Season 4 of Downton Abbey premiered on PBS last night with a spectacular two hour episode that updated fans on what our cast members have been up to during the six months since Matthew died. In several cases, it’s been a whole lot of nothing, but the framing for the new episode also explained O’Brien’s (Siobhan Finneran) disappearance from the household staff, as well as what exactly might become of Downton in the year 1922. The pace was rather leisurely, even for an episode of Downton Abbey, but fans of the period drama should be pleased to have gotten large doses of most of the series leads.

In case you missed last night’s big premiere or want a recap as to what the characters are up to, here’s a look at all the major players in Season 4, complete with plenty of chatty gossip. So, grab a cup of tea and delve in.

Lady Mary Crawley
Since Mary’s husband died in an untimely and tragic fashion at the end of Season 3, all eyes were on Mary when Season 4 opened, and she wasn’t handling the absence of her husband particularly well. It’s tough to lose anyone, and Matthew and Mary’s romance was a particularly compelling saga, but six months post mortem, Mary was a wreck--nervous, cross and abnormally quiet all at once.

It took some time to coax the eldest Crawley daughter out of her shell. Even her baby son couldn’t seem to bring a smile to her face. But a couple of important conversations with Branson and Carson helped her to see that there was an estate to run and that she could play a key role should she choose to moving forward. It took Lord Grantham a bit longer to come around, but Mary should be playing a key role in building the estate moving forward.

Robert, The Earl of Grantham
I dislike how the writers have turned Lord Grantham into a relic of a past time. The man was always a bit stuffy, but he did initially lend Branson use of the library and later came to accept his daughter, Sybil’s, marriage to the young employee. However, the events of the past couple of years have changed him somewhat. Proven inept at running the estate, he grew curmudgeonly when Matthew wanted to make changes last season. That attitude has carried over into the new season as Tom and Mary have begun to attempt similar changes to the estate. It’s almost as if the man has been forced to change and adapt so many times that he’s hit a wall and has found it both exhausting and impractical to keep changing with the times. I don’t blame him for being exhausted, but when your elderly mother chastises you for incompetence (as happened during the first Season 4 episode), you should know it is time to take a look at your decision-making processes.

Maybe he’ll come around, but I’m not holding my breath.

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