. Jennifer Jensen says:

    On reflection (and after a few more Season 4 episodes), I think they just crammed too much into the season opener. Yes, it’s a high-class soap opera, but the pace and the understatement generally keep it from feeling like it. I’m as hooked as ever!