Downton Abbey Christmas Special: The Crawleys visit Buckingham Palace


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The much-anticipated Christmas episode of the hit series Downton Abbey saw the Crawley family in London for Lady Rose's debut at court.

Although Season 4 won't premier in the US - on PBS - until January 5, it's been airing on the UK's ITV television network since September.

The Christmas special was the ninth episode of Season 4. Episode 8 aired on November 10, so viewers had to wait more than a month for episode 9.

This year's Christmas edition was significantly lighter fare than last year's, which saw the shocking death of character Matthew Crawley. This year creator Julian Fellowes gave viewers a more comforting episode that tied up a few loose ends from Season 4 and left open interesting possibilities for Season 5.

The two-hour episode saw the Crawley family in residence at their London home, as Rose was to be presented at court for her society debut. In the days leading up to her debut, Rose managed to get the family involved in a royal scandal, which patriarch Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, skillfully maneuvered them out of, with a little help from his valet, underdog favorite Mr. Bates.

Shirley MacLaine made her third appearance in the series. She'd previously appeared in the first two episodes of Season 3 as Martha Levinson, the American mother of Cora Crawley. According to Alex Fletcher on The Digital Spy, MacLane's character "felt underused" in this episode.

A highlight of the episode was Paul Giamatti's debut as Harold Levinson, Cora's free-spirited playboy of a brother. Fletcher described Giamatti as a "sheer delight." The door was left open for future appearances, which seems a good idea given Harold's positive reception last night.

The blossoming romance between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes might have been fans' favorite part of the Christmas episode. The two shared a tender moment when the staff enjoyed a day at the beach, delighting fans with the materialization of a romance that has been anticipated since the end of Season 1.

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