At the end of the previous series, the biggest question that was left over our heads (like mistletoe at Christmas or those garish electric lights) was: Will Lady Edith become the interesting sister? After her jilting, one wanted something good to happen to the wretched child and Lady Sybil's passing left a vacancy in the most liberated Crawley woman department. Shall she follow in the footsteps of those Hon. Mitford girls and develop a voice for herself as a writer or shall she follow in the footsteps of those Hon. Mitford girls and continue down the path of her affair with her much married editor, Mr. Gregson? It's the 1920s; perhaps she can do both.
Although not technically a Crawley Sister, Lady Edith's most immediate competition in the interesting department remains her cousin, Lady Rose MacClare. Her Ladyship is scandalous enough to listen to American jazz music and show off her kneecaps, while all of Surrey stares with mouths open. As the 1920s begin to figuratively roar, Lady Rose is sure to literally roar back, although it is very common.
It is one of life's stranger destinies that newlywed to newly widowed Lady Mary and Tom Branson are now single parents sharing their grief so soon after such happy times. Will Mr. Branson further temper down his Irish rebellion spirit with his work managing the estate or will he radicalize the chamber maids into Red Stockings? Will Lady Mary eventually switch to wearing purple after six months of proper mourning in black or will she remain stranded in the fog of grief over her lost Matthew? Or, in the aristocratic tradition of intermarriages, will they turn to each other for solace?
Will The Earl continue to fight the tide of modernization and the 20th century? Will Cora ever speak above a whisper? These questions must be answered since they represent the only Crawley marriage that remains intact.
Casting the eye downstairs, one immediately ponders further developments in the lives of the staff. Mr. And Mrs. Bates have been afforded all the happiness the Crawley family has had snatched away, but for how long? Could the next downstairs pairing be the clotted cream thick romantic tension between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes? Will Julian Fellows bring a groomsman to the estate that will return Thomas's feelings? Will O'Brien ever experiment with a different hairdo?
Come Christmas Day, the Downton fans in the United Kingdom will be watching the annual Christmas finale of Series 4 and us Yanks will be 11 days away from our PBS premiere date. Eleven days until the Dowager Countess and Mrs. Crawley again find themselves on opposing ends of barbed quips, 11 days until Jimmy the valet is serving in the dining room, 11 days until Mrs. Patmore is again banging pots and pans in the kitchen.
But we are currently a full month away from Christmas and must not get ahead of ourselves. It took a year, but I've come around: my grief from Series 3 has lifted and I'm ready for Series 4.
But some advice if we don't want a repeat: Find a way to explain the Dowager Countess staying with the show through the entire run. Perhaps she drinks from a supernatural spring under the Abbey's foundation or every seven generations there's one Countess who is also a Highlander? Either way, I have recovered from Matthew's death and have put myself back together at last after's Sybil's terrible passing, but I should be inconsolable if anything ever happened to Violet.
Tony Bravo, KQED Pop