For the post-First World War generation, there is a new mantra: life is for living. For a new age is dawning, a new tune playing.
The spirit of the Roaring 20s, with a musical accompaniment of wild jazz and even wilder dancing, is sweeping the sophisticated cities of America and will soon be heading for London.
But there is a dreadful pall hanging over the Earl of Grantham and his family. It is 1922, six months on from Matthew’s death in a car crash, and Lady Mary has only the solace of their son George to ease her pain.
Matthew died so there could be Jazz at the Abbey. Bless your terrible driving Matthew.
And the emotional impact of Matthew’s death is not confined to Mary. Penelope Wilton, who plays Isobel Crawley, Matthew’s grieving mother, was relieved to be given full rein to explore the depths of bereavement in losing an only child.
'The death knocked her sideways, as it would any mother,' she says. 'In a lot of series, when someone dies, everyone gets over it immediately. But both Mary and I are left having a very difficult time, which is much more realistic.'
Wow, how about no. I haven't had my wine yet.
Yet Downton remains a multi-strand story, with a plot that cannot be predicted. 'A massive part of the show’s success has been writer Julian Fellowes’ extraordinary ability to write romance, hatred, rivalry, love, jealousy, laugh-out loud humour and tragedy,' says Gareth Neame, the show’s executive producer.
The balance is delicately judged. 'In a sense we go for chuckles rather than guffaws,' says Fellowes.
As he sees it, the humour has to fit with the reality of the stories and the characters. 'We have established that
Violet, for instance, is quite a witty woman and so we can give her cracks to make without disturbing her reality, because that is who she is.
'You could say the same for the cook, Mrs Patmore. So we've got two women above and below stairs who provide a lot of the humour.'
Not pictured: Violet's cane wrangler.
Not Pictured: A cowering kitchen maid
What about old stagers such as valet Bates, newly returned from a prison sentence for a murder he didn’t commit?
And head housemaid Anna, now his wife, Downton’s level-headed moral compass on what’s right and wrong? Or Tom Branson, the ex-chauffeur, with another Grantham grandchild, Sybbie, to bring up on his own?
And relative newcomers such as wild cousin Lady Rose from Scotland, with her love of dancing in ritzy London clubs? The viewers will have to wait and see what happens to their characters, and so must the actors.
'I don’t know what’s around the corner,' says Charles Edwards, returning as Edith’s love interest, newspaper editor Michael Gregson.
'Very occasionally you will receive a script for an episode and there’s a new piece of information for the character which is a surprise to you. It’s rather exciting.'
Yet there is always a logic. Says Hugh Bonneville (the Earl of Grantham), 'When Julian takes a character in a different direction, it’s not really new, it’s just another layer of onion skin being peeled off.'
This is the formula that keeps the viewers coming back again and again. 'Ultimately, the show is about relationships,' says actress Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna.
'A lot of the issues in Downton are ones that we face today – somebody falling in love, or falling in love with the wrong person, or experiencing rivalry at work.
'I think the period it’s set in is near enough to our time that it feels familiar to us, as well as being very different. There’s a real array of characters too, so there’s somebody to love, or to love to hate. It’s a period script, but in a very modern way.'
Year 4 mugshots
Downstairs first because fuck you that's why.
Mary's going through her goth stage, bear with her. Cora always muggin'. Bonus: Lady with a dead raven on her hat.
New dudes, and the slightly scary nanny.
We return to Downton Abbey in the dead of night, six months after the death of Matthew Crawley. The honeyed stone of the great house is sheathed in velvety darkness.
Only a single bedroom light glows, high up near the eaves. A shadow moves across the window.
Whassat noise? A baby crying? A bat? Mrs Patmore strangling a pheasant for lunch? There’s no way of telling. The walls of Downton must keep their secrets just that agonising bit longer.
The season opens to the tune of The Cure's Lovesong
It's raining on my face.
Dowager Countess Violet – played by Dame Maggie Smith – continues to stalk the corridors of Downton with her silver-topped cane, looking for people to argue with.
In this series, she finds herself with a new sparring partner. Her old school chum Lady Shackleton (Dame Harriet Walter) is one of the few who is not intimidated by waspish Violet. Doubled-headed dame disputes? We can expect some delicious clashes.
Elsewhere, Downton is in flux. We are in 1922, but it’s not quite the Roaring 20s, not yet. However, the pall of war has been left behind.
The world is changing – but some characters are keener than others to embrace the exciting new developments. In this, Lady Edith leads the way.
OMG this glorious butterfly rn.
She's def getting the D this year.
She is almost unrecognisable from the dowdy frump of series one, seduced by a different life in London and her relationship with Michael Gregson, her delectable editor at The Sketch.
In one scene in the opening episode, she has dinner with him at the Criterion, a big step for a woman whose mother once told her she was never to eat in public. Now here she is drinking champagne from a saucer glass and flirting with an older man.
Get it Edith, who gaf if he's married to Sylvia Plath
Downton is moving into the Jazz Age in more ways than one. Gary Carr plays Jack Ross, the drama’s first black character, a jazz singer who performs with his band at a party at the house.
You brought a Jazz band to Downton, girrlllll
He then becomes embroiled with the Crawleys in unexpected ways – particularly with the wilful Lady Rose MacClare.
They're on a boat so they're def gonna touch faces.
Downstairs there’s a new boot room where the servants can gossip and plot without being overheard. Carson and Mrs Hughes are still locked in a dysfunctional relationship, and all the old favourites are there, too.
As Carson the butler, Jim Carter plays one of the characters who can move fluidly between the two worlds at Downton Abbey - the upstairs scenes shot at Highclere, and the downstairs scenes shot at Ealing Studios. But as an actor he has a personal preference in terms of locations.
'Highclere is essentially opening doors, saying, “Dinner is served” and standing watching posh people eat breakfast,' he sums up. 'For me, the scenes in my office, or my pantry as they call it, are more fun.'
Phyllis Logan (Mrs Hughes) agrees. 'I do like it when Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes do a round-up of the day in either her sitting room or his pantry with a glass of sherry.'
Secretly married tbh.
Many of the below-stairs cast rarely visit Highclere, because their characters make only occasional trips through the green baize door that links the two worlds. 'I've been a few times,' says Lesley Nicol, who plays the cook Mrs Patmore (below), 'but it has to be a big event - a wedding or a funeral - where the servants are all together.'
Queen Thomas got a new penguin suit. You go underbutler coco
The family's rooms above stairs are at their busiest when the maids whirl around doing their business at speed. Alastair Bruce, the show's historical advisor, says this is because they were meant to work surreptitiously. 'Women worked hard to keep those houses going, but they were never allowed to be seen.' The downstairs set at Ealing, with its stone floors and low ceiling, retains the intimacy of the working country house and for the cast, this set often signals a big group scene. 'I love how claustrophobic it is, especially when we're all there,' says Ed Speleers, who plays Jimmy.
Painstakingly recreated, the set is realistic but also designed with filming in mind. The tiling behind the stove can be removed to let cameras shoot through the wall and show the flurry of activity over pots and pans, while a crew member stands behind the board of bells that dominates the servants' hall, pulling hidden strings to sound the required bell.
'The servants' hall scenes are really fun to do,' says Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna. 'We have quite a giggle.'
For busy kitchen scenes, small pieces of foam are fixed to crockery, chairs and even the actors' feet to reduce the clamour. 'It's easy to add in the sound of a plate being put on the table, but it's difficult to get rid of it if it's over somebody's dialogue,' recordist Alistair Crocker explains. The soundtrack remains far from complete until everything, from the house's hum of activity to the rustle of Violet's dress, is added in the studio.
'We can use those sounds to reinforce a character's mood,' says re-recording mixer Nigel Heath. 'So if Mrs Hughes spins on her heels and storms off, we can literally make her turn on her heels with the sound; in doing so the keys she always wears at her waist can get agitated and we can stomp her off with a degree of attitude.'
The audience suspect tender feelings linger in unlikely places below stairs. 'I love the fact people speculate as to whether there's a romantic link between Carson and Mrs Hughes,' says Jim Carter. But will they get together? 'Everybody wants to dredge up a romance!' says Phyllis Logan. 'I like their relationship the way it is, and I know they're very fond of each other. Who knows what may occur?'
But goings-on are guaranteed with Ivy (played by Cara Theobold) and Jimmy, who use the new boot room for more than looking after the footwear. As two corners of the downstairs 'love square', as Cara puts it - 'Daisy loves Alfred, Alfred loves Ivy and Ivy loves Jimmy' - they secretly meet here. There's no question what Ivy wants, laughs Cara. 'Jimmy's so daring and adventurous, really charming. This is the most exciting thing for her.'
Everybody knows that shining shoes makes people horny.
The roles of Tom and Sybil's daughter Sybbie, named after her mother, and Mary's son George are currently filled by three children: Ava Mann plays Sybbie, while identical twins Logan and Cole Weston play her cousin.
'With children you'll shoot something, and maybe one day it won't work, then the next time they'll be amazing - they're really unpredictable!' says second assistant director Danielle Bennett. 'It's nice to have kids around. The actors love it.'
This article is so long, I can't anymore. Here have more pictures from s4 tho.
The healing process has begun.
Dancing with Viscount Gillingham? You can still be a countess bb
bb George silently begging his mother to get a new nanny.
Fully domesticated Tom Branson sporting his white tie.
Edith and Gregson hanging out in his place. So she's def getting the D
Arriving for a romantic rendezvous with Mr. Gregson. Get.IT.
I guess if you ship this. I love you Anna, I'm sorry your husband is a flop.
ONTD prays that you get the dick, but if you don't please make things tough for Bates.