“Downton Abbey” has lost a few and gained a few. True: Sybil, Matthew and O’Brien are gone. But coming to the Abbey are a bunch of new people and one familiar face. Shirley MacLaine is returning as the American mother of Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), Martha Levinson. She may even explain how she came to have a Jewish surname–did she marry a Rothschild? It’s a burning question. Martha may be bringing a black jazz musician with her from America, too.
Meanwhile, Mary gets two suitors–Julian Ovenden, and Tom Cullen will play the men vying for her hand since Matthew was literally kicked to the curb. There were will be a few others including the great British actress Harriet Walter as a friend of Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess. Dame Kiri te Kanawa will make an appearance as an opera singer, which is what she is in real life. And of course, Charles Edwards returns as Edith’s married newspaper editor and possible lover.
“Downton” has two more seasons, I think. The mandate now is not to “jump the shark” and keep the show from becoming self-parody. If Julian Fellowes can do that– and it’s not so easy– we will all be in his debt.