All roads lead to this, the Downton Abbey Season Four finale, and if you have spent the past eight weeks on this journey, you too might be left with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. The final episode doesn’t exactly tie together any loose ends, nor does it leave us on the precipice of things to come. It fails to entice you to watch more and just assumes that we are going to continue to tune in for the special at Christmas and, of course, next year.
Yes, Downton has been renewed for a fifth season. With premiere numbers of 9.5 million it was hardly surprising, but if the show must go on, can Julian Fellows please relinquish his scribing rights? Season Four has been poorly written and the finale sticks with the trend. Rose’s canoodling with the jazz singer was about to climax, when all of a sudden it was over and forgotten about. Mr. Green turns up dead, as expected, but then the storyline is left open while Mary bats off suitors left, right and centre.
It does leave the door open to Mary being blackmailed for her affections by Gillingham, but he does not seem the sort to. This is where the writing plays an important role; all too often we are used to characters flittering between their emotions, feeling one way this week, another the next. If Gillingham were to blackmail Mary, then it would completely re-write his character.
With no cliffhanger, per se, we could be in for an EastEnders-style Christmas outing, with murder and rape on the table. But the finale doesn’t feel like it is setting up anything, indeed, it took over an hour before anything of any real merit took place. You might argue that the Daisy/Ivy/Alfred love triangle tugged softly at your heartstrings, but all of those characters again had a sudden and unexplained change of outlook on the situation – almost as though the writers wanted to put something happy in the finale and didn’t too much care about all the time they’d invested in building their trio together.
In Downton’s heyday, Fellowes’ show really gripped the viewer. But this was when the show was fresh and new. Once Matthew and Mary got engaged, everything started to go downhill. Now, when watching, the viewer can find themselves all to distracted by the prospect of Monday looming, the last minute ironing or the kids’ packed lunches for the week.
The Christmas special will undoubtedly see millions of viewers tune in once again and restore the network’s faith in the show, but it has too many flaws to really be considered for a fifth season, let alone any awards it might get nominated for. Carson needs to get out the polish and Lord Grantham must his upmost to save Downton Abbey. It needs it.