(This article was originally featured on Smitten By Britain on Jan. 28, 2014)
Episode four of this series of Downton Abbey largely acts as the foundation for the rest of the remaining episodes, as we watch some characters deal with their secrets while others consider opportunities to move forward.
After days of avoidance and pent up emotions, Anna reveals to Bates some of the details of her attack. Although Bates reassures Anna that he still loves her and she should not feel ashamed, this is far from over.
He has inferred from Anna and Mrs. Hughes that there’s more to the story than what they told him. Bates’ dark side is hungering for justice. Series three was all about freeing Bates from prison, and it is possible that he may return. I believe if Bates sees that he can get away with murder he will do it.
Edith also has to keep her relationship a secret. She returns to London to inquire about Gregson’s travels. She went further with him than society thought was acceptable at the time but continues to disguise it. No one has heard from him, which makes Edith feel scared and vulnerable. Long distance relationships are not easy to maintain, and Gregson will be a source of pain rather than joy.
Advancement is a multi-layered theme in this episode. A tenant dies deep in debt to the estate, and his son is facing foreclosure and eviction. The “new” way of business would be to force the son out; the old way would honor the many years of tenant-landlord ties. Robert secretly loans the money to the tenant. Oddly enough, Branson’s socialist sensibilities cause him to side with Robert on this issue. Once the slate is clean, everyone agrees that the road ahead must involve treating the tenants as partners in development.
Two government agents are sent to Yorkshire to begin a study of the financial solvency of the great landowning families. Charles Blake and Evelyn Napier are touring Yorkshire to assess the situation. Although the agents insist Downton is in no danger, the agents are seen as a threat. I believe the study is simply an excuse for more potential suitors to attempt to win Mary over. Napier met her before as a friend of Mr. Pamuk in the first series.
Alfred has a rare chance to get the training he needs to become a successful chef. He is invited to test for the training program at the Ritz. Although Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, and Ivy helped him prepare, program hopefuls with more professional experience intimidate him.
Alfred’s improvement attempt unfortunately causes Moseley to slip further backwards in his career. Moseley ignores his father’s advice in the series premiere and rejects Carson’s offer of the footman position. Carson regrets reaching out to him because he is too prideful.
Fans can expect more surprises next week. The initial planning conversation for Robert’s birthday party will definitely result in more secrets. Meanwhile, Napier and Blake are sure to cause trouble over the future of the estate.