Downton Abbey: The Finale

Isobel: “We’re going forward to the future, not back to the past.”
Lady Violet: “If only we had the choice.”

Well! That may very well have been the sappiest, silliest, most sentimental ninety minutes of television I have ever watched. I loved it.

Throughout this finale, I kept waiting for the twist, the sad moment, the death, the something. Instead, I watched as each character in this story got his or her happily ever after. Honestly, after everything these people have been through in the past fourteen years, it felt a bit odd. But, as I have said, Downton Abbey is a fairy tale and all fairy tales have happy endings. Let’s take a moment, therefore, to say goodbye and to marvel at how well everything turned out.

Mary/Henry: What has happened to our acerbic, nasty Mary? Marriage to Henry has certainly softened her up. She helps Edith (I know, right?!) and she is supportive of Henry’s new venture as a used car salesman.

It is clear that it is Mary who will be running the estate now. It is she who takes charge every time a decision must be made or a hard fact faced. Her scene with Carson, as they both realize that change is coming and that it must be faced, was incredibly moving. This woman has what it takes.

Mary is pregnant (of course), but she doesn’t tell anyone because she doesn’t want to upstage Edith. Seriously. Where is Mary?

Edith/Bertie: I rather liked the idea of Edith going to London with Marigold and working at the magazine. But, we can’t have a fairy tale ending without a wedding and without everyone being coupled up. The only conflict we had this episode was Bertie’s mother. I cheered when Edith told her the truth. She’s not so stupid as to make the same mistake twice.

Even better was Bertie standing by his woman and taking on his mother. There was a rather tense moment at that dinner table, but a few words from Robert and all was right again.

The wedding was beautifully shot and Edith looked stunning. Best of all, she is now the highest ranking member of her family. The irony is delicious.

Daisy/Andy: Andy has learned to do figures and to read. Daisy has passed her exams with flying colors. So, what will these two who have had very little to do with each other until now do with these newly honed skills? They will go live on the farm with...

Mrs. Patmore/Mr. Mason: Mrs. Patmore’s confusion and blushes were very sweet and made me smile. A bit of retcon there as she was very aware of Mr. Mason’s interest, but no matter. I rather like the image of the four of them sitting by the fire in that cottage.

Molesley/Baxter: Speaking of cottages, Baxter makes it pretty clear that she will be joining Molesley in his new home before too long.

Denker/Spratt: After last week’s reveal, I have been completely won over to Team Spratt. Although their sniping was the usual annoyance, the scene with Lady Violet giggling over what he had written made me laugh out loud.

Tom/Laura: After a rather pointed conversation about clever women, Laura catches the bouquet and Tom tells her how lucky she is. If she ends up with Tom, she’s very lucky.

Bates/Anna: Ah, the irony of Mary undressing Anna and putting her to bed. Baby Bates has arrived to great joy all around, especially from his father beaming with pride that he has a son. For the first time ever, Anna calls Bates “John.” If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.

Carson/Mrs. Hughes/Thomas: Carson is ill, but not so ill that we need to worry. Instead, he will get a pension from the estate and, even better, he will be able to boss the new butler around. Like Bates and Anna, we hear Carson and Mrs. Hughes use each other’s first names. Again, true love.

All I could think of when Thomas accepted the post as butler was something my father used to say all the time. “Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.” What stuck me, especially as Thomas was saying goodbye to everyone, is that the family history is repeating himself. Thomas and George seem to have the same close relationship that Mary had with Carson when she was a child. I like to think of Thomas looking after George as the years go by the way that Carson always looks after Mary.

Robert/Cora: Cora chooses to attend a meeting rather than arrange flowers (imagine!) and Robert is unhappy about it. Thank goodness for Rose who, once again, shows Robert the error of his ways. I’ve enjoyed watching this marriage and I’m very happy that Robert may finally understand just what a wonderful woman he is married to.

Isobel/Merton/Lady Violet: After all the nonsense, Isobel decides she will take on Larry and the Little Miss (now Mrs.) and convince Merton to live with her. A soon as I heard that Merton was ill, I was convinced that his daughter-in-law was poisoning him. After all the Bates nonsense, we would have a real attempted murder. Whether she was or not we will never know. Perhaps it was just the love of a good woman that brought Merton back to health.

I am including our beloved dowager in this couple because she is as much a part of it as either of the other two. It is she who forces the issue with Larry and the Mrs. and it is she who finally convinces Isobel to do what she has wanted to do for years.

While I am pleased that Isobel and Merton have found happiness, the true friendship (and the closer relationship I would argue) is between Isobel and Lady Violet. Through it all, they have been together, bickering and sniping like an old married couple. It is their chats over tea I will miss the most. It was not an accident that the entire series went out on the two of then sitting together and talking.

Bits and Bobs:

-- In addition to the romance, there were some lovely moments between characters that just confirmed that all is well in this world. Robert and Carson shaking hands on the stairs was incredibly moving, but it was Lady Violet finally accepting that Cora is very good in her role that made me well up.

-- The feminist in me rather bridles at the idea that Edith, Laura, and Daisy either have or will give up professional futures to be wives. The historian in me understands that it was a function of the times. The romantic in me loves the love.

-- The hairdryer was the final bit of new technology. The family has lived through electricity, the telephone, the radio, toasters, and all sorts of other new contraptions. All were greeted with distrust by Carson. This one wasn’t so bad because Mary had ordered it.

-- The whole idea that Nanny wouldn’t “let” Rose take her own child on a trip made me raise an eyebrow. Nothing could make it more clear who was actually raising the children at this time.

-- The telegram from Mrs. Levinson was clever. In it, she quotes “those in peril on the sea.” It is a line from the hymn that was sung at Sunday services on board the Titanic the day she sank. The series opened the day after.

-- That final shot of the house in the snow with the servants singing “Auld Lang Syne” was a lovely image. The credits rolled to the Downton theme, played at a much slower pace than ever before. The combination was a blatant tug at our heartstrings. It worked; I cried.

Well Said:

Lady Violet: “Never let tenderness be a bar to a bit of snooping. Never.”

Robert: “You’re never going to believe it!”
Cora: “She’s pregnant again.”

Lady Violet: "You must know by now, I never answer any question more incriminating than whether or not I need a rug."

Thomas: “I came here as a boy. I leave as a man.”

Tom: "I hate goodbyes."
Mary: "There seems to be so many of them these days."

Lady Violet: “As my late father used to say, if reason fails, try force!”

Lady Violet: “With any luck, they’ll be happy enough. Which is the English version of a happy ending.”

A Final Comment: I fell in love with Downton Abbey from the first episode. That love may have waned a bit as the years went by (season two was the high point for me), but it never faded completely. While I do think this finale was a tad over the top, I don’t mind. It made me laugh; it made me cry; it brought a huge smile to my face as it ended.

I have loved reviewing this show. I would like to thank Billie and Josie for allowing me access to their world and giving me a forum to ramble on through the good times and bad. Luckily, there were more good than bad.

Finally, I would like to thank you, my readers -- especially those of you who have taken the time to comment. You make it all worthwhile.

Until the next period drama that I can’t tear myself away from...

ChrisB loves all things English, especially period drama.


Billie Doux said...

Congratulations on completing reviews of an entire long-running series, Chris! I had to wait to watch this finale so I haven't read your review yet, but I definitely will today and I'm sure I'll have comments. :)

Juliette said...

It was Carson and Robert shaking hands that got to me more than anything else :) Otherwise, it was nice and I'm happy for Edith, but I was disappointed Mary didn't end up with Tom, so that bugged me throughout. I know it would have been rather out of character, but so ironic, and they had such good chemistry...

I'm so glad it's not just me who feels season 2 was the high point! There were some daft plotlines, as there were every year, but for me the melodrama of the war setting and the two central romances playing out (Mary/Matthew and Sybil/Tom) are the high point of the show. Though it's all good :)

(This episode aired on Christmas Day in the UK, so the ending was particularly nice!)

M said...

Ack! Spoiler picture! Hmf.

Mallena said...

With the success of this show we can hope that there will be another series that is just as good. I loved the original upstairs downstairs, the remake was not as good. Mr. Selfridge was good for awhile. I wish they would do a show like Frontier House and 1900 House again. It was great seeing real people having to make do without things like shampoo and vacuum cleaners. I just wish the actress who played Sybil didn't leave. Downton was better when she was around.

ChrisB said...

Juls -- Im rather with you on the Mary/Tom romance. I thought for sure Fellowes was going there, but I guess Matthew Goode changed his mind. What was it about that handshake? It really got to me.

M - I am so sorry about the picture. Hope it didn't spoil too much of the story for you.

Mallena -- I am a huge fan of Sybil's and, if pressed, I would probably say that the Tom/Sybil romance was my favorite of them all. In the first season, Sybil comes down to dinner in trousers and Tom is grinning at her through the window. If it's not my favorite, it's in my top three moments of the entire series. It was at that moment that I fell for him and for them.

Billie Doux said...

As you said, it might have been a bit too happily ever after, but I'm okay with that. Mary finally softened toward Edith and made it up to her; Molesley became a teacher; Anna and Bates got their baby (I especially loved that Mary waited on Anna); Robert finally showed Cora that he appreciated her. I think I was happiest for Barrow, who so needed the ending that he got. I also liked the implication that the residents of Downton Abbey were flexible enough and modern enough to handle the changes that would inevitably come. I couldn't help thinking of the depression and the next World War.

A lovely review for a lovely finale, Chris. Thank you so much for covering this show. I tried it because of you, and I'm so glad I did.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your fantastic reviews of Downton, Chris. I have enjoyed them immensley. As I watched this season, I found myself thinking, "I bet Chris will have something to say about that scene," or "that's gonna make the 'well said' quotes for sure." Reading your reviews gave me the chance to savor the deliciousness of the show a little longer. I'm sad to see it come to an end, but I'm glad they ended things the way they did. Looking forward to the next period drama you review!

ChrisB said...

Billie -- I'm glad you enjoyed the finale. It wasn't perfect, but as I think about it, I'm glad it ended the way it did.

Anonymous -- what a perfectly lovely comment. Thank you so much. You made my day.

Sarah Wichman said...

I have never commented before now, but I have read every single one of your reviews! I have loved them all! I must admit the love of them was somewhat selfish though, because you often reflected my own thoughts, especially about how awful Robert was for awhile! This final review was beautifully written and brought a wonderful close to your reviews just as the finale brought a lovely close to the show. For good or ill, I have been team Mary from the beginning, and I loved the end moments between her and Anna. The love she had for her maid was more like the sisterly love she lacked with Edith. It was so nice to see Anna and Bated get their happily ever after with Mary being there to see her through it! Again...wonderfully done from beginning to end!

ChrisB said...

Thank you so much for commenting, Sarah. I'm glad you enjoyed the reviews and the finale. I've watched it several times now and am really glad it all ended as it did.

JRS said...

I just completed the series with ChrisB as my handholding friend! Wow. I really thought it was an incredible journey - that image, of the Bates' baby being born in the Lord of the manor's bed... I think Mary redeemed herself at the end, and I'm never going to forget Tom as a character. Thanks Chris! Blubbering now.