I know there must be some people out there that don’t watch the wildly popular BBC production, Downton Abbey. I know only a handful. If you haven’t made it through the 4th season that just ended on American television last week, I warn you that there may be spoilers ahead!
Season 4 was blah to me. Other than poor Edith’s (I feel like that’s the only way to refer to her) situation, there wasn’t a lot of action going on abovestairs. Anna’s traumatic incident and goofy old Albert’s dreams seemed to dominate the belowstairs story. Did the writers feel like we all needed to rest after the crazy emotional rollercoaster of Season 3?
The theme of this season seemed to be PURPLE EVERYWHERE! The Pantone 2014 color of the year is Radiant Orchid.
Watching the past season of Downton, I wonder if it was also the color of 1922. I noticed in the first episode that there were lots of purple gowns, and then I couldn’t stop noticing in every single episode that all the ladies were wearing purple. I mean, I expect someone named Violet to be partial to her own color, but really. It got ridiculous! It was one of those things that the more you notice it, the more you begin to get irrationally angry about it! It seems that all the fervor over fuchsia died down in 1923 because it wasn’t in heavy rotation for Rose’s debut.
Another story line that the audience was maybe supposed to find interesting was Mary’s coming to terms with her grief and eventual handling of a bevy of potential suitors. I found many of the former moments quite poignant – both Mary’s and Isobel’s grief was handled well and with real care. The relentless pursuit of Mary by men who all look the same, however, was as dull as polishing shoes (which seemed to happen a lot more this season).
With all of these “meh” feelings about this season, I found myself distracted by the history going on all around our favorite Crawleys.
- Cousin Rose is all about the roaring ’20s, which seems so much classier when couched within the world of the British peerage than in the speakeasy culture of American historical pop culture.
- Michael Gregson and Edith are hatching a plan to move to Munich so that he can divorce his wife – terrible idea! Maybe the only worse plan they could hatch would be to flee to Spain.
- Mary is constantly arguing with whoever will listen, usually one of her men, about the role of Britain’s aristocracy in the modern world.
- Cora’s brother is embroiled in the Tea Pot Dome scandal, which I hadn’t thought about since 11th grade American History (I spent some quality time reading about it on Wikipedia during that particular episode!)
- Cora’s mother delivers a helluva jab at the Dowager Countess when she professes to be a thoroughly modern woman.
- We saw just a bit of King George V and his disapproval of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII).
The historical context of Downton is always interesting to me. During the season finale, set in London in the summer of 1923, filled with beautiful shots of London and lots of happy-go-lucky young people, I was struck by the thought that everyone was so happy. Too happy. Surely something bad was about to happen. People don’t get to just be happy in Julian Fellowes’s world. Edith’s revelation that she’s had news of Michael’s mysterious disappearance – something to do with a fight with some brown shirts – casts a terribly long foreshadow. All of these lovely people are thinking about their world as “post-war” when, from my vantage point, the years they are living through have always been “between-the-wars.” It’s interesting that all these historical hints are being dropped, and we know what’s coming, but the characters don’t.
Sometimes, a Downton season of episodes can move swiftly across time. I wonder if the next season will reveal the impact of Black Tuesday on Cora’s American family. Will the Levinsons survive with their money and Newport “cottage” intact? What will happen to Ivy in America? Will we see anything of the Irish Civil War? Maybe Rose will be a part of the scandalous marriage and abdication of Edward VIII? Maybe we can all hope that Colin Firth will reprise his role as Bertie (King George VI) and stammer through the debut of little Sybbie?
I don’t think we’ll get as far as the second world war by next season, but I do hope the series continues until we do. I love reading about stories of the Blitz and Battle of Britain. Little George would be of age to join the RAF, and being from Yorkshire, he wouldn’t be far away for his training. Sybbie could be a young nurse just as her mother was. I’m sorry to say that I’m not sure Grantham House in London will stand through the air raids, but I can imagine Lady Rosamund in an air raid shelter in the Underground.