‘Downton Abbey’ season 4 Christmas Special review: Daisy’s offer, and did Mary choose?

Last year, fans of “Downton Abbey” lamented how the Christmas Special basically took whatever Christmas cheer that they had and then threw it in the garbage. For the first 98% of it, all seemed well; then, Matthew died and the world fell apart for Mary and fans all around the world.

This time around, we had a two-hour special on ITV that was certainly engaging, but afterwards we cannot really help but answer the question: Was any of this really that necessary? There were episodes this season that contained more in the way of story, and this served more as a way to tie together old stories than present new ones that could carry over to the new year.

Out of the stories that are staying put into 2014, the biggest one is merely that somehow, Lady Mary still has both Lord Anthony Gillingham and Charles Blake waiting like they are contestants on “The Bachelor” hoping to get the final rose … and this has been eight months of doing so. While we learned in here that Blake has his own ties to nobility, and was merely hiding them in order to, like another show in “Joe Millionaire,” have Mary like him for who he was rather than his inheritance, this has not played a role into the decision. We’re still waiting, and the only key revelation here is that Michelle Dockery’s character will eventually choose somehow.

Meanwhile, we seemingly had an end to the Bates murder story that played out at the end of the season. It seemed for a good half hour or so that Mary was going to turn Bates in after learning of evidence that tied him to what happened to Mr. Green’s death, but his role in helping preserve the family name and protect the Prince from humiliation (the closest thing that this show will ever get to “Ocean’s Eleven”) changed that. He now seems to be in the clear, and unless someone tells Anna what happened, this issue will likely disappear just like Ivy between seasons.

Ivy’s potential exit, coupled, maybe with some drama on the horizon for Thomas Barrow and Tom Branson after the former caught the one-time chauffeur with a certain teacher in the gallery, were the two biggest stories that we really see shaping the new season in some substantial way. Ivy took a potential cooking job with Harold (smartly played by Paul Giamatti) after Daisy turned it down, which was in turn largely a set-up to ensure that one of Harold’s own employees could further pursue her. Clearly, there are still some feelings there for Alfred, even if we never saw him in the special save for news that he has a prestigious new position.

But when you look at the tableau that “Downton Abbey” put before us this week, this story did not offer much in the long-term other than a few tiny points. While Edith’s child will be raised in the UK, she constructed it in a way that she would never ever tell a soul. Also, Lady Rose’s presenting was a grand occasion that introduced us to many new members, but there was no inclination that any of them could stick around.

So what we really feel about the Christmas Special this year is just that: It’s a special, or a one-off episode that is meant to be enjoyed, but may not have much in the form of takeaways. The acting was brilliant and the costumes and sets were stellar as always; but, we also cannot help but feel that there could have been something more that we could take away from it to clue us in on season 5. Grade: B+.

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