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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