The Jan. 26 episode of "Downton Abbey" on PBS Masterpiece Theater actually saw the sun shining through the clouds. After seemingly endless months of total darkness of spirit, some light finally shone through. Of course, much of the lighter tone of the fourth episode of Season 4 is due to the unique performance of Dame Maggie Smith in her role as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham.
In this episode, Smith's character was featured more than usual, and her lines are some of the most well-written of the entire "Downton Abbey" series. Her delivery is legendary.
There were other bright spots in the storyline as well. After a most grim period of separation, Mr. Bates and his wife, Anna, reunited after he learned of her rape, albeit not of her rapist's identity. There was a sense of foreboding as he told Mrs. Hughes that it was not over.
Mary's demeanor was noticeably lighter in this episode, although her previous suitor did marry his arranged wife. Another previous beau appeared at Downton, and promises to provide some more romance for the mother of George, the future heir.
There was also a brighter segment which involved a tenant's son who wanted to keep farming the land his family had farmed for over 100 years. His father had just died, and he was far in arrears. Lord Grantham secretly loaned him the remainder of the money to encourage Mary to allow him to continue to farm this piece of land. When Mary found out, she had uncharacteristically kind and trusting words about her father's altruism.
The little scene in the nursery with Tom and Mary and their little ones reminds the viewer that the writer is NOT going to give us what we can't help but want: a romance between Tom and Mary. This would be very obvious, though not any less probable than some of the twists and turns of last season and what we have seen thus far of Season 4.
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