‘ DOWN­TON’ SAYS FAREWELL IN GEN­TEEL FASH­ION

The beloved se­ries ends with a num­ber of new be­gin­nings

Chicago Sun-Times - - LIFE - Bill Keveney

Spoiler alert: This story con­tains de­tails about Sun­day’s Down­ton Abbey fi­nale.

Down­ton Abbey, the top- rated PBS drama and a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non, ended its six- sea­son run Sun­day with an ar­ray of be­gin­nings: a wed­ding, a birth, a preg­nancy and bud­ding re­la­tion­ships, per­sonal and pro­fes­sional.

As the cur­tain fell on life at the English es­tate, star- crossed Anna ( Joanne Frog­gatt) and Mr. Bates ( Brendan Coyle) be­came par­ents; Lady Mary ( Michelle Dock­ery) re­vealed her preg­nancy; her hus­band, Henry ( Matthew Goode), and Tom ( Allen Leech) opened an auto deal­er­ship; and Thomas Bar­row ( Robert James- Col­lier) formed a but­ler’s bond with the ail­ing Mr. Car­son ( Jim Carter).

Yet the Mas­ter­piece se­ries’ most wel­come ar­rival may have been hap­pi­ness for the ever- dis­ap­pointed Lady Edith ( Laura Carmichael), who mar­ried Ber­tie ( Harry Had­den- Pa­ton), the 7th Mar­quess of Hex­ham, mov­ing past her fam­ily mem­bers in so­cial rank­ing and wealth.

“There would have been an out­cry if she hadn’t” had a happy end­ing, says Carmichael, now ap­pear­ing on the Lon­don stage in The Maids. In the United King­dom, “the fi­nale aired on Christ­mas Day. I was get­ting a lot of text mes­sages from peo­ple de­lighted at the end of Christ­mas Day to see her in a white dress.”

The Edith- Ber­tie re­union was se­cretly set up by her sis­ter Mary, who helped drive the cou­ple apart in the penul­ti­mate episode by re­veal­ing that Marigold is Edith’s out- of- wed­lock daugh­ter.

“It’s not the great mass apol­ogy. It’s qui­etly done, Mary not want­ing to lose face. But you can see she does feel ter­ri­ble about what’s hap­pened,” Carmichael says. Af­ter mar­ry­ing Henry, “Mary is in a bet­ter place to ex­tend an olive branch.”

Down­ton cre­ator and writer Ju­lian Fel­lowes wanted a tri­umphant out­come for Edith, the middle Craw­ley sis­ter.

“That seemed the right thing af­ter all she had gone through. In a way, her jour­ney was the jour­ney of ad­just­ment her class had to make. She was more re­silient in many ways than Mary and as ad­vanced, by the end, as Sy­bil had been,” he says.

Change— in women’s roles, class re­la­tion­ships, ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties, tech­nol­ogy and trans­porta­tion — marked the tu­mul­tuous times of Down­ton, which spanned the pe­riod from 1912 to 1925. It threat­ens the ser­vants’ jobs and the fu­ture of the Craw­leys’ up­stairs­down­stairs fam­ily. But it also presents op­por­tu­nity.

“We see the pos­i­tiv­ity of education. We see how it im­proved Daisy’s lot and how Moles­ley is now see­ing it in his own fu­ture as a school­teacher,” ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Gareth Neame says.

Not ev­ery­one em­braces mov­ing for­ward: Re­gal ma­tri­arch Vi­o­let ( Mag­gie Smith), in the se­ries’ fi­nal bit of di­a­logue, re­grets not be­ing able to re­main in the past: “If only we had the choice.”

Says Neame: “It seemed ab­so­lutely ap­pro­pri­ate that Mag­gie Smith’s char­ac­ter should have the fi­nal word.”

The Craw­leys and their staff are gen­er­ally in good stead as they say good­bye, at least for now. ( No spinoffs are planned, but ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers and cast mem­bers say they’re in­ter­ested in mak­ing a fea­ture film.)

“I wanted a warm end­ing and not to make any­one un­happy. We’d done that” with ear­lier tragedies, Fel­lowes says. “I wanted ( view­ers) to reach for their hand­ker­chiefs in ap­pre­ci­a­tion ... not be­cause some­thing ghastly had hap­pened.”

PHO­TOS BY NICK BRIGGS, CAR­NI­VAL FILM & TELE­VI­SION LIM­ITED

Henry Tal­bot ( Matthew Goode), Lady Mary ( Michelle Dock­ery) and Down­ton Abbey wrap up a tri­umphant sixsea­son run on PBS.

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