Downton Abbey Back Again

Shortly after Downton Abbey’s third season ended, iTV announced a fourth set for the latter-half of this year. Even as an ardent fan of the British television programme, I paid little attention to the announcement and any ensuing chatter until, presently, it faded from my mind entirely.

Over the past week or two, enthusiasm has continued to grow as we come closer and closer to the stated release date. Instead of excitement, however, as I was want to feel, I couldn’t help but read the occasional article and watch the trailer with a tinge of apprehension, bordering on disappointment. Not that the show was back after almost a year hiatus, but that it was back after such a great ending.

For those possessing poor memories, season three ended with a cricket match between the abbey household and the villagers. Specifically, the very last scene — still etched in my memory — came to a close with Lord Grantham, Mathew Crawley, and Tom Branson shaking hands on the cricket field. Mathew had found some middle ground between the white-collar lawyer he had started as and the Earl Lord Grantham sought to turn him in to earlier in the season; Lord Grantham, similarly, had met Mathew halfway. Perhaps more significantly though, Lord Grantham had come to accept Tom as a member of his household rather than the lowly driver. Tom had grown as well: although still fiercely independent and politically-minded, Tom had mellowed following Sybil’s death and the birth of his daughter.

All in all I could not have been happier with the ending; to call it excellent would not do those final moments justice. Sure, it left some plot avenues unexplored, but — as I discussed in The Beauty of a Limited Run — that’s the hallmark of an excellent show. Not exhausting every single possibility leaves viewers something to think about, something to wish they had seen. Julian Fellowes ended season three spectacularly, to say the least. And now, with season four, she will have to top that. I’m confident that she can, but I would have been just as happy had she let sleeping dogs lie.