After six seasons—spanning over a decade from 1912 to 1925—the tale of the Crawleys and their servants at Downton Abbey has finally come to an end, and through the power of television, it’s like none of them aged a day (as Maggie Smith is prone to pointing out, The Dowager Countess must be like 200 years old now).
Despite last week’s harrowing set-up for Edith, she seems pretty well resigned to being a spinster in London, not unlike her Aunt Rosamund. She’d like to have Marigold schooled there as well, much to her father’s chagrin. Robert thinks this all very sudden, to which Edith responds, “I’ve been about as hasty as a glacier.”
While the Crawley family is out for a nice late-summer stroll, Henry is smoking in the corner, still quietly depressed about the loss of his best friend, Charlie Rogers. Why hasn’t he offered Edith a cigarette? She’s just as gloomy as he is. Maybe they’d strike up a proper friendship, fall in love, and spite Mary even worse than if Edith had ended up a Marchioness after all!
But alas, he’s still in love with Mary—so much that he’s thinking about giving up racing once and for all. I mean, partly because his friend died in a fiery crash but also Mary. The thing is, if he’s not racecar driving, what else could he possibly do with himself? Get a *Real Job*—?
Despite his being “down in the dumps” (the first of many of Mary’s understatements in this finale), he’s made quite the impression on the Crawleys—making cocktails for them in the garden, for one. Robert seems to be enjoying alcohol again, in addition to his new puppy.
I think puppies and cocktails oughta be my new aesthetic.
In an uncharacteristic—or maybe newly characteristic—tender moment, Thomas thanks Baxter, Andy and Anna for saving him. I hope he also thanked Mrs. Hughes—though knowing her, she’d probably bite her lip all misty-eyed and tell him to stop dillydallying and get on with his work.
Meanwhile, Anna is rather pregnant. Mrs. Hughes informs her that she’s welcome to start her (unpaid, I presume?) maternity leave, but Anna
needs wants to keep working as long as she can. Carson is mortified at the idea that a Lady’s Maid be visibly up the spout while attending to her duties. He laments it’s all just the way of the future. Mrs. Hughes scoffs and is basically like, “We’re not gonna have Lady’s Maids at all in the future—it’s all gonna be robots.”
Mrs. Patmore ships Andy and Daisy, telling her protege that she could do worse than a nice lad like him. But Daisy’s like “PFFT, I could do a lot better!” Wow, Daisy. Remember that time you had the hots for Thomas in Season One? You daft girl.
Andy is pretty sad that she’s just not that into him and asks Mrs. Patmore if Daisy is “interested in men”—and Mrs. Patmore thinks he means, “Is she a lesbian?”
He bumbles, clarifying that he’s asking because she seems super focused on her studies and like, he respects that but … and Mrs. Patmore is like, “Brah, figure out your own woo-ing. I got shit to do.”
CARSON SPILLS WINE AT DINNER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Surely this is the sign of the end of days. For once, the Godfather of all that happens beneath the stairs, who has prided himself on the utmost decorum and style, has some deep, dark secret. God, I hope this finale turns out to be a crossover with The Knick and Carson has been storing cocaine in of the wine cellar for like 30 years.
As Carson shakes, Thomas is eyeing a future job prospect, perhaps—? But he’s had a job offer at another house and he thinks it’ll be good to get out of Downton, away from the memories and the systemic homophobia.
At the Dowaer House, Denker is putting NUDE nail polish on, and Spratt’s like “you hussy,” but you know he’s gonna write about it in his column. Edith’s come to visit Spratt, in fact, and would like to expand aforementioned column into a full page. “Your tips on how to keep your husband happy have gone particularly well.”
Well Spratt! I never!
And so, too, have his recommendations on fashions of the era been a big hit.
“I’m full of ideas when it comes to combining comfort and elegance, m’lady.”
I DEMAND A SPRATT SPIN-OFF WHERE HE GETS A JOB AT SELFRIDGE’S.
Moelsley’s been offered a full time job at the school, and thank God Baxter’s there to be his voice because he’s totally gobsmacked. And then she inadvertently starts talking about making the decision as the two of them and I ship it—‘till my dying day, I’ll ship this sweet, unassuming lil’ ship.
Back at Downton, Mrs. Hughes notices her husband has a bit of a tremor in his hand. It might just be that he shakes in anticipation whenever she’s near, but she suspects that it’s more than just a lifetime of pent up of arousal.
When she corners him in his office, she says, “I am your wife, I love you—your secrets are safe with me.”
And he’s like, “Uh what shaking?! NervousLaughter.gif.”
And he denies everything—Fellowes, how is it in any way conceivable that Carson could successfully lie to Mrs. Hughes? Even when they weren’t married, even ten years ago when he hadn’t even seen her neck, let alone her boobs, she read him like a book, both in the sense that she saw straight through the front and, from time to time, savagely dragged him.
Lucky for Fellowes and Carson, Molesley comes in precisely at this moment and interrupts to say that he’s been offered a job and like maybe he’ll leave Downton?! And he could live in one of the cottages that the old teacher had been living in when he taught in the village and—and—and—
Carson sputters something about asking the Crawleys if having a cottage is okay, and Mrs. Hughes is like, “FFS, can’t we have one conversation that doesn’t summon the name of the holy family?!”
I wonder if Carson has ever mistakenly called her m’lady in bed?
Robert and Mary have gone to visit Violet. Cora is graciously absent. Violet’s like, “Oh that Bertie! What an idiot.”
And Robert’s like, yes, he’s “painted himself into a corner.”
And Violet’s like, “Why can’t men ever paint themselves out of a corner!?” Oh my God, I am gonna miss her pithy sass.
Mary has been inspired. She’s had an idea—I hope it doesn’t involve pouring paint on Edith or something. For the love of God is she gonna do something nice?
No no, probably not. Still. I’m intrigued.
Isobel and Lord Merton have a visit, which is reassuring because he’s been kind of MIA with his asshole son and asshole daughter-in-law. It turns out he’s got:
* LE GASP! *
AND HE’S DYING!
But he just smiles sadly and is all like, “I’ve had a good life I guess except, uh, I would have … liked to have been married to you hahaha jk jk I mean not jk but like actually … anyway, no man can have everything amiright?!”
GUILT TRIP via your red blood cells. That’s savage, Merton.
Anna’s got a hairdryer for Lady Mary, and it terrifies Carson but Daisy feels inspired to, perhaps, change up her hair a bit. Andy’s like, “I don’t think you need to change your hair.”
And she’s like, “WOT R U A FASHION EXPERT NOW?!”
Daisy thinks herself terribly frumpy and says she looks the same as she did 10 years ago, which is 100% the truth. How old is she, 14? Geez, literally no one on this show has aged! In fact, I think Mrs. Hughes aged bloody backwards. Maybe that’s where all those maids disappeared to over the years (lookin’ at you, Madge): Mrs. Hughes has been murdering them and bathing in their virgin blood to retain her youth.
Rosamund has invited Edith for dinner at the Ritz since she’s in London for the time being. BUT ACTUALLY SHE’S JUST BROUGHT HER THERE TO MEET BERTIE. And even more impressive: Mary’s set the entire thing up.
Bertie’s changed his mind about Marigold, it seems. He never even told his mother about their break-up. He CRIES into his champagne. He can’t live without her. He loves her so damn bad. I don’t wanna get my hopes up because we aren’t even halfway through this finale, but … please let her be happy.
Edith wants to tell his mother the truth about Marigold. Is he ready for the ensuing gossip?
“The only thing I’m not ready for is a life without you.” MY CREYS.
Edith calls home to tell her parents that the engagement is back on and they should come to Brancaster to meet Bertie’s mother before they formally announce the engagement. Robert races to his bedroom to tell Cora and be bursts in being like, “That was Edith guess what?!”
Cora’s like, “She’s pregnant again? She’s been arrested for treason?”
CORA, OH MY GOD. Having something to do with her time other than working on that same needlepoint for ten years and frowning Americanly at the antics of her family has made her delightfully jaded.
Robert bitches for like .5 seconds about how much time Cora spends at the hospital … but then she’s like, ‘THIS IS ABOUT EDITH,” and even Robert can’t argue with that …
Isobel is desperately upset about Lord Merton being near death, and Violet’s like, “No shit, cuz you love him.”
And she’s like, “Do I?”
And Violet just smirks and is like, “It’s good to be in love, whatever age!” Which makes me think she was never an awkward, oily thirteen year old full of unrequited love, but I digress.
Isobel asks her if she’s ever loved anyone besides her husband and, you know, that Russian prince she basically had a torrid love affair with.
“I never answer a question more incriminating than whether or not I need a rug.”
Violet never fails to deliver on the comebacks, and this is one I’m personally pocketing for later.
The family leaves for Brancaster to meet up with Bertie, Edith and Berite’s overbearing mother. They all say goodbye to Thomas, who is thankful to have known them all and had the privilege of working at Downton: “I arrived here as a boy; I leave as a man …”
Cora thanks him for that time he rescued Edith from a fire that was kinda her own fault. They pile into the motor and head off.
“I hate goodbyes,” laments Tom, speaking for all of us.
“There seems to be so many of them these days,” says Mary, which couldn’t be a more expositionally literal form of foreshadowing if she’d broken the 4th wall Frank Underwood-style and waggled a knowing eyebrow at us.
Mary, Henry, and Branson are the only lot left at Downton for the moment, and during their dinner, Carson spills MORE wine. Okay, now people are DAMN WORRIED. People meaning me and Mary, who sends him downstairs. He’s forced, then, to confess to his wife that his shaky hands seem to be an inherited palsy.
Both his father and grandfather had it, and it ended both of their careers in service. So too, he assumes, he must be soon done for. This condition is real—it’s called “essential tremor”—Carson won’t die, but as far as he’s concerned, without his work what does he have to live for? OH, I DON’T KNOW, HIS WIFE?
In the spirit of the last six seasons of these two having important emotional conversations, there’s a knock at the door to ensure it goes no further.
Mary enters, and Mrs. Hughes leaves, presumably to go cry into a teacup. Carson doesn’t want Mary to concern herself with him and his troubles, but she is, and she wants to help—whatever that might mean. He is, after all, her much poorer, lower class, but no less adoring father-figure.
Bertie lives in a legit castle, and Edith will too, now. Like, it probably has a moat. I’m not kidding. Even her parents are impressed, and they live in a house that has like 2,000 rooms.
It seems that Bertie’s mother is a little bit … uh, intense, but how bad could it be if she lives in that huge castle with them after they’re married? Isn’t it like 10 miles wide? She’s stomping about on the moral high ground about some cousin Peter who was a BAD MAN and of course anything even remotely immoral could mean the downfall of their empire.
So, guys … maybe don’t say anything about Marigold—? But Edith can’t stand the lying anymore. So, the next day she goes directly to Bertie’s mother in order to confess.
I’m having heart palpitations.
Presumably, she tells her everything, because then Bertie and his mother have the “Why didn’t you tell me?” conversation. He manages to stand up for himself in her presence, but she doesn’t think that Edith could possibly be *the one*—what with her sordid past.
And Bertie—bless his bleeding heart—is like, “Too damn bad, mumsy!”
Isobel and Merton have been to see Dr. Clarkson to confirm his pernicious anemia, but the evil daughter-in-law comes and fetches him, aggressively telling Isobel to stay out of everything now that he’s ACTIVELY DYING, AT LAST!
God, maybe they were poisoning him! Isobel should start investigating them, or testing his blood for arsenic.
Thomas is leaving, and Mrs. Hughes is like, “Give me a kiss!” because she always sees the good in people, and Thomas has needed that, hasn’t he?
Oh god my heart.
Carson even tries to be nice, telling Thomas that he should do okay because it’s not like he’s not an idiot … gee, thanks Carson.
The children come down with Mary to say goodbye, and George is like, “Please don’t go,” and I’m sobbing.
Thomas tells him, “I’ll always be your friend,” and oh god, I want to believe it.
Someone stop him. Someone tell him that DOWNTON IS HIS HOMMMMEEEE.
As he arrives at his new job, and the maid’s name is ELSIE (flashbacks to a kindly housekeeper, hmm? Either that or Fellowes just really ran out of period-appropriate names). But he soon realizes that his new job is terrible in a different way from Downton: it’s fatally boring.
Andy’s working on the farm with Mr. Mason, and he’s looking pretty good with his shoulders and back muscles and—ahem.
Of course, as Mrs. Patmore predicted, now that he has stopped showing interest in Daisy, the girl finds herself quite smitten with him … or at least a little smitten.
Isobel has been turned away from Lord Merton’s, and she returns to the Dower House to complain about it. Violet doesn’t see why she doesn’t just roundhouse kick the servants and run up to his room to proclaim her love.
“When reason fails, try force,” Violet insists.
Carson’s not in the best mood
this lifetime this season when Molesley comes in to say he’s going to accept the job. He notices that Carson seems unwell, and of course, he brushes it off. Mrs. Hughes is mad that he’s not being honest and that he’s being an old curmudgeon—and not adorably so this time.
The engagement dinner at Brancaster is tense, and it’s a game of aristocratic whack-a-mole as Bertie and his mother vie to stand up and announce—or not announce—the engagement. The overtones of control in this mother-son relationship seem … disturbingly familiar …
“I suggest you speak now or lose him forever,” Robert says, and you know, he’s maybe got a little experience supporting marriages between people who society may perceive as being “not good enough” for one another. See: his marriage to an American heiress, his youngest daughter marrying the family chauffeur, his niece marrying someone of a different religion, his eldest now married to a racecar driver …
So, Bertie’s mother caves and endorses the marriage. After she’s had time to ruminate on it (and seeing the need to avoid a lifetime of fights with her son), she commends Edith for being “unimpeachably honest” and believes that they can all do the work that needs to be done to ensure their happiness.
And yes, that includes Marigold.
Back at Downton, Mrs. Patmore refers to the Carsons’ cottage as a “carefree love nest,” and the only part of that that Mrs. Hughes denies as she leaves for the evening is the carefree part. Bwahaha. If they don’t stop talking like this, I’m gonna wager this series ends with these two tangled up in the sheets in the Blue Room.
Violet and Isobel storm Lord Merton’s house and Violet tells the truth about the intentions of Larry and his canker sore of a fiance. Merton is, of course, devastated—but not in the least surprised. “Larry, as my son I love you but I have failed to like you!”
That cuts deep, brah.
Isobel’s like COME TO MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW, AND I’M GONNA MARRY YOUR ASS.
LORD MERTON IS SO CHUFFED HE MIGHT DIE.
The family returns to Downton, and Edith is planning a New Year’s wedding. She thanks Mary—sort of?—for her hand in it. “We’re blood and we’re stuck with it, so let’s try to do a little better in the future,” Mary says, and let’s believe she means it.
FAST FORWARD TO NEW YEAR’S EVE EVE EVE, and the house is abuzz with wedding preparations, as it has been so many times over the last six seasons.
The last time Edith almost got married, she got left at the altar, so … you know, holding my breath here.
Lady Rose and Atticus are here for the wedding! And they’ve had a baby girl! But she’s in America with the Nanny who was like, “Oh she’s too little to be on a boat,” and I’m just like, I DON’T CARE SHOW ME AN ADORABLE BABY, FELLOWES!
And Rose, bless her, runs downstairs to say hello to the servants and show off her daughter’s baby pictures. “Victoria Rachel Cora” she proclaims, specifically not Susan for her own mother, with whom she had more than a rocky relationship. CORA IS HER MUM NOW! Which is kind of fitting. I mean, she did kind of show up to replace Sybil. (But she never will! No one could!)
Molesey’s back for the holiday and the wedding, but only just. He’ll be off to teach after the holiday … and maybe marry Baxter?! I hope?! Thomas has been invited back for the wedding but no word on whether or not he’ll be able to get away … from his horribly boring job.
Anna’s SUUUUUPER PREGNANT NOW. Oh God. Nothing better happen to this damn baby or I swear to GOD I will FIGHT U FELLOWES!
Isobel and Lord Merton have, apparently, gotten married. He’s still dying, maybe? He seems okay, but … I mean, it’s not like people don’t needlessly die on this show all the time. It would be nice to see a death coming for once I guess.
Cora is talking all about the hospital, and look at her! She’s so enthusiastic. Oh, that’s rather nice, really. Robert’s jealous. Edith thinks it’s an unconscious thing. “Men are mostly unconscious,” Rosamund grins. Give her another drink.
Carson is no longer able to pour wine at dinner. Mary and Robert go down to the servants’ hall to finally get an answer about his behavior—straight from the butler’s mouth. Carson thinks he ought to retire. Mrs. Hughes bustles in, and Robert asks her to “talk some sense into her husband,” but she can’t—and really, it seems they’ve probably talked about it, and he’s made up his mind.
But Mary wants him to stay on the estate, helping out in any way he might be needed—though he’s afraid a new butler would not accept the job under those circumstances.
Hm. Maybe … one butler would.
Isobel catches Lord Merton in the village hospital. He’s being retested because he just doesn’t believe he’s dying. He’s looking and feeling too good and it’s been three months, he ought to be dead by now, dagnabit!
The bromace I never knew I wanted, Tom and Henry, take Mary into the village to see their big secret: Talbot and Branson Motors! Their new business venture! Mary’s even a little bit impressed. They’re going to sell cars. Used cars. Maybe new ones eventually, or even production!
And Mary? She’s lovin’ every damn minute of it, even if she is married to a car salesman … one that GOT HER PREGNANT! And she’s chosen this moment to tell him—and Tom, incidentally—but she doesn’t want to announce it until after Edith’s wedding, which is actually pretty nice of her.
Rose takes Robert into the village and shows him how well Cora does at the hospital meeting, how much the village adores her, and how smart and kind she is. She tells him that while her parents’ marriage was atrocious, basically, seeing Robert and Cora and their happy marriage gave her hope. And now he’d better not go and muck it all up.
Daisy wants to look nice for the wedding even though no one will be looking at her. So, she steals a pair of Her Ladyship’s scissors so that she can—cut her hair! Oh, Daisy, don’t do it. DO NOT DO IT.
Oh, she’s absolutely wrecked it, but Anna’s offered to fix it, bless her heart, but only after Andy laughs at her. Good thing Anna bought Lady Mary that hair dryer. Now Daisy’s got a sweet little Lady Mary-esque bob with some cute bangs, and she looks precious. Andy’s like, “Hey I kinda like you let’s try this again okay?” and she’s like asdfghjkl;
Denker tries to get Spratt fired by telling Her Ladyship about his column in Edith’s paper but fails because Violet is COMPLETELY INTO IT AND LAUGHING HER ASS OFF. Of course she’s not gonna fire him. It’s like living with Tim Gunn!
It’s the wedding day, oh help. Edith looks so damn beautiful. Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.
Well, then Dr. Clarkson comes over to Isobel and Merton and says that … ACTUALLY, JK, LORD MERTON IS NOT GONNA DIE! Has a doctor ever been right on the show? About anything? No? But remember in Season One when Isobel, but a lowly nurse is she, was totally right about that one patient?! I mean I’m just saying …
And Thomas is here! He’s made it! He’s sitting with Anna, who … uh oh. She’s not looking good. If she loses this baby I SWEAR I WILL DRAG YOU FELLOWES.
Edith is having one damn hell of a society wedding, and everyone is so relieved and happy, and oh my god there is a god, nothing bad happened.
Back at Downton, Daisy’s announced that she’s going to move into the farm—and maybe also she’s lovin’ on Andy? A little potential happiness there which is cute. It’s like, sure, let’s pair everyone off … how about Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore get together RIGHT DAMN NOW.
Carson has lost his shit; he can’t pour the champagne, on NEW YEAR’S EVE. Barrow offers to pour and Robert is like, “HEY HOW ABOUT BARROW TAKES OVER AS BUTLER BECAUSE LIKE HE’S HERE.” Then Carson could be the head estate bro, meaning he and Mrs. Hughes could live in their little cottage and stay involved with the family until they die, which will be never because this place would literally fall apart without them.
Anna goes up to return the hair dryer to Lady Mary’s bedroom and OOPS HER WATER BREAKS ALL OVER THE PERSIAN RUGS. In the understatement of the year, Mary goes, “Ah, your waters have broken.”
With no time to spare, she gives Anna one of her nightgowns, and—Baby Bates is gonna be born in Her Ladyship’s bed! Oh, this is rich, Fellowes.
“She can’t have it now!” Carson sputters
“She hardly as a choice!” Mrs Hughes guffaws, trudging up the stairs with some white towels that will likely never be used again.
“In lady mary’s bedroom?!” Poor Carson and his weak, weak constitution.
AAAAAAAAAAAND IT’S A BOY! BABY BATES IS A BOY! AND MARY IS GONNA LET HIM HANG OUT WITH HER BABY IN THE NURSERY DURING THE DAY SO ANNA CAN WORK! Wait. Really? REALLY? Okay that would never happen in a million years BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I WILL TAKE THIS FLUFF FIC FINALE.
Robert and Cora are ringing in the new year after bringing some champagne to Anna and Mr. Bates and congratulating them on their newest addition. I noticed they only brought two glasses, which means the baby must be drinking straight from the bottle. They head back downstairs, wishing for a long life together to watch their children and grandchildren get into all kinds of aristocratic shenanigans.
The New Year is just minutes away, and at last, Violet and Cora are on good terms. “It’s your kingdom now, your village, your hospital, and I think you run it very well.”
Holy shit. I’m not crying; you’re crying—that’s something I honestly thought would never happen and it might be the most beautiful moment in this episode. Remember in the first episode when Cora says, “Are we to be friends then?” and Violet says, “We’re allies, my dear, and that is a great deal more valuable.”
Oh my heart, what an evolution.
Isobel sits watching everyone kiss with her BFFL Violet and says she loves how they always drink to the future since they can’t go back to the past, really.
“If we only had the choice!” Violet laughs sipping her champagne.
Downstairs, the servants are led in song by Mrs. Hughes, who is Scottish and obviously knows all the words to Auld Lang Syne.
With one last resounding chorus we get one last lingering shot of Downton Abbey in all its majesty.
If only we had the choice to go back, indeed.
Well … there’s always the box set.
Abby Norman is an author and journalist in New England. Her work has been featured on Medium, The Huffington Post, and Alternet and recommended byTime Magazine and NPR. Her first book, FLARE, a chronicle of chronic illness, is forthcoming from Nation Books/Perseus. She is represented by Tisse Takagi. Follow her on Twitter @notabbynormal.
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