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Preview: 'Downton Abbey' finale airs Sunday

Downton Abbey's short eight-episode fourth season is already coming to an end Sunday, and we have some questions that still need answering. For one, I'm hoping for more depth than I've seen this season.

Fans are hanging with the show. The Season 4 premiere in January set a PBS record with 10.2 million viewers, with ratings up 3 percent compared to last year. It even stood its ground against the Super Bowl, clocking in as the No. 2 program at 9 p.m. on Feb 2.

But the show's two-hour finale on Sunday will need some serious oomph to overcome a lackluster season that has made us miss Matthew and Sybil —who were killed off the show last season — even more. Thankfully, there have been no painful deaths so far this year, but there have been some painful story lines. (Spoilers ahead if you haven't caught up yet with this season.)

The rape of Anna was a disturbing story line that was handled pretty shallowly, in my opinion.

The plight of women in the early 20th century can be a great thread on this show, like in Season 3 when poor housemaid Ethel Parks couldn't find work because of the scandal of having a child out of wedlock and was left with only prostitution as an option.

I was hoping creator Julian Fellowes was going for a similar vein of comparing today's justice system to that of the 1920s when a woman is raped, but instead we got a soap opera story line about Anna hiding the rape from Bates so he wouldn't kill the guy, then rejecting her husband's touch because she's traumatized, putting her marriage in danger.

So that's the first question I'm hoping the finale answers: Did Bates kill the guy who raped Anna? It seems awfully convenient that Mr. Green slipped in front of a bus when Bates was "out of town."

And where's Edith's baby daddy? The season started off so hopeful for poor unlucky Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael). She had started a career as a columnist and started wearing stunning clothes as she tripped around London with her (married) editor. Now he's missing in Germany, she's pregnant and she doesn't seem so keen on her column anymore. That editor might have a few more secrets to reveal if he's found, like how come he's so good at cheating at poker?

Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) seems to finally be lightening up, but will she choose one of the many suitors buzzing about her?

Thomas Barrow, the devious butler we love to hate, has something on the new lady maid that forces her to spill secrets, but we don't know yet what he has on her. If it means more screen time for the wicked Rob James-Collier, let's hope we find out.

The treat we are most looking forward to in the finale is the return of Shirley MacLaine. The scenes with the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) trading insults with Martha Levinson (MacLaine) will undoubtedly be the most quoted of the night. MacLaine, who plays the blunt American mother of Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), will show up at the Abbey with her son, Harold, played by Paul Giamatti.

Their hissing interplay is sure to be epic.

.watch

Downton Abbey

The two-hour season finale airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on PBS's Masterpiece Classic on WEDU-Ch. 3

Preview: 'Downton Abbey' finale airs Sunday 02/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 6:57pm]
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