Light, Shadows and Downton Abbey

downton-abbey-season-4-9-3{spoiler alert}

The shadows in the premiere of Season 4 of Downton Abbey are brilliant. Figuratively speaking. As the series opens Downton Abbey is shrouded in darkness with one light on. Repeatedly, key characters are shrouded in black with just one side of the face illumined. Lady Mary. Mrs. Crawley. Mrs. Hughes. Carson. Anna. Molesley.

Lady Mary is numb and unresponsive until, in a conversation with Carson, she crumbles and has a good, cathartic cry. She has been a walking sleeper and now she awakes. The next morning the sun rises and color and light explode onto the screen. Birds sing. Flowers are delivered. Mary wears a lavender dress.

The wisdom of age
Mr. Molesley the Elder: In your game, if you want the best you’ve got to be the best and work at it.
Mrs. Hughes: I wonder if you [Mrs. Crawley] would take this man into your home.
The Dowager, straight out of Deuteronomy: You have a straightforward choice before you. You must choose either death of life.  (While Mary’s choice is obvious, the Dowager’s words also apply to Edith.)

Most poignant: Lord Grantham pontificates, The price of great love is great misery when one of you dies. Softly, Branson replies: I know.

Loss of nobility: Lord Grantham. Remember how decent he was in Season 1? What bugs me is how he cloaks his desire to hold power in paternal concern for Mary. What delights me is how transparent he is to Lady Grantham and the Dowager. The way they lovingly hold him accountable is his salvation.

Love the mercy: Mercy flows through the storyline.
Griggs receives large dollops from Mrs. Huges, Mrs. Crawley, and, finally, from Carson. Moseley can’t see the mercy of Downton keeping him on six months after Matthew’s death. He despairs, but the Dowager shows mercy to him, even Edith, dear Anna, and especially Bates.
Mrs. Hughes sacrifices to help Mrs. Patmore.
Mrs. Patmore’s generous gesture to Daisy.

Love the justice: Nanny West gets her comeuppance. She’s such a minor character that we’ll forget her in a few weeks, but it was s-w-e-e-t to see her go.

Interfering: happy outcomes from the various interferences of the Dowager, Mrs. Hughes, and Bates. Not so good from Rose or from Barrow. It’s such a great quote, but I don’t agree with Violets words: It’s the job of grandmothers to interfere.

Bates and Anna: Will they replace Matthew and Mary as the happily married couple?  Bates had some tender lines: You stayed young. And Why should I be social when I have you?

Strength through service: Lady Mary and Mrs. Crawley were both told that they had strength in them. But they didn’t believe it until it they were of service to someone else. Grief is so inward. Necessarily so. Healing comes through kind service to others.

New phrase: ‘All Sir Garnet’ means everything is as it should be, from the reputation of Sir Garnet Wolseley (1833-1913), Field Marshall in British Army, for efficiency.


14 thoughts on “Light, Shadows and Downton Abbey

    • Oh, yes. I heartily approved of how they portrayed Mary’s (and Mrs. Crawley’s) grief. Everyone needs to grieve, but there comes a point when you have to fight against the darkness.

  1. Carol, I was not coming here since we have not seen the episode, but I am so pleased that I did come to read your reflections. The “fight against the darkness” would be impossible without faith and love. We may not always know who needs our love and strength of faith, so it is imperative to give it. Carson is a giver. Thank you for your amazing observations. love and prayers, jep

      • My devotion for January 6th was about light….being The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus the Christ. The writer used Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come. Then she went on to write: “Wherever light goes, it intrudes upon the darkness and calls us forth to do something. Rise and shine, the day awaits.” Made me think of Downton’s Mary. love and prayers, jep

  2. Good Morning! I read your post on my Kindle and typing there is very trying. No keys you know.

    I agree enthusiastically with your views of the episode. You put into words some of the things that “I felt in my waters” to quote Mrs. Pattmore. The BBC ended at Mary coming to the lunch, for week 1. Then a week later, showed the part about the letter and the conclusion of Mr. Grigg. When Lady Mary entered in her lavender dress and sat in the light in the midst of the table, it was indeed like a switch had been turned. A week later, she was even more in the land of the living and I think hearing about the will (letter) left by Matthew had a great restorative affect on both she and Isobel. I think viewing both episodes together is a lot to soak up.

    Much kindness was exhibited, and great heart in these episodes. My love for Violet and Isobel only grows. I am not happy one little bit about Edna. But this is why we keep watching. to see what happens next.

    When I read in this wonderful post about the shadows – well I had to watch the first episode all over again! Since I have it stored on my computer I did just that – and marveled at how much the lighting really did enhance the story. good eye!!!

    Finally, the grief we see in the family, and especially Mary and Isobel, of course – seems real to me and it touched me deeply. When Mary had her outburst at the table, that also seemed cathartic, and it just plain needed to be said out loud for us viewers.

    Sorry this is long – can you tell I adore this show? thanks for blogging, Carol 🙂

  3. I am needing to catch up on Downton…I still have not seen Season 3. But, I love spoilers, so I am fascinated by your comments on shadows and grief. I remember watching Gone with the Wind when I was a little girl and being horrified at Scarlett’s response to wearing black while in grief. The colors of grief meant something to me, even then. Shadow and light…favorites!


  4. The nanny came and went so quick, but her shadow of evil was chilling. Are you sure we’ve seen the last of her?

    Re: Lord Grantham – when I first started the series I never saw a man I wanted to model myself after more. Rich, tender-hearted, strong, merciful. I liked everything about him except having to get dressed up in those stuffy clothes for dinner. He of course has fallen several times since then, but what I notice about each one of these characters is the decidely Christian doctrine of the nobility and fallness of man. Almost every person at Downton has soared to the heights of godliness and sunk to the depths of serious sin.

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