Well, it’s time to say farewell to the beloved Crawley family and their servants, and what a wonderful, satisfying ending it was! Many storylines are tied up and many are left to the viewer’s imagination, but all around the world, devoted Downton fans are breathing contented sighs.
The last episode concluded with the second marriage of our beautiful leading lady, Lady Mary Talbot, née Crawley (Michelle Dockery) to Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), who’s now figuring out what his next move should be since he’s won Mary. The death of his racing pal has, as he put it, taken the joy out of racing for him, but cars are still his love. He and ever-faithful Tom Branson (Allen Leech) happen to share this interest, and it morphs into a new business venture – Talbot and Branson Motors. They keep it under wraps for a bit and then tell Mary when they’re sure it’s a go. After a moment of shock, she laughs and declares she’s “as proud as anyone living!” But then Henry quickly steals that title from her when she whispers that a new Crawley – er, Talbot! – is on the way! Oh, the joy!
Joy seemed to be in short supply for Lady Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael) after the last episode, when Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Patton), withdrew his proposal after discovering the truth about Marigold. He couldn’t be with someone who didn’t trust him, you see. Quite a good point. But now, at Mary and Aunt Rosamund’s (Samantha Bond) encouragement, Bertie returns and declares he’s as much in love as ever. Mary has redeemed Edith’s situation, herself, and perhaps even their relationship. Maybe they won’t be best friends, but for the first time, she seems willing to try – “let’s try to do a little better in the future,” she says. And we all said, “Amen!”
So, after an initially rather uncomfortable meeting with Bertie’s sharp-tongued mother at his sprawling estate, Brancaster Castle (awkward in-laws occur in any era, you see), Edith finally gets the wedding of her dreams on a snowy New Year’s Eve night. And along with her father Robert, our stoic Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), we all shouted “Hurrah!” when she made it up and back down the aisle. What a long and winding road it’s been, but Edith is finally happy, and her family is happy for her.
On that note, even cousin Rose Aldridge (Lily James) and her husband Atticus Aldridge (Matt Barber) came over from New York for the occasion! Wifehood and now motherhood (!) have made Rose just as glowing and giggling as ever, and what a treat it was to see her and Atticus back. Some creative finagling from Rose also helped Robert to realize that the role of his lovely wife, Lady Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern) at the hospital has given her purpose and pride, and he’s proud of her now. What a relief!
Mr. Molesley, footman turned teacher (Kevin Doyle), has also now found relief in his new role at the school. In fact, he’s now going to be working full-time at the school and helping at the Abbey only for special occasions. And his close friend Miss Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) has taken a leaf from him and closed the door completely on her past involving Peter Coyle. These are two of the show’s kindest characters, and we wish them well, hopefully together. Let’s hope one of these days he just gets up the nerve to ask her!
And oddly enough, we now can wish under-butler Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) well also. He’s found a new job, and his suicide attempt in the last episode has actually made him look outside himself for perhaps the first time in the entire six seasons. He maybe even shed a tear when saying goodbye to everyone. But there’s a twist! Head butler, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), begins having odd tremblings in his hands and wrists, rendering him unable to pour drinks and lift things properly. He manages it for a while, but Mary and Robert soon notice, and clearly, alterations must be made. At Edith’s reception, Robert hits on an idea – Carson and housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) can remain in their cottage, Carson can act as general overseer and elder manager, and Barrow can take over as head butler. And again, oddly enough, we’re rather happy about it. What a change he’s undergone!
And also, remember how we found out that the Dowager Countess’ (Maggie Smith) stuffy butler Mr. Spratt (Jeremy Swift) was the anonymous columnist for Edith’s magazine? Talk about a change we didn’t see coming! Well, his column is now a full page! And though his rival, lady’s maid Miss Denker (Sue Johnston), tries to use it against him, the Dowager turns it on her, giggling uncontrollably upon reading one of his articles. Not only will he remain employed, but he’s also now her new fashion advisor. Spratt: 1, Denker: 0, Dowager: never predictable. As Spratt smugly reminds Denker.
Now, what about the will-they-won’t-they relationship of Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) and Lord Merton, or Dickie Grey (Douglas Reith)? Isobel realizes what a fool she was to turn him down when he receives a devastating diagnosis of pernicious anemia, and to make things worse, his son Larry Grey (Charlie Anson) and Larry’s new wife Amelia (Phoebe Sparrow) are now rudely shutting her out of his life. But of course, the ever-plucky Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley, to the rescue. “If reason fails, try force!” she declares. So the two of them march into the Grey house, and Isobel announces that she’s taking Lord Merton with her and they’re getting married as soon as possible. “How perfectly splendid!” he gushes. I wish Larry and Amelia a long and rich life of misery. They deserve each other, undoubtedly. As do Isobel and Dickie. And at the end of the episode, Dr. Clarkson (David Robb) delivers the happy news that it was a misdiagnosis – yes, it’s anemia, but not pernicious, so he has a few years yet! These two will make a delightful pair, I’m confident.
And what about the other pairs? Will footman Andy Parker (Michael Fox) and assistant cook Daisy Mason (Sophie McShera) get a hint? There’s been enough hinting and ignoring hints to mistake them for middle schoolers, but after a few cries, a sweaty-and-rippling-muscles scene, and a snazzy new haircut for Daisy, it seems they could be headed in the right direction. And what of cook Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Daisy’s father-in-law Mr. Mason (Paul Copley)? He sends a pretty clear message in this episode, and she just may have gotten it. And what about my personal favorite speculation, Tom Branson and Laura Edmunds, Edith’s co-editor (Antonia Bernath)? Nothing firm is resolved, but there were a few pointed looks and smiles, not to mention a coy “We like strong women here” from Tom. And then she catches Edith’s bouquet. I’m liking my chances here.
But otherwise, as Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice would say, “indulge your imagination at every possible flight!” Do these pairs live happily ever after? I hope so and am certainly writing the stories in my head, for that is where the visual story leaves off on these fronts. I’m glad in a way that Julian Fellowes is letting us wonder and imagine. He’s given us more than enough to satisfy, but left it open enough to dream. But before we go, it was only right to give our beloved Anna and John Bates (Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle) the beautiful happy ending they’ve wanted for far too long. They are the glowing new parents of a son after Anna’s water breaks in Mary’s bedroom of all places! As Anna was there for Mary when she was in labor with little George, so Mary is now there for Anna, and soon, Bates and Anna kiss each other and their son the happiest New Year they’ve ever known.
In fact, it’s perhaps the happiest New Year any of us have seen on Downton Abbey. The curtain closes on the many beloved couples, friends, and family members kissing each other a happy New Year and toasting in hope of the future. And as we may have expected, and as is only fitting, our dear Dowager gets the final word:
“Makes me smile the way every year we drink to the future, whatever it may bring!”
And we trust it will be a happy one indeed, dear Crawleys and company, whatever it brings! It’s certainly been a joyous six years watching your lives from our side. Here’s to whatever comes next, though our cameras have moved away. We wish you only the very best!
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