The fourth season of Downton Abbey premiered on PBS last night. It debuted in Great Britain back in September, but was new for most U.S. viewers yesterday. (Warning: Spoilers, as they say, are ahead.)
The season picks up six months after Matthew Crawley’s untimely death by car accident. Dan Steven, who portrayed Matthew, wanted to move on to other projects and was written out of the show. My largest question post-Matthew is whether there is enough story to drive the series now that the central romance is gone.
After the first episode, it seems the answer is a resounding maybe. Tom Branson and the Dowager Countess (the incomparable Maggie Smith) concoct a scheme to help Mary get past her inexorable grief. In short, they want Mary to play an active role in the management of Downton now that she is one-sixth owner and guardian of her son. Unsurprisingly, this puts them at odds with her father, Lord Grantham, who believes he should run everything. It’s a safe bet that creator Julian Fellows is returning to a familiar theme: the clash between modernity and tradition.