The Season 4 finale of the PBS British period drama was tame in comparison to its third-season predecessor. While there weren’t any heartwrenching tragedies, like Matthew Crawley’s untimely death, the episode created a calculated foundation for what might make for a drama-infused Christmas special.
Mary, Mary, Mary
Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) seemed to have her hand in everyone’s drama this episode, along with her own. She has two suitors to consider: Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen) and Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden). While the former, an old family friend, has been chasing Mary for the majority of the season, the latter only succumbed to Mary’s charm last episode after the pair got down and dirty in the pigpen.
Lord Gillingham got his way in the end. After returning to Downton on numerous occasions in the 60-minute episode, he confesses to Mary that he has called off his engagement to Mabel. Despite Mary telling him that she is “not on the market,” he vows to never give up pursuing her, which Mary finds
to be both “irritating and beguiling.”
Later in the episode, at the church bazaar, Blake admits his feelings for Mary, but it’s a little too late. She turns him down, explaining that she doesn't want to add him to the “list of men she's disappointed.”
Happily Ever After For Mr. And Mrs. Bates?
If Mary didn’t have enough melodrama in her life by then, she also played a part in protecting Anna (Joanne Froggatt) from her attacker, Lord Gillingham’s valet, Mr. Green (Nigel Harman). When news gets out that Lord Gillingham will be returning for yet another visit to Dowtown, Anna’s discomfort is so apparent that Mary notices. After pressing her, Anna admits that Mr. Green attacked her and she’s afraid her husband will find out, kill him, and land in jail again – or worse.
In an effort to protect her loyal lady’s maid, Mary tries to stop Gillingham from coming to Downton, but she fails. In the end, Mary explicitly asks Gillingham to dismiss his valet, citing that he did something “abhorrent” that she can’t elaborate on. Gillingham agrees, but before he can go through with it, he finds out Mr. Green was struck by a car and has died. Gillingham tells Mary the news at the church bazaar, and it gets relayed to Anna. Both women suspect Mr. Bates had something to do with it, which seems possible since he made a mysterious visit to York earlier in the episode.
What Will Edith Do?
Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), who is pregnant with Michael Gregson’s child (Charles Edwards), changed her mind on ending her pregnancy last episode. Now, facing the reality that her niece is harboring what appears to be an illegitimate child, Aunt Rosamund (Samantha Bond) comes to Downton, under the pretense of visiting her sister, with a solution.
Rosamund suggests the two of them go to a foreign country where Edith will have the baby and put it up for adoption. Edith, on the other hand, wants to be in her baby’s life. She proposes giving the child to a tenant farmer on the Downton property whom she believes “can be trusted.” Rosamund disagrees and before Edith can say anything to the contrary, Lady Grantham enters the room and the conversation. Rosamund takes advantage, tells Edith’s mother that she wants to go to Switzerland and has invited her niece for the trip. To Lady Grantham’s surprise, Edith agrees to go.
When Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) catches wind of the voyage, she knows something is up – especially since she heard Edith needed some “cherishing.” The sharp countess confronts the two of them, learns of Edith’s pregnancy and agrees with Rosamund’s Switzerland plan. Later, Edith and her grandmother speak privately where Edith explains she’s not comfortable with giving the baby away in Switzerland, that she wants to be a part of her child’s life. Dowager Countess tells her to “start over.”
Rose Stirs The Pot
Jack and Rose's “forbidden love” plotline gets an added twist this episode after Tom Branson (Allen Leech) spots the couple sharing an afternoon tea in the village. He shares the news with Mary, who later confronts Rose. The teen admits that she loves Jack Ross (Gary Carr) and that she plans to marry him with the hope of seeing her mother’s face “crumble” when she finds out.
Later, Rose (Lily James) tells Mary she’s engaged. Mary decides to confront the singer privately, warning him that the family will make it their mission to tear the young couple apart and that Rose is probably trying to shock her mother. Jack tells Mary he had already planed to call off the engagement, saying he loved Rose and doesn’t want to “spoil” her life.
Downstairs, Alfred Nugent (Matt Milne) sends an action-packed letter to Ivy (Cara Theobold) saying he will be visiting Downton because his father died and that he wants to marry her. True to Ivy’s style, she doesn’t want Alfred and sends him a letter turning him down, but (big surprise) it’s too late. Eventually, all is revealed to heartbroken Daisy (Sophie McShera), who decides to take the high road and give Alfred a parting gift that makes Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) as proud of Daisy as if she were her “own daughter."
Love Is In The Air For…
After Tom Branson met Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis) at a political meeting last episode, she continues to pop up throughout the finale, hinting at a possible love connection between them.
Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) kicks it off with Lady Mary’s godfather at a lunch that Dowager Countess invites her to (which alone deserves its own analysis). While walking Isobel home, he awkwardly mentions Matthew, and later begs for forgiveness for the uncomfortable moment by sending her a bouquet of flowers.
Things might be looking up for Mr. Molesley (Kevin James), who shares a couple moments with Baxter (Raquel Cassidy). The connection may have effected Baxter more than she lets on, which becomes apparent when the conniving Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) who returns home from America this episode – asks Baxter for any gossip and she denies him the pleasure.
Some questions to consider before the Christmas special and heavily anticipated Season 5:
Will Edith go through with giving up her baby for adoption?
What ever happened to Michael Gregson?
Is it really over for Jack and Rose?
Has Baxter changed her snooping ways or will Barrow find a way to sabotage yet another lady’s maid?
Downton Abbey’s Christmas special will air on ITV on December 25. In the United States, Season 4 will be premiering January 5, 2014 on PBS.