Downton Abbey fans, how are you enjoying season 4 so far? I'm kind of feeling like the bloom is off the rose for me, which is a bummer because I was absolutely obsessed with the show for the first three seasons. It's hard to put my finger on what's changed, exactly, but I'm getting less and less interested in its various soap opera plots. (And frankly, I'm just flat-out mad about what happened to Anna.) But I'm still doggedly tuning in each week, and I'm hopeful the just-announced cast for season 5 will bring some much-needed intrigue back to the show.
It seems like U.S. viewers just started watching season 4 -- and I guess we pretty much did, since the premiere date was January 5 -- but the finale date is just over a week away. The good news is that season 5 starts filming this month, and some pretty big-name British actors are set to join the show. Plus, we have confirmation that our very favorite Downton character will be back next year. Whew.
First things first: major characters like Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Edith (Laura Carmichael), Tom (Allen Leech), and Mary (Michelle Dockery) are locked in for another year. Maggie Smith -- our beloved Dowager -- was rumored to be leaving the show, but we can all breathe a sigh of relief, because she's confirmed for season 5 as well.
Other returning castmembers include Jim Carter, Penelope Wilton, Phyllis Logan, Samantha Bond, Lily James, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Rob James-Collier, Ed Speleers, Kevin Doyle, Raquel Cassidy, David Robb, Tom Cullen, Julian Ovenden, Daisy Lewis, Douglas Reith, Jeremy Swift, and Andrew Scarborough.
The new faces include Richard E. Grant (Girls, Gosford Park, Doctor Who), Anna Chancellor (The Hour, Four Weddings and a Funeral), and Rade Sherbedgia (Eyes Wide Shut, 24). Take a look at your new Downton crew:
Sherbedgia will play a Russian refugee named Kuragin, who fled the Russian revolution after World War I, and Chancellor will hold the guest role of Lady Anstruther. Grant will play Simon Bricker, who visits the estate as a guest of the Granthams.
Honestly, I don't know much about these actors, but it's exciting to imagine what creator Julian Fellowes has planned for next season, particularly with regards to the refugee storyline. The Russian Civil War sent an estimated two million people -- so-called "white émigrés" -- fleeing the country, so Kuragin's backstory should be pretty interesting (and probably horribly sad).
As for Downton Abbey's future after season 5, the series finale may come sooner than some fans want. Fellowes has hinted that it's possible season 6 will be the show's stopping point:
If there is a sixth season, it may be our last.
Well, all good things must come to an end. I just hope the show's got enough steam to go out on a high note.
What's your take on season 4 compared to previous seasons? Are you looking forward to seeing the new season 5 actors?
Image via PBS