The thing is, yes, this is probably historically accurate: white people in 1920s England — especially aristocratic white people — would probably get upset about one of their own dancing with a black man. So, for the most part, Fellowes did portray something that could be considered “historically believable.” But he couldn’t get a little more creative?
There may just be too much that Fellowes, as the show’s creator and writer, has to contend with. Downton Abbey can’t be an easy show to write since you are confined to a very strict time and set of characters, and stepping a half-inch over the line of what might be considered reality to those characters and their time would seem egregious. Fellowes is tasked with making the show believable while providing a story that is equally interesting to watch both in terms of keeping our attention and looking great. Thankfully he always has Lady Mary as his old reliable fallback plan. It comes as no surprise that we’re back to the widowed Lady Mary being proposed to by the nearly-engaged Lord Gillingham. Mary unsurprisingly turns down his advances. She is the one character on this show who can bounce back or deflect from any possible scandal or not be looked at as damaged even though she is a young mother with one husband already in the grave. She is also, oddly, the only person we have to both root for and dislike at the same time; a sad thing since that was the secret sauce that worked so well in the Downton stew for so long. You loved to hate some of the characters on the show, but now you just pity Mary while wishing she’d just move on already and maybe become a bit more of a dynamic character. The many loves and heartbreaks in her life are topics that Fellowes has been able to draw from for quite some time, but there is that whole adage about going to the well one-too-many times. Yet the fact remains that no other wells have presented themselves so far. We’re stuck between the same old stuff, and some really awkward attempts at growth. Until Fellowes can excel in the latter and spruce up the former, Downton Abbey will continue to suffer from this fourth season funk that it can’t seem to shake off.