VOD TV review: Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 4
Neil Brazier | On 16, Oct 2013
In a house where previously the most shocking thing was when some dress shirts went missing, what happened to Anna in the last episode of Downton had the possibility to shake the series down to its core. How would Anna, and the estate, cope from knowing what had gone on under its roof?
In typical form for Julian Fellowes, though, most of what caused ITV to get dozens of complaints is brushed aside this week. Anna refuses to talk to her husband and rejects Mrs. Hughes’ pleas to go to the police, instead deciding to move back into Downton and out of her marital home with Bates. Interestingly, Mrs. Hughes is only offering her advice on this turn of events; if this were Mrs. Pattmore’s sleazy love interest, or Carson’s old friend he didn’t want to see, she would have had all this resolved by now by intervening. Perhaps the hot topic has her reeling inside?
Elsewhere at the Abbey, Rose continues to cause trouble. This time, her courter is of a higher class than last week but, drunk, he embarrasses himself and Rose, leaving her to be saved by the black singer. This causes outrage with Mary, Tom and Aunt Rosamund but – fearing more viewer complaints – the singer returns to his stage to sing without any cause for concern. This is the first injection of colour that Downton has seen in four seasons and, like all that came before it, is merely flirted with before moving on. Will this character reappear in future episodes? Who knows?
That is the problem with Downton: there is always plenty going on but little is given any depth, or at least the chance to develop. Indeed, Downton’s future is only mentioned twice in passing, as a backdrop to the rest of the action.
ITV’s show needs to focus its attentions, forget the below-stairs jealousies and the tribulations around Edith’s suitor. There is the option here to explore the deep emotional scarring of being a victim of rape and the struggles of being a person of colour in a predominantly white world. If Downton can concentrate on these, perhaps the estate will survive.
Downton Abbey Season Four is available to watch on ITV Player or to buy on blinkbox and iTunes. Downton Abbey Seasons One through Three are available to stream on Netflix.