With Matthew dead (really dead) and Mary in mourning, season four is shaping up to be the year Lady Edith emerges as Downton Abbey’s real romantic draw. Or so suggests new footage from next season shown to critics Tuesday night during PBS’s TCA press tour event. So what if a couple of handsome young actors have been cast to woo Mary? Not only is Edith going to continue to pursue journalism in London, making her the most modern of the Crawley women, her editor Michael Gregson will also continue to be in hot pursuit of her. (“I’d become an Eskimo if it meant I could marry you,” he tells her in one scene. Apparently he’ll really need to become a German citizen to seal the deal.) Laura Carmichael, the actress who plays the maligned middle sister, told reporters at the dinner event that she likes to think of Edith as “the Carrie Bradshaw of the twenties,” which is only fair considering poor Edith has both been jilted by the infirm Sir Anthony Strallan and fallen for a married farmer. (Michael, too, is married, but at least his wife is tucked away in an asylum. Progress!) Executive Gareth Neame confirmed that of all the characters next season, Edith will see the most movement, and that goes for her wardrobe, too. In another scene she looks every bit the modern glam girl in a playful green flapper dress for a big date night with Michael at London’s ritzy Criterion Restaurant. Time to stick the googly-eyes elsewhere, people.
Everyone else will be super sad for awhile. The new season, which premieres Jan. 5, 2014 on PBS, will pick up six months after Matthew’s accident and cover the period between February 1922 through to the spring of 1923. Mary won’t be handling the loss well (“My husband is dead. After all he suffered in the war, he’s killed in a stupid car crash,” she says in the trailer before storming from the dinner table), but everyone will be rallying around her. The ever-doting Carson tells her, “You’re letting yourself be defeated,” and the ever-determined Lady Violet hatches a plan to have Branson teach her to run the estate. (Side note: In some corners of the Internet, there have been rumors that romance blooms between Mary and Branson, but Michelle Dockery insisted they don’t go there. “He’s her brother-in-law!” she said.) Matthew’s mother Cousin Isobel will share in Mary’s mourning (“When your only child dies, then you’re not a mother anymore. You’re not anything, really.” Awww.) And yet there are also signs of life: Valentine’s Day will be celebrated this season (cue the eager glances between Anna and Bates), Daisy’s been promoted to assistant cook with a new outfit to match, and Cousin Rose will be flirting up a storm in the dance halls. The new footage also hinted that the soap incident that resulted in Cora’s miscarriage may also come to light, which makes sense since Siobhan Finneran, who plays Ms. O’Brien, has left the series. Expect Shirley MacClaine and Paul Giamatti to turn up in the season finale as Cora’s mother and brother, respectively.