Seattle Times movie critic and “Downton Abbey” fan Moira Macdonald weighs in on the series finale, “in which writer/creator Julian Fellowes tied up every imaginable loose end in his posh upstairs/downstairs soap opera.”
Is it wrong that I spent much of the final episode of “Downton Abbey” hoping that the long-lost-and-supposedly-very-dead Michael Gregson might make a sudden appearance? Not that I wish Edith ill — the wretched woman has, according to her own father, “hardly known a day’s happiness in the past 10 years” — but it would have just been so delightfully messy.
Which is not a word one could apply to Sunday’s finale, in which writer/creator Julian Fellowes tied up every imaginable loose end in his posh upstairs/downstairs soap opera. It was a finale as neat and as tidy as Mrs. Hughes’ parlor, or a Carson-wrapped Christmas gift. (You know that he’d be meticulous about corners.) Everyone’s plot lines were resolved happily, and pretty much everyone except Thomas ended up nicely paired off. Were you, like me, half-expecting Dr. Clarkson to suddenly recite romantic poetry to the Dowager Countess? Or Spratt to run off with Denker? (For the record, I would absolutely watch that show.)
After six seasons, even the show’s biggest fans (I’m one of them) were ready to admit that it’s time to go. Fellowes clearly ran out of plot ideas somewhere around Season 3, and a lot of us might point to The Tragic Death of Matthew as the place where “Downton” lost its way.
The best quotes from the ‘Downton Abbey’ finale
Throughout the season, I’ve been posting the week’s best quotes on seattletimes.com; here are my favorites from the finale.
5) The Dowager Countess, to Isobel:“In Denker’s mind, she is Salome, dancing rings around Spratt’s Herod.” Indeed, and just try to get that image out of your mind.
4) Carson, in despair:“So, now Mr. Barrow is going, and Mr. Molesley is going, and only Andrew stands between me and Armageddon.” It’s been one of the (many) consistencies of “Downton Abbey” that Carson fears and dreads change. This would have grown tiresome, had Jim Carter not been possessed of an aged-in-oak voice that makes the most mundane pronouncement sound like a basso angels’ chorus. Complain away, Carson.
3) Edith, to Spratt: “You wrote so well about dressing for town and country in autumn.” Spratt: “I’m full of ideas when it comes to combining comfort and elegance, my lady.” These two slay me. Perhaps they could return in an office rom-com?
2) Mary, to Edith: “Look, we’re blood and we’re stuck with it. So let’s try to do a little better in the future.” Lots of viewers loved to hate Lady Mary, but I always rooted for her; Michelle Dockery had such a lovely way of letting us see the character’s humanity, deep below the ice. (Didn’t that scene two weeks ago, in the graveyard, do you in?)
1) And what better note to end on than this, from the indomitable, inimitable Dowager Countess after Edith’s wedding? “There’s a lot of risk, but with any luck, they’ll be happy enough. Which is the English version of a happy ending.”
Consequently, this season seemed to have a lot of filler: too many scenes involving the endlessly tedious machinations of the Downton Hospital Committee; too much pregnancy-related drama for Anna, who’s sort of the downstairs Edith (by the way, hasn’t she been carrying that child for at least a year now?); too many scenes of Mary and Edith experiencing romantic crises in exquisitely appointed rooms, with Fellowes repeatedly throwing attractive roadblocks in the way of their happiness. And, as always, some of the melodrama was laid on a little thick. (The evil daughter-in-law Amelia, I’m thinking, might make a perfect villain in a superhero movie.)
But, whether you’re Team Edith or Team Mary (I’m the latter, and not just because she usually had better outfits), the characters Fellowes created were a joy to watch, and Season 6 brought some great pleasures: Carson and Mrs. Hughes as newlyweds; Molesley finding his calling as a teacher; Matthew Goode’s eminently dishy Henry Talbot; Spratt’s secret identity — and pretty much every deliciously tart conversation between the Dowager Countess (the great Maggie Smith) and Cousin Isobel (Penelope Wilton); two women who you imagine could, quite easily, solve any of the world’s problems, given enough tea and cakes.
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I suspect a lot of us will look back on “Downton” fondly, the way we might regard a delightful uncle who occasionally repeats his stories. As we bid the show farewell, and commit to memory our favorite frocks (mine’s a bottle-green-with-black-beading number worn by Mary earlier this season, and by me in my dreams) and drawing rooms, consider this: The show’s executive producers have said that there might be a “Downton” movie. So there’s still time for Michael Gregson to show up, isn’t there?