Downton Abbey: Series Four, Episode Three: Half-mourning and back into society

In this episode, we learn how one tastefully deals with confrontations with father and high living con men while introducing your married lover to your father. Downstairs, we learn why women are known to travel in pairs. All this happens during episode 3 of Series Four of “Downton Abbey” on PBS Masterpiece Theatre tonight. (Check local listings).

Last week, I was surprised to read some negative reactions to the premiere of “Downton Abbey.” Seeing the delicate dance of a woman in mourning, caught between life and death, was a refreshing change from the recovering-in-the-blink-of-an-eye manner of action-oriented shows or even family fare such as “Bunheads.”

Not everyone can expect to mourn to excess as Queen Victoria did for her beloved Albert; she mourned from 1861 until her own death in 1901–40 years. During the Victorian era, two years might have been appropriate.

Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) had to wait to long to finally find happiness with Matthew (Dan Stevens) only to have it dashed by Matthew’s fatal auto accident.  Mary’s wait began in September of 1912, when she first met Matthew Crawley, a 27-year-old solicitor (that’s lawyer/attorney on this side of the Atlantic pond). World War I intervened and there were complications–medical and under the name of Lavinia Swire (Zoe Boyle). Lavinia conveniently died (Spanish flu). Series Three saw Matthew and Mary married in March 1920.  That’s almost eight years of waiting for less than two years of marriage.

Downton Abbey fans found their Christmas special wasn’t joyful as the birth of Mary and Matthew’s child  was soon followed by Matthew’s death. Mary and Matthew were barely out of their honeymoon phase.

We avoided the teary and often dreadfully emotional first few months of mourning, something almost impossible to make beautiful. We returned to Series Four six months after Matthew’s death in February with love in the air.

In the US, PBS broadcasted two episodes together, so we leaped out of February 1922 and March 1922 and are now in April 1922.

An opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba (Kiri Te Kanawa), is to provide the entertainment for a house party. Downton Abbey is officially opening itself back up to social events after mourning.

If the last two episodes were about true love, this episode is about lust. Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James) has a lust for life and she again meets that handsome under-gardener , Sam Thawley (Jonathan Howard) who gallantly came to her rescue in the last episode when, disguised as a servant, she attended a tea dance with Anna (Joanne Froggatt). Lord Sampson (Patrick Kennedy) gets himself invited to Downton Abbey, and his lust is for money. Edna (, who has been reintroduced to Downton Abbey, this time as a ladies’ maid for Cora, continues her pursuit of better things: In this case, Edna (MyAnna Buring) pursues Tom Branson (Tom Branson), who is feeling a bit down because he’s out of place amongst the upper class guests who have descended upon Downton Abbey for a party.

There is a bit of love lingering in the air. Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) invites her married man more-than-just-a-friend, Mr. Gregson (Charles Edwards) to join the party, in hopes of winning her father’s approval. An old acquaintance of Lady Mary, Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen) also comes along and, as you might guess, finds the soulfully sad Lady Mary hard to resist. Is it too soon for true love?

We are reminded again about changing times (servants allowed to hear a singer and should a performer dine with the servants or the other guests or alone) and, for the sake of a good story, how the path of true love, is never easy. Our lovers Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and his Anna, will have their devotion tested when Anna flirts with a man, Lord Gillingham’s valet (Nigel Haman) who lusts for a bit more.

“Downton Abbey” airs tonight, 12 January 2014, at 9:19 p.m. Check local listings. There are sexual assault scenes that might not be appropriate for young children under 12 or so.  After tonight, you may watch online.

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