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4.8 out of 5 stars
Downton Abbey Season 4
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287 of 312 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2014
If you are on Season 4, you know if you love this show or not. But for those of us with Prime who do not want to wait, the show is available on PBS's website - new episode each week until the series is over. You have to sit through a couple of 30 second commercials, but I am ok with that.
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709 of 781 people found the following review helpful
With a global audience of over 125 million, Downton Abbey Season 4 is probably the most anticipated show this year. This number of followers is set to increase as Chinese State TV has, apparently, just started to broadcast it, although what the average Chinese television viewer will make of the antics of the Crawleys I shudder to think! This time round we pick up six months on from the tragic end to the Series 3 Christmas Special.

Downton has moved with the times, and, as usual, great care has been taken to make the setting, including all the small details, correct for the period. Hence clothes and hair styles have changed and advances in technology, such as the telephone and even new fangled electric kitchen gadgets are evident. The cast has all the significant characters who survived the last series, so Maggie Smith continues as the matriarch who dominates every scene she is in, and Shirley MacLaine makes a welcome reappearance after her all too brief involvement in the previous series. Seeing her sparring with Maggie Smith must be one of the more memorable aspects of this show. There are some new faces to look out for, one of whom is Kiri Te Kanawa, the New Zealand opera singer as well as a couple of other well known characters in cameo roles.

More of the scenes this time round have been filmed on location in London. Meanwhile at Downton itself, the antics and interaction of those `below stairs' continues to contribute some very interesting story lines and their trials and tribulations are, in many ways, one of the most interesting aspects of the show. Above stairs initially Lady Mary is, understandably, rather subdued whilst Lady Edith really seems to be coming into her own having, perhaps, been somewhat overshadowed previously. The producers have publicly promised no more deaths, at least for a while, but I will not be giving away any key parts of the plot here as I certainly do not want to spoil anyone's enjoyment!

Downton Abbey has certainly continued to go from strength to strength and has confounded those critics who thought it would peter out after a couple of series. If you enjoyed the previous seasons then Season 4 is unlikely to disappoint, and there is every sign that the show is set to continue. I do not believe any announcement has been made about Season 5 yet but apparently some of the key figures have already signed contracts for it. However, personally I would not be surprised to see it run up to the 1930s in due course. I certainly hope so!

For those of you interested in additional features this set includes 'The Making', The Downton Diaries and New Arrivals.

Edit in January 2014 - Just to clarify following a number of comments on the review. This review was written when Season 4 was released in the UK three months ago. The set issued in the UK did not include the Christmas Special episode which is the finale as it was not aired until December 25th. However, this North American issued set being released on Jan 28th certainly does include the Christmas Special (even though it is subtitled UK Edition!) ie this set as sold here does include the Christmas Special. Hope this makes sense.
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570 of 658 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2013
UK Edition means uncut. Region 1 is USA and Canada
Region 1: U.S., U.S. Territories, Canada, and Bermuda
Region 2: Japan, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East, including Egypt
Region 3: Southeast Asia, East Asia, including Hong Kong
Region 4: Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean
Region 5: Former Soviet Union, Indian subcontinent, Africa, North Korea, and Mongolia
Region 6: China
Blu-ray Discs

Region A/1: North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia
Region B/2: Europe, Greenland, French territories, Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand
Region C/3: India, Nepal, Mainland China, Russia, Central and South Asia
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653 of 850 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
My wife and I loved Downton Abbey from the first episode. To an extent, we still think very highly of it.

But we watched the first two episodes of Season 4 last night and, when they ended, heaved a big "meh."

There are a number of problems with Season 4 of Downton Abbey:


1. Thomas is still there, and still a colossal pain in the ass. Despite being one of the most despicable people at Downton Abbey, nearly universally disliked by every other character, Thomas is still employed at D.A.

2. Now that Miss O'Brien is gone (she left in the middle of the night without telling anyone), Cora Crawley needs a new Lady's Maid. Enter Edna, who more or less tricks her way back into D.A. by answering an ad to be Miss O'Brien's replacement. The character was without scruples when we last saw her; she's not improved now, and quickly forms an alliance with Thomas.

3. So, once again, Thomas is paired with a woman - this time Edna - to wreck havoc on the other servants at D.A.

4. The problem with that is two-fold: (a) the person they chose to stab in the back is Anna. Anna! The sweetest, most compassionate and kind member of the staff; and (b) the Earl and Countess of Grantham actually believe Thomas and Edna when they speak ill of Anna. Cora Crawley, apparently not the sharpest crayon in the box, always took the side of Miss O'Brien, too. But now she's taking the side of a brand new Lady's Maid against Anna! How can that be? Can Cora and Robert Crawley really be that bad a judge of character? When Robert confronted Bates to tell him to keep Anna in check, my wife and I looked at each other and shook our heads. Would Robert have done that? Does he not know what kind of people Bates and Anna are?

5. The fact that we now have nearly the same configuration of characters we did in Season 1, with the nearly the same conflict, tells me that Julian Fellowes is out of ideas. Now he's just recycling what came before, only setting it in a new year (1922, if I recall the super on the screen correctly). Characters who do not change, who remain the same, are really bad, two-dimensional characters. Cora Crawley hasn't changed. She's still a dimwit. Thomas hasn't changed. He's still a manipulating scuzz ball. Bates and Anna are still the moral center of Downton Abbey. But now that Thomas and Edna are set on attacking them, I'm afraid we're ready to stop watching.

We enjoyed Season 1-3 and watched them religiously. A few of them made us cry. We really got into the characters and the stories.

But something feels really off about Season 4. Or maybe something feels precisely on. Everyone is exactly the same. And if all Julian is going to do is recycle the same conflicts (usually with Thomas and his female cohort), then we've got better things to do with our time.
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292 of 379 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2013
I stumbled onto the first season of Downton Abbey quite by accident and enjoyed following both "families" upstairs and down. The writing is excellent and the story lines amusing and engaging. I enjoyed all of the seasons since and was surprised by the deaths of Sybil and Matthew, but not shocked. Both lead further into great drama and add the suspense of the "cliff hanger" for the next season to begin upon. The addition of the naughty cousin Rose may make some new inroads with the story line. With Mary now widowed with a son, and Tom now a widower with a daughter, who knows what tangled plot may now ensue? There is always more backstabbing and sneakiness to be sure between the likes of Thomas and Miss O'Brien, so I think all is not lost. Maggie Smith as the Matriarch is pure gold. She's my favorite! If a face could launch a thousand ships, her expressions could easily wipe out an entire Navy!! She's no sourpuss...she's just a powerhouse! She can say more with one look than most can say with pages of dialogue. I look forward to season 4 and hope there will be more.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2014
For those who don't just swoon over something out of habit, I think most actual viewers will acknowledge (with regret) that something is definitely off about the opening episode(s) of DA's Season 4. To me, the first hour was just tedious with a now very unsympathetic Mary, who actually seems more disgruntled than grieving. Her self-absorption carries a bitter bite and less interest than usual in anyone but herself, including her child. However, the second hour picked up, along with Mary's spirits.

Overall though, that unmistakable vital edge we have become accustomed to with DA was sorely lacking, rendering the whole rather flat, acting included. The scenes in the downstairs area particularly palled for the first time, especially some in the kitchen. Same great people, but the fire is missing. Even Maggie Smith's parts were lackluster. There's a point where the best actors cannot overcome trite dialog and boring recycles of old themes.

I had understood formerly that Julian Fellowes is involved in at least one other large project, and perhaps that explains what seems a lack of due diligence to this one. Even with that, he seems to be diminishing his main characters in stature and depth while escalating devious and underhanded elements. His current presentation appears to be going in the way of his "Gosford Park," where everyone was foibled - and worse.

Whatever it is, overall and in several key areas like the writing, directing and now some of the acting, unless this one picks up with continuing episodes, it is destined to end in a fizzle, a shadow of its former self.

Regardless, I will cherish my first two seasons DVDs as they will always carry the vibrant pulse and excellence that set Downton Abbey apart.
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67 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2014
Killing off Matthew is a MAJOR err on the part of the producers and directors. The elders in this season are becoming comical instead of compelling. The fury to add NEW characters to this season are seem to be shallow and of no real interest. Let's face it, in the past episodes we cared about the good guys and despised the the mean-spirited, corrupt characters. Now we're beginning to think it's the writers who are mean-spirited and struggling to find issues to keep the series going.

It would have been far more entertaining to see Tom and Matthew work together to save the Abbey and to work for women's rights in merry old England. It would have been far more entertaining to see the doctor and Matthew's mother become an item and work together. It would be far more entertaining to see Daisy become the landowner of her father-in-laws estate and build to something large and in competition to the Abbey or at least the Abbey needing her services.

The niece or whoever she is, is just plain boring, we don't care if someone would kidnap her. In fact, please do we've had enough already.

Season Four is starting off with a whimper. Good thing Sherlock is beginning soon.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2014
Rape? They raped the quality of the show by acting this way. I feel that this was a poor choice on directions.
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61 of 80 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 28, 2014
I'm not purchasing Season Four because it is such a huge disappointment. Frankly, when Dan Stevens chose to leave the series the intelligent move on the part of Fellowes and the producers would have been to hire another actor to play "Matthew" so that the storyline of his and Mary's marriage and Matthew's moving into the role of running the estate could have been continued because Matthew was the "future" -- he was the young professional class -- an attorney -- who had inherited an estate and married into the aristocracy and at the same time saw that Branson, his Irish servant class brother-in-law, was going to be a partner in the modernizing of the Downtown estate. There were many stories that could proceed from that -- but by "killing" the character of Matthew, Fellowes basically "killed" the core of the series. Frankly, if he was going to kill the Matthew character, he may as well have ended the series altogether because the writing and plotlines in season four so far -- are inferior and reflect bad daytime soap opera writing. Only the Dowager and Matthew Crawley's mother have any good lines and far too few IMO, having Anna raped and then treat Bates like dirt in order "to save him from himself" for fear he would attempt to avenge what happened to her is a moment of "jumping the shark" which no series can afford to do and keep its audience. The introduction of Edna as Cora's maid had no point. The new ladies' maid appears to have a shady past -- so once again we are supposed to believe that the Granthams are so stupid that they'd continually hire terrible people to work for them when very obviously in the past they were smart enough to hire very good staff like Mrs. Patmore, Anna and Bates, Carson, Daisy, Alfred and Mrs. Hughes. The character of Thomas remains static -- he's still a wretched man despite the fact that various members of the family and staff have shown compassion toward him in his time of despair at having been revealed to be homosexual in age when it could result in arrest and imprisonment. Thomas has never been revealed to be a "stupid" man so one would assume that over time, he would change for the better as he realized that the entire world was not set against him -- nonetheless, once again he is thoroughly unpleasant this season and -- worse -- his character is now boring.
I cringe at the knowledge that later this year the godawful Shirley Maclaine and her godawful character will return -- she's like nails on chalkboard -- and this time she'll be toting along Paul Giamatti -- ugh!
I think the best thing we can all do now is enjoy re-watching the first three seasons which were entertaining despite being soap operaish -- because now it's just a soap opera and not terribly entertaining soap opera.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2014
The continuation of Julian Fellowes’ masterpiece has been downgraded to tragic mediocrity. His opening chapters have served as quick explanations for the death of Matthew, the loss of O'Brien, the treachery of Thomas, the blindness of Cora, and the ineptness of Robert. It has also reached into the private cubbies of the faithful viewers to crush their carefully created perceptions and beliefs about those remaining characters that have so boldly taken up residence in our hearts. Fellowes has torn us from that intangible fabric that I describe as character continuity. Without it, the viewer becomes lost in an aimless sea of change. What made Downton Abbey different was the viewer’s ability to count on the responses of the remaining characters to reasonable crisis. The launch of season 4 has destroyed that expectation. Fellowes failed to fully take us, the fans, into his many considerations as he dealt with the troublesome issues of cast mutiny and other more mundane production issues. The result is mediocrity, and in my opinion, unrecoverable fan alienation. That is not to say the show will fail, on the contrary, I think it will succeed, but with a very different viewer base. Those of us who have made it a viewing hit have been "kicked to the curb". I suppose that is the way of things, but I cannot in good conscience let such a flagrant disregard for the feelings of those who "brung you to the dance" go without a protesting word.

The launch of season 4 indicates that Fellowes has repositioned the series. It is no longer in the category of a masterpiece classic, but in the genre of a soap opera styled period tragedy. It has lost the spark of differentiation that pushed it to masterpiece status and has been relegated to idiotic inconsistencies and unbelievable situations. Come on Julian… you can do better than that!

Lady Rose MacClare has come to live at Downton Abbey. She is a wild child with poor judgment. She is a liar and a seeker of experiences below her station. She is a 1920's "flapper" who has had an affair with a married man in London and looks for excitement in the most dangerous of places. There is no reason whatsoever for anyone at Downton to trust her. She prepared an ad to find a ladies maid for Cora, and placed it in a shop window in town. She collected the responses and presented them to Cora. Why? Cora did not ask her to do this nor did she give Rose permission to solicit on her behalf. There is no reason for Rose to take it upon herself to place the advertisement. Cora on the other hand is an American who is self sufficient and used to doing things for herself. Edna Braithwaite applies along with others, but Rose pushes Cora to accept Edna. Rose has no prior known relationship with Edna, therefore, no good reason to push for her acceptance by Cora. During the interview, Cora finds out that Edna once worked at Downton, but left with a good reference from Mrs. Hughes. Cora is aware of the politics that surrounds the management of subordinates. She knows that giving a good reference to a terminating employee is not always evidence of good behavior on that job. However, she does not consult Mrs. Hughes to determine the facts of the termination, but accepts the recommendation of Rose. This situation doesn't pass the smell test. In the past, Cora has proven that she is level headed, and capable. She is not stupid. Why would she accept an applicant without confirming the circumstances of the termination with her long term employee, Mrs. Hughes? This situation is unbelievable and highly insulting to the American character of Cora. In other words, American women ain't that stupid!

Edna Braithwaite is a character with vindictive and selfish purpose. Upon learning of Branson's circumstances and his rise to aristocratic station, she has set out to bring him down or join the ranks of aristocracy herself through her manipulated bond with him. It is unclear, at this juncture, which direction she intends to pursue. She has shown her willingness to ignore the protocols of her station in the household and snub some minor advice from Anna about Thomas. She does not show great commitment to the job of Ladies Maid for Cora and demonstrates a propensity to defy the orders of Mrs. Hughes. Thomas makes overtures to Edna and she accepts his friendship. When she negligently damages a garment of Cora's, Thomas assists by instructing her not to admit guilt and he puts the blame for the damage onto Anna. Anna has been a trusted employee for years. She has never demonstrated behavior that would cause Cora to question her trust. However, in this unbelievable situation, Cora accepts the explanation of Thomas because of his newly acquired status of trust which he gained through “Nannygate”, and does not ask Anna for an explanation about the damaged garment. The American woman whose financial fortune saved Downton Abbey is being portrayed as an easily manipulated idiot.

A nanny is employed to care for the two grand children of Cora and Robert; Tom Branson's daughter, and Matthew Crawley's son. She isolates the children from most of the family and refuses to take orders from Thomas, the "Under Butler". Thomas, for the wrong reasons, rightfully informs Cora that the nanny is not all she is cracked up to be. Cora eavesdrops on her and discovers she is being cruel to her first grandchild, the former chauffer's (Tom Branson’s) daughter. Cora immediately dismisses her. On the surface, this situation appears appropriate. Thomas appears to be a Good Samaritan. Beneath the surface, he appears to be vindictively attacking the nanny for failing to recognize his authority as "Under Butler".

A package addressed to Mary arrives. It contains the personal effects of Matthew. Mrs. Hughes convinces Carson that the contents should be inspected for items that may cause Mary additional grief. Carson decides that Robert should be given that dubious honor. The ethics grow increasingly fowl with this decision. Do Mrs. Hughes, Carson, and subsequently, Robert think they should withhold, hide, or destroy some item(s) that rightfully belong to a grieving widow in some poorly reasoned desire to mitigate her grief? Mary has proven over the last three (3) seasons that she has the ability to handle her own affairs. A letter is found by Robert in Matthew’s personal effects that clearly outline his wishes regarding the disposition of his estate. It is clear that this is a holographic will. Robert shares it with the Dowager who tells him that it must be presented to Mary, its rightful owner. Mary rightfully shows displeasure with her father for going through her husband's effects and sharing the contents of the letter with her grandmother. Robert claims the letter is not a will and must be sent to the family attorney to determine its validity and authority. The family lawyer confirms the status of the holographic will and Mary is recognized as 50% owner of Downton Abbey. The lack of ethics displayed by Mrs. Hughes, Carson, and Robert are a slap in the face of British aristocratic culture for that era.

Rose, the wild child convinces Anna to chaperone her on a visit to London. They go to a rough and ready bar where a fight breaks out between two men who want her attentions on the dance floor. When they return to Downton Abbey, one of the two men call on her thinking she is a ladies maid. Anna assists her in the deception by helping her dress in maid's attire. Rose greets the young man and lies to him regarding her status. She tells him she is involved with another man, but passionately kisses the visiting man goodbye. She tells the first footman, Jimmy Kent, who just happened to be in the rough and ready bar in London at the time of the fight, and helped she and Anna escape, to go along with her lies. Julian!! What are you thinking? Is everyone at Downton corrupt? What's going on here?

Branson begins to feel uneasy with his new status. He tells Edna Braithwaite and she quickly responds. This situation was anticipated when Edna was hired by Cora. The replacement of O'Brien with Edna Braithwaite was not properly developed. However, this situation can be corrected.

Lord Gillingham arrives for a party with his valet, Mr. Green. The valet waits for an opportunity to be alone with Anna, the only married woman on the staff. He beats and rapes her. Anna hides in Mrs. Hughes' quarters. Mrs. Hughes arrives to find Anna beaten, bloodied, and raped. Mrs. Hughes wants to call in help. She wants to call in Dr. Clarkson, but Anna demands that she not reveal to anyone what has happened to her. She is afraid that her husband, Bates will kill the jackal and go back to prison for murder. Mrs. Hughes complies. Is Anna to become pregnant with a rapists child and hide the ancestry of the child from her husband? Will she have a child and put it up for adoption? Will she have an abortion? Will she lose Bates for failing to trust him as a man and husband? Is Anna the latest of many victims of this rapist? Will rapist Green return or try to blackmail Anna? This occurrence tipped the scales for me. Downton Abbey is no longer a masterpiece classic, it is a soap opera styled period tragedy that does not challenge the viewer in a modestly intellectual way, but shocks and tramples the established character traits of its remaining cast.

I am so disappointed in the first three installments of Season 4, that I am giving thought to boycotting the remainder of the season. I probably won't, but I am giving it some thought. In the first three seasons, Thomas and O'Brien were the ethically challenged culprits. In Season 4, just about every main character is an antagonist. Who can we the viewers trust to have integrity? Now when I see the beautiful Highclere Castle, it does not bring about feelings of warmth, security, and respectability as it has in times gone by. It now looks like a house of horrors filled with death, debauchery, rape, and personal ruin. When I want to endure that kind of tragedy and pathos, I will turn to Shakespeare… or Mickey Spillane.
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