Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched the series finale of “Downton Abbey,” season 6, episode 9, airing March 6.
Edith got married! Anna and Bates had a baby! Even Barrow got what he wanted — the butler job at Downton Abbey. Happy endings abounded for all the residents of Downton, upstairs and below. “I love happy endings,” “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes told Variety. “I didn’t want to disappoint people. There was a wonderful quote on Twitter: ‘If Edith Crawley isn’t happy by the end of the series, Julian Fellowes better sleep with one eye open.”
Unlucky-in-love Edith had resigned herself to being a spinster, rejected by Bertie because of her deception about her daughter Marigold. But no other than Mary ended playing matchmaker, setting up a reunion dinner at the Ritz in London. “Would you believe me if I said I couldn’t live without you?” he says, as he proposes again.
The only stumbling block is his mother, who holds high standards of morality. But despite everyone’s advice to the contrary, Edith confesses to her. And lo and behold, she’s won over: “Should I turn down the daughter-in-law who in addition to having birth and brains is entirely and unimpeachably honest?”
Mary’s shockingly selfless act brings a welcome, rare peace to the six-season-long War of the Sisters. Edith still can’t believe it: “You’re such a paradox: you make me miserable for years and you give me my life back.” The ultimate irony: Edith will now outrank Mary in social status, given Bertie’s ascendancy to the marquess of Hexham.
Meanwhile, Mary and Henry are settling into married life, though Henry’s restless, having decided to give up racing. He finally decides to go into business with Branson, much to Mary’s delight. Even better: she’s pregnant. But she wants to keep it a secret. For once, she doesn’t want to steal Edith’s thunder on her wedding day. Times have changed.
Oddly, the couple having trouble is Isobel Crawley and Dickie Merton, who are being kept apart by his money-grabbing son and daughter-in-law. Now that he’s been diagnosed with pernicious anemia, they want to ensure they stand to inherit his money.
But nothing can stand in the way of true love — and the dowager countess, who storms Dickie’s house with her friend in tow. Of course, in the soap-opera world of “Downton Abbey,” it turns out he’s been misdiagnosed, leaving the two elderly lovebirds to spend the rest of their days in healthy, wedded bliss.
Romantic trouble is brewing downstairs, too, where Daisy rebuffs the advances of Andrew, only to be scolded by Mrs. Patmore. “You despise anyone who thinks well of you,” she chides her. But once he loses interest, of course she’s intrigued again. Finally they get back “in step,” as he puts it. By episode’s end — and after a hilariously unfortunate encounter with a hair dryer — she decides to move to Mr. Mason’s farm, and one presumes, he’ll soon follow. Looks like Mrs. Patmore won’t be long behind her.
The long-suffering Anna and Bates have been put through enough torture — the final episode brings them only joy, in the form of their long-awaited son. He arrives in typical dramatic fashion, in Lady Mary’s bedroom during Edith’s wedding. (Needless to say, Carson doesn’t approve.) And for the first time, we hear Anna call Mr. Bates “John.”
As for the stately butler, he’s developed “the palsy,” an inherited trait passed down from generations, which forces him to resign his post. “If there are changes that need to be made, we must face them,” Mary tells him, not unkindly. No one can find a good solution, until the wedding, when Barrow — who’s been banished to the Boring Butler Job From Hell — steps up to help. Cue solution: Carson will become Butler Emeritus, and all is forgiven for the once duplicitous Barrow.
Lord Grantham had to do a big mea culpa himself, coming to terms with Cora’s job at the hospital. It fell to Rose, back in town for the wedding, to deliver the message: “If you want to keep her, you must let her go.” Having witnessed the ruins of her own parents’ marriage, she didn’t want to see another.
We get hints of a few more potential romances: Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore; Miss Baxter and Mr. Molesley, and even Branson and Miss Evans, who catches Edith’s bouquet.
And of course, Violet Crawley gets the last word, as all gather together to ring in the new year. “It makes me smile, the way every year, we drink to the future whatever it may bring.”
“What else could we drink to?” says Isobel. “We’re going forward to the future, not back into the past.” Counters Violet: “If only we had the choice.”
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