'Downton Abbey' Season 4 finale recap: London calling

Will all the (very) loose ends of this season be tied up?

  • Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and Lady Rose (Lily James) prepare to meet the royal family.
Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and Lady Rose (Lily James) prepare… ((C) Nick Briggs/Carnival…)
February 23, 2014|By Jordan Bartel | The Baltimore Sun

Welcome to the Season 4 finale -- downsized in drama and housing.

"Downsized" being a relative term. Compared to last year's finale, when Matthew bit the dust, there wasn't a grand dramatic moment this time around.

To be fair, this isn't quite a "season finale" in the American TV sense of the word. In Britain, this is the Christmas Special, re-packaged and re-promoted as the "season finale" here. It's a bit of false advertising, but we'll take it. 

And the "downsized" housing? The Crawleys are in London and their "other home." Not a manse compared to Downton, but can anything be fairly compared to Downton? Still, they're bravely making do! It's at least eight months after the last episode, and the fam is preparing for Rose's "presentation" to society.

Ostensibly, this is what this episode is about -- Rose being formally introduced into the world of the London upper crust. She gets to wear a white dress, curtsy in front of the king and see if he speaks to her (he does! About his dad. Everyone lobes Shrimpy!). 

But Rose's presentation's not the most interesting development of the episode. Here's what goes down.

Edith makes another decision

Somewhat oddly, the biggest storyline development is Edith's. We learn she has given birth, weaned the child herself and then given her daughter to a Geneva couple, the Schroeders (we don't actually see them). There apparently wasn't a formal agreement on the adoption.

Edith is deeply saddened and mopey (moreso than usual) and there are hints throughout the episode that she's having second thoughts about this adoption thing.

"I sometimes think we should make more scenes, about things that really matter to us," she tells Mary at one of Rose's 71 presentation-related parties. 


Later, she makes up her mind. She's bringing her daughter back, despite Michael Gregson still being missing. Interestingly, we also learn that he was last seen being harassed by Germans in brown shirts, which is, I'm assuming, a reference to the German Brownshirts, who did did the violent bidding of the pre-World War II Nazis. Maybe they hated his newspaper-editor meddling. 

(I can't be the only one who, when learning that he went missing in Germany, thought, "Gotta be the Nazis!" as sort of a joke. Turns out it was.)

Back at Downton after all the season parties, Edith convinces Drewe (the pig-man!) to take in her daughter, though she doesn't overtly say it's her daughter (though you'd be an idiot not think it was her daughter). They concoct a plan to explain to Drewe's wife that the girl is actually the daughter of a friend of Drewe's who has died. 

How is this going to go next season? How long will the secret be kept? Will her daughter become the pig-daughter? 

Mary -- still pursued (of course)

In London, we almost immediately see Tony Gillingham and Charles Blake have polite gentlemanly grabs/spars for Mary's attention. Thankfully, we're spared from having to endure the everlasting wimpiness of Evelyn Napier, who's in France. The "desire" of suitors has gone down to a pair. 

It's rather boring stuff at first. Mary still teases Charles about him trying to destroy the upper-class, Tony broods in the background, etc. 

But at Rose's ball, Tony confesses to Mary that Charles is not what she thinks he is: He's rich! Like, totally rich and comes from old money and will soon inherit an estate in Ulster, which is apparently a good thing.

Mary is shocked -- this changes the game. Though the audience gets the sense that Charles will win he hand even before this revelation, Mary still plays on.

Let the battle commence, she tells Charles. (Sidenote: No sight of Mabel Lane Fox. I kind of wanted some epic acid-tongue battle between Mary and Mabel.)

So basically, we will presumably have a Season 5 Tony Vs. Charles throwdown. You ready? 

Princely drama

Much of the extended episode was taken up with nonsense involving the Prince of Wales, his mistress, Freda Dudley Ward (yes, a real person who really was the real prince's mistress), and a lost love letter from the prince to Freda.

(Another sidenote: The Prince of Wales in this episode is Edward, the Duke of Windsor, who would go on to abdicate the throne to marry Wallis Simpson). 

Rose befriends Freda, who shares with her some embarrassingly cute love letter, later to be stolen by Terence Sampson, the shifty card shark from earlier in the season. (Aunt Rosamund brings him to a party. Ew. Are they dating?).

This brings about this scheme to steal the letter from Sampson before he can either blackmail Freda or sell it to the foreign press.

The Crawleys must rescue the monarchy!

Everyone is involved: Robert gets Bates to have a friend forge a note from Sampson that will let Mary and Rose into his apartment to try to steal it. Because of course Bates would know someone who can do that. 

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