While we Yanks will again be waiting until January to see the latest adventures of the Crawley clan for ourselves - the drama premieres on Masterpiece Classic on January 4 – I wanted to take the chance to get my hopes and dreams for the new series before someone manages to inadvertently spoil me on Twitter. (Trust me, I thought about waiting until December to write this post, and making myself look like a genius. But where’s the fun in that.)
And don’t get me wrong – I’m over the moon that Downton’s returning and I can’t wait to watch the new episodes. So, here are the five things that I’d most like to see in Series 5.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes Need to Figure Out They Belong Together. Downton Abbey fans everywhere know that if anyone on this show is 1000% made to be together it’s Carson and Mrs. Hughes. The last scene of Series 4 featured these two together, actually holding hands and hopefully realizing that the world – and this show – is steadier when they’re together. Let’s hope this season sees Downton expand on this at last, and give us a season with the two of them figuring out that they belong together.
Please please Julian Fellowes let me have this this year. I’ll tolerate Jimmy. I’ll try and stay awake through Baxter scenes. I’ll fake interest in whether Edith’s beau Gregson is alive or not. Just let me have Carson and Mrs. Hughes at last and I’m willing to forgive pretty much anything. I don’t know about you guys, but I haven’t wanted a couple to figure out that they’re in love this badly since Mary and Matthew. So, can we just get on with it already?
A Broader Storyline for Mary. Like it or not, we’re definitely going to be treated to a continuation of the romantic triangle featuring Mary, Tony Gillingham and Charles Blake. Regardless of how you may feel about that - and since honestly I doubt any of us were expecting another swoony Matthew style courtship – it would be nice to see more of Mary coming into her own as a part owner of the Downton estate, learning about the tenants who live there, and just developing a better understanding that she can have her own place in the world, separate and apart from the men in her life, and no less important for it. Let’s see Mary grow and become interested in things and issues out in the broader world. (There was a good start at this made last season in some ways, but we’ve got a ways to go.)
Let Violet Be Violet. One of the best things about last season was Violet’s organic integration into Edith’s storyline. We all know Maggie Smith is amazing and can do anything, so why not let her have a bigger part to play within the family than just dropping fabulous one-liners at dinner? Smith has wonderful chemistry with co-star Penelope Wilton, but the constant bickering between Violet and Penelope doesn’t always feel like it serves any greater purpose than letting the two of them crack jokes. Here’s hoping that the Dowager Countess gets a bigger, more important part to play in the lives of both her granddaughters this year – I’d like to see the ramifications of the fact that she kept Edith’s pregnancy a secret from her parents play out when the truth inevitably surfaces, and Mary’s so much more Violet’s child than Cora’s, why not let her help Mary figure out the mess that is her love life? And it might be fun to watch both of them creep toward modernity together, as far as the estate itself goes.
Accept That This Cast Might Be Too Big and That Some Characters Might Have Run Their Course. Let’s be real here, Downton Abbey has never had a small cast. But that fact has generally worked for the show – allowing us to see the lives and loves of people in all sorts of stations and at all sorts of points in their lives. But it’s time to face the fact that we may have reached the point where the show simply cannot generate enough story for all these people. With the addition of a veritable flood of newbies – from Mary’s horde of suitors, to Edith’s new manfriend on the farm, to Tom’s new schoolteacher girlfriend – as well as increased screentime for some semi-regulars like Rosamund and Molesley, Downton seems full to bursting, and as a result, all the characters get something of a short shrift. Maybe it’s time to accept the fact that there’s a fairly good chance that no one cares about Jimmy or wants to know what Baxter’s secret is and let some of the characters who have seemingly finished their story arcs move on. Yes, that means even if these are characters we like. There’s just not enough screentime and actual decent story for all of these people, and I’d rather Fellowes and company get started on the process of writing some of them out, rather than force us all to suffer through another season of disastrous storylines like the Kitchen Staff Love Quartet from last year.
Bates and Anna Don’t Have to Be the Dour Hour. Yes, I know that we still have to deal with the fact that it seems highly likely Bates totally murdered a guy last season. And I know that if there’s not at least three episodes where Anna is wearing a heartbroken expression it’s not a real season of Downton. But since the show (and Mary) lost Matthew and hasn’t managed to get the hint that Carson and Mrs. Hughes need to happen, like, right now, Bates and Anna are basically Downton’s flagship couple – would it be so terrible to have a season where the two of them are (gasp!) allowed to be happy for five minutes? Or at the very least, are given something lighthearted to do? Or perhaps not involved with actual murder? Surely there must be something the two of them could do, whether it's taking on more responsiblity in the house, or if it's storylines related to their particular close friendships with Robert and Mary. I don't know. But anything where the two of them don't have to be pining, in jail or under suspiscion of murder would be a great start.
What about you guys? What do you most want to see in the new season of Downton?