“All’s well that ends well” seemed to be the prevailing motto of the series finale of Downton Abbey.
Perennially always-a-bridesmaid, Edith got her grand and glorious wedding day. Isobel married Lord Merton. Thomas became the head butler at Downton. Anna had her baby. Mary is pregnant again. Romantic possibilities blossomed for Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason, Daisy and Andy, Baxter and Mr. Moseley and even Tom and Edith’s editor. The episode was one big love letter to the fans as creator Julian Fellowes went down a checklist of one happy event after another. “It’s so strange. I feel so completely, completely happy,” Edith says. Fans who have been through their share of heartache with this show know exactly how she feels.
It was such a lovely way to go out. I admit I was worried once Carson’s hand started shaking. Would the series kill off one of its most beloved characters? But it didn’t, instead allowing Carson to retire, but still be around his beloved Crawley family.
Even Mary was suddenly nicer. “Your Mary isn’t my Mary,” Henry tells Edith. And that is true, but Mary still hatches a plan to reunite Edith and Bertie. Bertie wants to marry Edith. “Would you believe it if I said I couldn’t live without you?” he tells her. Edith accepts his proposal. Everyone is fine keeping this from Bertie’s judgmental mother. His mother says that Bertie must become the moral center for the area because “cousin Peter led a life.” But Edith tells her the truth. Bertie’s mom declares Edith to be “damaged goods” and implores her son not to marry her, but true love prevails.
Lord Merton is diagnosed with Pernicious anemia, which was a fatal illness at the time. Now Lord Merton’s heirs, particularly his nasty daughter-in-law, want to keep Isobel from Lord Merton. They don’t want to have to share his estate when he dies. But Isobel and Violet rescue him. “As my son I love you, but I have tried and failed to like you,” Lord Merton tells his son. And because everything in the finale is happy, happy, happy, it turns out Lord Merton doesn’t have pernicious anemia, just regular anemia so he and Isobel will hopefully have many more years together.
Thomas vows to be nicer at his new job. “I arrived here as a boy. I leave here as a man,” he tells Mr. Carson. The problem is that his new job is so boring with only one older couple to take care of and hardly any staff. So returning to Downton is exactly what Thomas wants and now he will appreciate the benefits of being kind and, you know, not actively plotting against people.
Violet finds out that Spratt is the advice columnist in Edith’s paper and instead of firing him, she tells him she will now go to him for advice. Robert finally appreciates all that Cora is doing to run the hospital. Even Violet tells her, “I think you’re running it very well.” Tom and Henry start their own car business.
The only negative undercurrent to the finale was the sense that, not only is this the end of a television era, but also an end of a way of life. “I think the future is no lady’s maid but we haven’t quite gotten there yet,” Mrs. Hughes tells her husband. As the entire family celebrates Christmas, Isobel states, “We’re going forward to the future, not back into the past.” “If only we had a choice,” Violet replies.
It’s interesting that Fellowes chose to make that the last line of the series. The drama spanned from 1912 to the first day of 1926. A lot happened in those 13 years, and just as we say goodbye to the series, the Crawleys and their ilk began to say goodbye to a way of life.
I have to think though that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Downton. I know there’s been talk of a movie but it also seems to me like the show could do a very special Christmas episode every once in a while. And since, at the end of the day, this is a soap opera, it definitely seems possibly that the Crawley grandchildren could have a series of their own one day. I’d watch that and I’m pretty sure you would too.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal ®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.