Downton Abbey U.S. Season 4 Finale Review: So Is Bates a Murderer? Did Robert Just Mastermind a Petty Theft? Where Does Downton Go from Here?
Okay, first order of business: We need to talk about Bates getting the cinematic serial killer treatment every ten seconds during this, the episode formerly known as the Downton Abbey 2013 Christmas Special. Bates has been the kindly conscience of Downton Abbey almost since the very beginning; his ability to work was doubted due to his disability, and he proved everyone wrong. His crazypants ex-wife framed him for her murder, landed him in jail, and for an entire season, Bates' storyline revolved around the crappiness of this clearly innocent dude being incarcerated in some Dickensian prison. I'm not saying the man doesn't have a sketchy past—that's always kind of been implied—but c'mon, the ominous serial killer musical cues sprinkled throughout Downton's season finale were kind of ridiculous.
At this point, I hope he's a serial killer. I hope he's been playing the Crawley family the entire time. It'd be no more ridiculous than anything else that's gone down on Downton Abbey over the years, and the sudden sinister characterization fits in well with all the hamfisted historical references and Rose and Robert's random B&E caper to save the crown. This was my favorite episode of the season due entirely to its batshit crazy writing.
And I haven't even addressed the important part (you know, beyond Bates being all... whatever Bates is) which is that Edith had all kinds of baby-mama-drama going on. Why is Edith never allowed to be happy, Downton Abbey? Why?
In Edith's latest life-experience-of-woe, Gregson was last seen getting in a fight with some men in brown shirts who said the most terrible things (NAZIS. THEY'RE NAZIS.), and Edith traveled with Auntie Rosamund to the continent to pop out a baby in a very hush-hush and dignified manner. But instead of embracing her Get Out of Mommydom Free card, and despite having arranged for her daughter to stay with a nice Swiss couple never to be seen again, Edith eventually decided she wanted her child back. Sort of. I mean, I guess that's a crummy turn of events for the Swiss parents (no really, it is) but yay for Edith being people and having feelings and stuff. She entrusted her baby with a local farmer on the grounds of the Estate, and how long are we giving it before she caves and decides to tell everyone the truth? Oh Edith, our accidental trailblazer.
Branson also had a crummy time at Rose's debutante party. It's no wonder he and Edith are, like, BFFs now. Apparently Branson is never ever allowed to fall in love ever again. Thomas, who was randomly irate about Branson being in charge of him—it's been something like three years, dude, just stop!—implied that Branson was banging schoolteachers upstairs while the fam was in London. It's true that Thomas has always bristled under Branson's rise in rank, but his displeasure tends to manifest as more of a low simmer, coming out in catty remarks and a generally bad attitude. My theory is that Thomas's sudden anger was born out of a protectiveness for both Sybil's memory and Sybil's child. And it's starting to get sad, you guys, because both Branson and Thomas could use more allies in the house, and if they could just get over themselves, they could probably be good for each other. Maybe. I mean, this is Thomas we're talking about.
Also, can we please stop with the BAAAW, BRANSON ISN'T A REAL NOBLE/BAAAW, BRANSON ISN'T A REAL REVOLUTIONARY (ANYMORE) stories? It's like no one knows what to do with him these days.
Finally, in addition to Rose and the Earl stealing a royal love letter, Bates helping, Edith pining, and Branson not being hot for teacher, Cora's American family came to visit because when in doubt, bring back Shirley MacLaine as a guest-star. Joining the Widow Levinson was her son, Harold, who was fresh off of the Teapot Dome scandal and played by Paul Giamatti, which made for an unlikely delight. He started out surly, and admittedly I was all about his general meanness to everyone, including his own nieces... okay, especially his own nieces. And then, as if the show's writers were playing into every teenage boyfriend fantasy ever (which was fitting, since Harold's would-be English wife was basically a teenager herself), beneath that crunchy exterior of loathing and low self-esteem was... sweetness and low self-esteem!
Whatever, I liked him. TTYL, Harold Levinson, come back soon.
And where does Downton Abbey go from here? The show has already been renewed for a fifth series, and casting is underway. Rose is an eligible lady whose debut in London was a smashing success when the Prince of Wales crashed the party. Is Downton positioning Rose's love life to be the one we're supposed to be obsessed with? SPOILER ALERT: She's not gonna marry Prince Edward. Probably. I mean, Downton Abbey has proven that anything is possible. Who would've thought we'd ever see the day that the Earl of Grantham masterminded a robbery with his niece and his valet?
OMINOUS NOTES DELIVERED IN DRAMATIC FASHION VIA TELEGRAM
– More Bates thoughts: Downton made it pretty clear that even if Bates did kill Green, he was totes justified for obvs reasons. That's what made the musical cues and the shadowy lighting feel so out-of-place. Certainly, everyone who's now connected to Green's apparent offing must now struggle with their part, and it's true that vigilante justice tends to be frowned upon, but Downton seemed to struggle with whether or not we should fear Bates, and that whole storyline was just a hot mess.
– Mary is sure that the Prince of Wales will bring more cheeky scandal to the crown before long. TEEHEE, BECAUSE HISTORY. Because just Google "Wallis Simpson."
– Ivy went to America. *yawn*
– I can't with Mrs. Hughes and Carson on the beach. Somebody help.
– "This may be my family, but they're not quite my people." Well that's everyone's family, Branson. Srsly.
– The lesson of this finale, of course, was that you should never keep incriminating evidence in your coat pocket.
-- What are your thoughts about how Anna's story ultimately played out? Did it all wrap up a little too neatly? Are you annoyed that her rape became the catalyst for an all-about-Bates story almost as soon as it happened? (I am.)
– On a shallow note (and are there any notes but shallow ones when it comes to Downton?), Rose's dresses were stunning.
What'd you think of the Season 4 finale? How about the season overall? Where do you think Downton should go next?
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