Downton Abbey: Season 4

Downton Abbey: Season 4 (2014)
PBS Home Video
Cast: Maggie Smith, Shirley MacLaine, Elizabeth McGovern, Penelope Wilton, Jim Carter, Hugh Bonneville
Extras: Featurettes, Interviews

While the latest episodes of "Downton Abbey's" fourth season are still flickering across American TV sets, PBS has already prepared and released a Blu-Ray version of the entire season, giving fans the opportunity to experience this British TV show in all of its glory in its entirety. It's really easy to binge on this set, as the events surrounding Downton Abbey are as intriguing as ever.

After Matthew's death, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) has a hard time coping with her loss. She becomes reclusive and takes no interest in everyday life. So much so that the other members of the family, and even the staff, begin to worry. It is only when a letter is discovered that Matthew had written to Mary but never sent, that she realizes how important her position within the family is. Slowly she finds the strength to continue without her husband.

Matthew's mother Isobel also has trouble coping with her loss, feeling that with her only child dead, her entire life had been wasted and has lost all meaning for her. She soon finds renewed purpose, however, when Downton's butler Mr. Carson refuses to acknowledge his past catching up with him. Isobel is determined to prevent Carson from making a mistake he may regret for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile there are dramatic developments in the staff quarters as well, drawing sinister clouds over the downstairs affairs with dark secrets, while Lady Edith falls deeper and deeper in love with her suitor Michael.

In the best fashion we have gotten used to in the show, "Downton Abbey" is a constant roiling of events. There is not a single minute in these nine hours where things really slow down. Whether it's conspiracy and politicking downstairs, or the clash of old and modern times upstairs, people's egos, their desires and dreams and their weaknesses are played to the fullest.

In this season in particular I found that it starts out innocently-and appropriately-enough with the general mourning of Matthew's passing, but before you know it, the show is pushing full steam ahead once again. It is the dynamics between the characters, a word here, a word there, that initially creates the momentum for the many plots that then quickly begin to take on a life of their own and unravel over the course of the season. The relationship between the Dowager Violet (Maggie Smith and LAdy Isobel (Penelope Wilton) is a perfect example of this. But also the dynamics between Mrs. Patmore, Daisy and Ivy in the kitchen are another one. Tom's struggle with his identity plays another big part of the season and it seems he is finally coming to terms with the fact that he isn't really the outsider looking in any more-but it is a long way for him, fraud with insecurities and second-guessing.

Arriving on three discs, the PBS Blu-Ray release is, as expected,a delight to watch. With a clean transfer that is without problems or shortcomings, the show looks spectacular and opulent in every frame. From the grand interiors of Downton Abbey itself down to the costumes and the glamor of the parties, nothing gets lost in this beautiful high definition transfer. With bold colors that paint a warm image throughout, and with shadows that give the image solid depth, "Downton Abbey" is a feast for the eyes, as it is for the senses.

The same is true for the audio presentation on the release. While not a show-off track, the Dolby Digital 2.0 track that comes on the release is absolutely appropriate for an intimate show, such as this, and makes sure everything is reproduced with proper fidelity. Dialogues are perfectly mixed and are always understandable.

On the third disc of the set you will find a few bonus materials that include interviews with cast members as they talk about the experience of going back to their characters for a fourth time, and also discussing how the characters evolved throughout the season.

"Downton Abbey: Season 4" is a must have for any of the show's fan. It is a solid release that allows you to experience the series in all of its beautiful and stylish beauty.