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"Downton Abbey" returns to PBS for Season 4 on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, and the cast and executive producer Gareth Neame visited the Television Critics Association summer press tour to field questions on the hotly anticipated new season, which will see the Crawley family reeling in the aftermath of heir Matthew's (Dan Stevens) untimely death in the Season 3 finale.
"Downton Abbey" Season 4 will span from February 1922 to spring/summer 1923, and Neame pointed out that a time shift will help both the characters and the audience get a little distance from the loss of Matthew: "I think all of us in a way, as viewers of the show, feel we’ve gone through a bereavement with the loss of Matthew, and it’s really nice to feel that we’ve gone through several months of coming to terms with that, and we are going to reconnect with these characters who have also had several months to deal with the immediate shock of that, so that both the audience and the characters have experienced some passage of time."
Critics were shown footage from the new season, which included Mary (Michelle Dockery) still clearly wracked with grief over the loss of her husband, storming away from a typical "Downton" family dinner after lamenting that after surviving the war, it was particularly cruel for Matthew to have died in a simple car accident. In another scene, her father, Robert (Hugh Bonneville) told his mother, Violet (Maggie Smith), that Mary is "broken and bruised" and it's their job to protect her from the world, to which Violet wisely responded, "It's our job to bring her back to the world." Following that unmistakable Dowager Countess wisdom, another scene saw Violet telling Mary that she can't mourn forever and needs to choose between death or life -- something that Mary seemed to visibly struggle with.
Here's what else we learned about "Downton" Season 4 at TCA.
Mary's Back On The Market
Matthew's death may be fresh in our minds, but that apparently won't stop a crop of new potential suitors from seeking Mary out in Season 4. "She has more than one love interest," Dockery admitted with a laugh. "[Tom Cullen] is an old family friend who she’s known since the girls were children, and they haven’t seen him since she was tiny. And yeah, she’s kind of slowly, throughout the series, coming back to real life. And of course, it’s important for her to eventually move on. So he is a potential love interest."
"There are certainly some eligible bachelors. Old family friends find a reason to start rekindling their relationship with Downton," Neame agreed wryly.
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