There are just a handful of days to go until the triumphant return of Downton Abbey.
It has felt like an interminable wait since the turbulent events of last year’s Christmas special, but it’s only been nine months, and from the snippets gleaned from the interviews that cast and creator Julian Fellowes have given over the past few weeks, we can expect plenty of action chez Crawley. Viewer/journalist/mildly obsessed Downton fan that I am, I’m going to speculate on what I’d like to see in the fourth series. While there is so much to look forward to, I am duty-bound to start with Mary.
The new run picks up just six months after Matthew met his sticky end (can you tell I’ve got some distance and perspective? At the time it felt like the end of the world), and our prickly widow is facing life as a single mum. She’s hardly going to be roughing it in the Twenties equivalent of a high-rise, where the lifts don’t work properly and the stairs smell of wee, but I’m sure the aristocratic lass will have her fair share of hurdles to overcome. That said, I hope she gets more to do than simply mull over potential replacements for her dead hubby and wallow in grief. It just wouldn’t suit her, especially given her father’s going to be back in charge of the estate – and no doubt making as much of a mess of it as before. Fingers crossed it’s not too long before she’s running rings around her duffer dad.
For second-fiddle sister Edith, series three was little more than a kick in the guts, after the wedding from hell
(you’d have thought simpering Strallan would have revealed a smidge earlier that he was actually a spineless git, instead of leaving it until his bride-to-be was halfway down the aisle), and most of the Crawley clan recoiling in horror at the notion of her ‘having a career’ as a journalist. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in series four, she turns into a 1920s version of Grace Dent – reporting on the ups and downs of life at Downton like it was her own personal version of EastEnders? It would certainly keep her family – and the staff – on their toes.
Speaking of life below stairs, scheming witch O’Brien may be no more, but evil Edna’s back, though this time as a lady’s maid. I’m in no rush to see her throw herself at Branson again (though he would no doubt neatly side-step her), but I hope she hasn’t been completely snatched back from the dark side, as she was a great minx-in-the-making and potentially a brilliant replacement for O’Brien, yet whether she’ll be a match for Team Carson remains to be seen. I’m also holding out for a lot more of the wonderful Mrs Patmore as she gets to grips with the new-fangled kitchen inventions of the 20th century. I reckon Julian Fellowes could get an entire spin-off series out of it; introducing a new gadget each week while we watch Mrs P beat the living daylights out of it with her rolling pin. Just an idea, Mr F…
Returning to reality, I’m intrigued by the distinguished guest list of season four. Shirley MacLaine is back as the marvellous Martha Levinson, but also weighing in from Hollywood is Paul Giamatti. I really couldn’t care less if he was popping up as second footman from the back (he’s actually going to be Cora’s playboy brother Harold, though we have to wait until the 2013 Christmas special), his presence is a mouthwatering one. It’s also proof that for once, Americans – who have taken this show to their hearts – have got some taste.
Also among the flurry of new faces joining the ranks this time round is ex-EastEnder Nigel Harman. Cards on the table now: do we think he’s merely going to be Dennis Rickman in period costume, or will he actually flex his acting muscles? Only time will tell… Roll on September 22.
Downton Abbey returns Sunday 22nd September at 9pm on ITV.
Contributed by Scheenagh Harrington