Season 4 of Downton Abbey got off to an intricate and interesting start on PBS earlier this month. However, now that we are into the middle of the season, the story has slowed down quite a bit. We can only hope that all of this setup will lead into an interesting conclusion; however, Sunday night’s episode was quite the bore. They might as well have rechristened the show for last night’s episode, calling it Downton Downstairs. Without the glitz and glamour of the period costumes, upper crust romances, and maybe even a good scandal, the episode fell really flat. If Tom hadn’t spoken out about the exciting prospect of potentially heading to America to start a new life and Edith hadn’t seen a mysterious doctor, I don’t think I could have even gotten through the entire episode.
Without further ado, here are the five “downstairs” plots that didn’t work for us this week. And as usual, there are plenty of spoilers, so if you haven’t caught the episode, yet, now is not the time to delve into this article.
The Plot Against The GardenerIn truth, this is partially an upstairs plot, as Isabel Crawley asked the Dowager Countess to take on a young man as a gardener, only to find that he might be a thief. I should be excited for any scenes that feature the Dowager Countess exchanging barbs, but since Isabel is such a no-nonsense human being, this plot really didn’t work within the context of the episode.
Worst Moment: When we actually met the young gardener, a meek young man who seemed in over his head. I typically don’t like predicting plots, but clearly, this kid didn’t steal anything. This isn’t Thomas with the wine from Season 1. Tune in next week when we find out what actually went down.
Mr. Bates KnowsMr. Bates finally found out about his wife’s rape earlier in the season. He absolved her of any real blame, but also resolved to find out who did it, believing the valet Green to be the problem, despite Anna and Mrs. Hughes’ repeated lies that they did not know the culprit. While Anna and Bates are reconciled, we expect this plotline to flair up again in the coming weeks, and we don’t expect it to be pretty.
Worst Moment: Anna’s rape was horrifying, and it’s easy to see why Bates would be upset about the turn of events. However, we also know that he’s a careful man who doesn’t typically act out. Even when his former wife upset him and he went to jail for murdering her, he remained pretty stoic. Cornering Mrs. Hughes and forcing a story out of her, as well as forcing her to swear on her mother’s grave was rather out of character for the man, and I didn’t really enjoy Bates’ transition into scary.
Alfred And DaisyAlfred was still pining over Ivy, so he applied to take a test to apprentice as a chef at The Ritz. Everyone at Downton was pulling for him, but when he arrived at the London hotel to take the test, he found he was in over his head. It’s nice to get away from Downton every once and a while, but Alfred stuttering around a curt French chef was dull, dull, dull. To make matters worse, it was all for naught—he didn’t get into the cooking program, but he did manage to re-stir up Daisy’s affection.
Worst Moment: At one point, Alfred stood in a stark white kitchen with a dozen of other eager young men. The man in charge was asking pointed questions about culinary history that Alfred could not even begin to answer. It was clear he was a country bumpkin in the big city, and even if he did well for Downton, he would not compare favorably with his peers. Good thing the British are too polite to mention how embarrassing that must have been.
Mr. Mosley Loses His ChanceI’ve been sour on Mr. Mosley ever since the war years upended society. The man was too foolish and scared to even try for military service and put the upstairs people in a bad position when he did not want to head to the front to fight. This time around, Mr. Carson graciously offered the man a position in the big house, a position he did not readily accept, and eventually lost his chance at.
Worst Moment: It’s always bad when Carson becomes flummoxed on the show, and while he did get the last word in later in Episode 4, when Mosley initially stated he would have “to think about” the offer, much eye rolling commenced on my end of the TV. Mr. Mosley’s character was certainly in keeping with what we’ve seen from him so far, but I would like it much better if I could simply stop seeing him at all.
The Tenant And Lord GranthamThe final dull plot this week cannot strictly be discussed in terms of downstairs characters. A tenant, after all, is not technically a member of a household, merely owing dues to keep the big estate running. However, the tenant owing more money than he could spare and nearly being evicted was the worst. Mary and Lord Grantham disagreed about how the situation should be handled and Lord Grantham went behind her back and took care of it. The whole thing was handled rather tidily and actually helped the father/daughter business partnership to take a few strides forward. However, taxes and tenants are seriously boring.
Worst Moment: Toward the end of the episode, Mary headed to the estate to tie up loose ends with the tenant and ultimately admit her defeat in the matter. The tenant thanked her father for lending him the money to continue forth and Mary admitted her father might not be such a bad egg, after all. How maudlin.
Life at Downton can be slow, and usually the pastoral settings and charming conversation are enough to keep me interested, but this week didn’t really do it for me. Was this the worst episode Downton Abbey has released thus far, or can you think of one that was even more of a snoozefest? Hopefully, Episode 4 simply worked out some new kinks in the show to set us up for more interesting developments later on. We’ll be able to find out soon enough. PBS’ Downton Abbey airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET.