Downton Abbey has always loved big and bold plotlines. From the moment Mary took to bed with the Turkish gentlemen during Season 1, fans knew the show would be a feisty one. With that said, Season 4 has been an over-the-top look at changing worldviews and perspectives during a time when people’s outlooks and stations in life have begun to change rapidly. The new season of Downton Abbey is set in a brand new age, but it’s an age in which some people are still desperately clinging to various traditions. Thus, it’s very fun to see all of the various plotlines shaking up the Downton Abbey universe each week. Without further ado, here are five of this week’s best shaker uppers.
As usual, there are plenty of spoilers in the following paragraphs!
Edith’s PredicamentEdith has shown an independent streak for quite some time, learning to drive, write for a newspaper and then deciding to partner up with Mr. Gregson. Unfortunately, Mr. Gregson has gotten lost somewhere in Munich, after Edith slept with him and became pregnant. After the pregnancy is confirmed, Edith managed to play off her reaction as dismay over Mr Gregson’s whereabouts, but that secret cannot stay a secret for very long. We give her until the second trimester before her symptoms give her away and we expect the house to be completely taken aback by the news.
Honestly, despite the fact that it was Edith that spread similar news about Mary’s misfortune with the Turkish gentleman several years ago, we expect the backlash to be less terrible for Lady Edith, as she is more advanced in age and the times are a'changing. In the meantime, we're happy enough to see how this plotline plays out.
Jazz At DowntonLady Rose just can’t help herself. This season, she’s fraternized with the lower class on more than one occasion, even dressing as a maid to have a little fun. Then, during this week’s episode she invited a jazz band led by a black singer to perform at Downton Abbey. Downton has proven itself to be a place that is growing more and more progressive, but Lady Rose had to have known her decision would not have pleased Lord Grantham. So, why surprise him with a performance he doesn’t enjoy?
It must be tough for Lady Rose to be growing up during a time period that is equal parts freeing and inhibiting. She’s still stuck in the confines of her social class, but you can tell she wants to go out into the world as a new woman, thoroughly modernized in both fashion and opinion. Eventually, she’ll have to decide which world offers the stronger pull. As long as she’s not dressing up as a servant and fooling the local lads, I’m all for it. Although, I don’t think skulking in the servants quarters to make out with the lead singer in the band was her most graceful moment.
Changing Perceptions of the AristocracyDownton has been dealing with financial problems for years, but so far the Crawley family has been able to avoid any dire ramifications. Lord Grantham, Lady Mary and Tom Branson are working day and night to make changes to ensure that Downton will be able to survive in the future. However, it was only during this week’s episode that the government’s new attitude toward the upper class really hit home. The government is accomplishing a study to see which estates might falter and which might remain profitable. There will be no aid given, even in the form of advice, but apparently, making snide comments is in bounds for the government agents, despite the fact they're taking advantage of Downton's hospitality.
The best example of this comes when Lady Mary meets Mr. Blake, a socialist who only sees her as a woman who always has everything handed to her, rather than a woman who has already proven progressive by signing on to take care of the estate. The two clash horribly, making for a few nice zingers in an otherwise mostly zinger-free episode.
Trouble in ParadiseIn one of the least surprising plotlines this week, the Bates are still having trouble coming to terms with Anna’s rape by Lord Gillingham’s valet. The two attempt to compensate for their unhappiness by going out to dinner, but it only serves to make things worse. Bates even mentions the word “murder” during the conversation, leaving audiences to roll their eyes and think, “Here we go again.”
Anna and Bates are one of the few seemingly stable relationships on the series. Their marriage has had rocky moments, but they have generally seemed happy and in love. Shaking that up with Anna’s ravaging and the aftermath of the rape will change the couple’s relationship moving forward and I only foresee rocky waters in the future.
Women in ChargeThere’s a lot to like about Cora, the Countess of Grantham. During this week's episode, she showed her likeability factor at a restaurant, during which she helped Anna and Bates to secure a table. However, she’s clearly a woman of leisure and a woman that hasn’t moved forward with the times, ideas that are not shared by her daughters or Lady Rose. This week’s episode revealed Edith’s pregnancy, Mary’s desire to help the estate, and Rose’s desire to date a jazz singer. Each of the young women seem ready and willing to take charge of their own destinies, even if those destinies include scandalous romances.
All in all, this week resolved a lot of last week’s more useless plots, and makes me much more excited for the future. You can catch the rest of Season 4 when Downton Abbey airs on PBS on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET. Full episodes of the series are also available online.