What to expect in the new season of ‘Downton Abbey’ (and a drinking game!)

Topher Gauk-Roger



Editor’s note: This story contains spoilers from earlier seasons of “Downton Abbey.”

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(CNN) — 2014 marks an exciting new year for “Downton Abbey” fans. The show’s fourth season kicks off on PBS on Sunday, and 1922 promises to be another scandal-filled time for the Crawley family and their busy staff.

The season just ended in the UK, but now American fans will have their chance to get wrapped up in the latest drama brewing within those British walls. Season 3 brought us tragic deaths, new additions to the family and staff, and Shirley MacLaine. What will the next set of episodes hold?

Here are the five things we are looking forward to over the next eight weeks:

1. How will Lady Mary move on from tragedy?

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Season 3 ended with a bang. Hours after Lady Mary gave birth to a son, her husband, Matthew, was killed in a car crash. Season 4 picks up six months after the accident, and we will find out how the eldest of the Crawley siblings is handling life as a widowed mother. Is she still in mourning or working to find the perfect suitor? Mary’s biggest plight in the series has been her search for the right man, and now she’s got to consider picking it up again, this time with a small piece of baggage. Perhaps she will devote all her time and energy to her new son. Or will she resent the child as a constant reminder of her lost love?

Matthew was in the midst of making changes at Downton to help the Abbey regain its financial footing, and now his wife must take on those duties. Our guess is, the warmth brought out by Matthew has since frozen over. Expect to see the cold, emotionally closed-off Mary we knew so well at the beginning of the series. Also, we will almost certainly see Mary don nothing but black. She is in mourning, after all.

2. Diversity at Downton!

That’s right, after three seasons, we will finally see a person of color on the show! Downton has never been known for its diversity, but viewers know social change is on the horizon. It was only a matter of time before it creeps into those hallowed halls. While Diddy’s casting may have been nothing more than a Funny or Die joke, season 4 will in fact include the show’s first recurring black character. Gary Carr has been cast as a charismatic jazz singer and will hopefully give us a glimpse into the characters’ feelings about the changing face of race in the 1920s. With Cousin Rose’s penchant for jazz clubs revealed in the finale, it’s a safe bet the two will cross paths this season.

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3. Will this be the last we see of Cousin Isobel?

With Matthew gone, what does that mean for his dear mother? Isobel has played a major part in the series since her son’s introduction in season 1. Now that we must get used to life without Matthew, how much longer will we get to spend with the family he brought with him? Fans will surely get a glimpse into Isobel’s grieving period since the huge loss. It will be interesting to see whether she remains a lead character on the series with only a grandson connecting her to Downton. With Mary inevitably trapped in a state of depression, perhaps it will be Isobel who comes to her rescue and helps raise the newborn heir.

4. How much time will we have to spend with Cousin Rose?

Viewers were introduced to Lady Rose at the tail end of season 3, and the rebellious teen didn’t make the best impression. She had been invited to stay at Downton while her parents travel to India. If the previews are anything to go by, we’re going to see much more of the troublemaker in coming episodes. With a dark cloud still hanging over the Abbey after the shocking deaths of both Matthew and Lady Sybil, Rose might provide a much-needed bright spot to the house.

5. What’s next for Downton’s downstairs?

Season 3 wrapped with most of Downton’s downstairs players riding cloud nine. Bates and Anna have become the show’s most loving pair since the former’s release from prison. Daisy, Alfred and Ivy became involved in an innocent love triangle. Even the conniving Thomas made peace with those he’s wronged. The finale gave the staff a chance to get out of their uniforms and spend some time bonding in the sun.

Expect some major changes within the hard-working team in the new season. A major player will be taking time away from Downton, making room for a few shakeups. Since Branson’s been living as a widower for nearly two years, the former chauffeur may have to pay special attention to the latest addition. And with Molesley now jobless, Matthew’s former butler and valet will be in search of new work.

Did we mention fans can expect both special guest star Paul Giamatti and another helping of Shirley MacLaine in the roles of Harold Levinson and his mother, Martha? There’s nothing we look forward to more than one-liner standoffs between Martha and the Dowager Countess. There’s never a dull moment at Downton!