Last year, Downton Abbey went through a transitional season dealing with major loss but also laying the groundwork for what could be a very intriguing fifth season.
Before the series returns stateside on Sunday, Jan. 4 on PBS' Masterpiece, the cast -- Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Joanne Froggatt, Allen Leech along with executive producer Gareth Neame -- attended the Television Critics Association fall previews on Tuesday to present select clips from the upcoming season. Here's what we can expect:
Only six months have passed, so that places the new season around 1924. We see the family and servants gathered around a radio to hear the king. Carson (Jim Carter) is not impressed.
Mary Crawley (Dockery) Meet the new Lady Mary! Dockery said that she's pushed past her grief and is embracing her new life, which means that she's "got a bit of her bite back." She also continues to be torn between her two suitors, and Lord Blake (Julian Ovenden) observes that she's far more clever than Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen).. There's also talk of the difference between sex and love. Scandalous!
Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) Well, well, well, it appears that the Dowager Countess runs deep. In one teaser clip, we are introduced to Prince Kuragin (guest star Rade Sherbedgia) and then suddenly hear Mary exclaim, "Granny has a past." Go, Granny!
Edith Crawley (Carmichael) Poor Lady Edith is being pitied left and right, and even her own father says as much. Gregson still appears to be MIA, and as for her daughter Marigold, having her nearby and being raised by the farmer creates heartbreaking challenges. Carmichael also dismissed the rumor that Lady Rosamund (Samantha Bond) is Edith's mom, but said she understood why fans would think so because they're part of the "not-brunette gang of the Crawley family."
Anna and Bates (Froggatt, Brendan Coyle) The beloved downstairs couple are still dealing with the aftermath of her rape by Green (Nigel Harman), but there appears to be some healing, judging by a sweet conversation they have about possible future children. Froggatt, however, noted that they are "keeping secrets from each other. ... In her heart of hearts she doesn't believe Mr. Bates has [killed Green] ... but she has this doubt. It doesn't leave her. It sort of haunts her."
Tom Branson (Leech) He and schoolteacher Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis) do not appear to have progressed in any romantic sense, but Lord Grantham fears for her influence on Tom when it comes to his being a rebel or hater. "I'm not a hater," Branson reassures him. Meanwhile, fans wanting Mary and Tom together had better keep hoping. Dockery said, "They're both looking for love..." "... but not with each other," Leech finished and added, "They become closer as confidants. They're after the same thing for Downton, which is sustainability. They've come together on a united front."
Carson and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) Although the highest-ranking servants were last seen holding hands on the beach, there's no telling if any romance actually blossoms in Season 5. "We all hope that they'd get together. It would be a lovely story," Leech said. Dockery, however, added, "But who knows. They might not."
Daisy (Sophie McShera) The cook continues to better herself. Although it's quick, we see her studying "the glorious revolution" in a history book. What could she do with that knowledge?
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Rose (Lily James) She has a hunky new man in her life, and it appears that she may not be using him this time! Maybe.
Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) Speaking of admirers, Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) is still making his interest known, but she's not having it and confides in the Dowager Countess, who is suitably amused.
Lady Anstruther (Anna Chancellor) Neame confirmed that the newcomer to the cast has a connection to "naughty boy" Jimmy (Ed Speleers) that we had heard discussed previously (i.e. he provided favors). "Shes looking for something," Neame said. "She may find it," Leech quipped.
Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton also added that one hour before Downton's January premiere, The Manners of Downton Abbey documentary will feature set historian Alastair Bruce explaining just how much gloves and other touches matter on the show. Check out Bruce weighing in on Edith's dilemma here.
What are you excited to see the most?
Downton Abbey Season 5 premieres on Sunday, Jan. 4 on PBS' Masterpiece. Check local listings for times.