‘ DOWNTON’ SAYS FAREWELL IN GENTEEL FASHION
The beloved series ends with a number of new beginnings
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.”
Henry Talbot ( Matthew Goode), Lady Mary ( Michelle Dockery) and Downton Abbey wrap up a triumphant sixseason run on PBS.