After six seasons of countless weddings, heartbreaks, tragic deaths, and illicit secrets, the series finale of “Downton Abbey” finally arrives this Sunday on PBS. The residents of the stately home, both upstairs and downstairs, are set on a path for the future, some decidedly happier than others.
“It’s very much a season of resolution,” series creator Julian Fellowes told Variety at the start of the season. “The way of life the house has been built for is coming to an end, and the survivors are going to be the ones who adapted to the new world.”
In the penultimate episode, after resisting him for weeks, the ever-more stubborn Mary finally got over her snobbery — and accepted that she’s in love with her persistent suitor Henry Talbot, thanks to Branson’s equally persistent interventions. He called in the big gun: The dowager countess. Try saying no to her.
Her advice to Mary: “I believe in love. Rich lives are seldom led without an element of love.” With that blessing, Mary summoned Talbot back, and took a second trip down the aisle.
Things, however, are not looking as good for Edith in the happily-ever-after department, after her romance with Bertie hit a major roadblock courtesy of (who else?) Mary. A war of words between the sisters escalated into Mary blurting out the truth about Marigold: “I admire you Bertie; not every man would accept Edith’s past.”
Bertie rejected Edith not just because of the secret, but because she didn’t confide in him. “I don’t feel I can spend my life with someone I don’t trust and who didn’t trust me,” he told her.
The rift between Mary and Edith went nuclear (Edith even used the “b” word!), but in the end, Edith returned home for Mary’s wedding. “Because you’re my sister,” she said. “And one day only we will remember Sibyl… And our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike.” (Cue waterworks.)
At least Anna and Bates have put their tortured past behind them; now it’s just a matter of parenthood. Given all the drama they’ve endured, one can only hope the delivery goes smoothly in the series finale.
And will there be wedding bells in Isobel Crawley’s future? She’s reached out to Lord Merton’s daughter-in-law, making it clear that if his son finally accepts her, she’ll accept the marriage proposal.
Meanwhile, others are planning a life after service: Mr. Molesley has found success as a teacher; the dowager countess’s butler, Sprat, has been unmasked as advice columnist Miss Jones. And we saw the family come to Mrs. Patmore’s rescue, rescuing her boardinghouse’s reputation.
But Barrow’s attempts to find another job proved fruitless, leading him to take desperate action. Luckily Miss Baxter figured it out in time and rescued him. Riddled with guilt, Carson agreed to extend his stay: “I thought he was a man without a heart,” Carson told Lord Grantham.
But it’s Edith’s fate that’s weighing on everyone’s mind heading into the finale. As Mary rode off into the sunset, her father intoned, “Of all my children, Edith has given me the most surprises…And I’m sure we haven’t seen the last one yet.” Indeed.
As executive producer Gareth Neame told Variety at the start of the season, the finale is “going to be crammed full of narrative, as our episodes always are. It will have a beat of every single one of our characters. And it will have some real, tear-jerking moments.”