Review: Downton Abbey's Sad Return

In the period drama returning to PBS, real-world problems aren’t much fun
Photo illustration by Alis Atwell; Castle: Jeff Gilbert/Alamy; Bricks: Brookselliott/Getty Images

If I were to ever search for logic, I would not look for it among the English upper class,” says Downton Abbey’s quippy conscience, the Dowager Countess Grantham (Maggie Smith), in the third episode of the show’s fourth season, which premieres on Jan. 5 on PBS. Three-and-a-half months after airing in Britain, where it averaged 11.8 million viewers per episode and became the U.K.’s most-watched drama, the period series returns on a note of change. Even the Dowager, the character most closely bound to the old, aristocratic ways, is moving away from tradition. Last season, when Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) wore black tie to dinner instead of white, she told him he looked like a waiter. When it happens again in the fourth season, she merely sighs, “And so another brick is pulled from the wall.”

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