So, have you managed it? Have you done the reading equivalent of putting your hands over your ears, and shouting “lalala” as someone tries to impart vital information to you?
Have you, in short, defied every intruding tentacle of modern media to ensure you can watch the final season of Downton Abbey in American time, rather than British?
If so, congratulations, and I assume you have the cucumber sandwiches, pots of tea, and dense fruitcake in hand for Sunday night’s premiere. (The Daily Beast’s reviews will run after each episode.)
Downton Abbey finally finished its life in the U.K. on Christmas Day, and it did so with a flood of articles and reviews, none of which will be linked to here. Because lalala.
One headline gave something huge away to this reader, whose eyes alighted upon the headline before realizing what the headline was.
In that split second, there was both horror, and a determined, self-imposed amnesia on what had been seen.
Five days later, I am again none the wiser. I know nothing. I must know nothing. Do not tell me anything. Lalala.
So, what do we want for this merry band of poshos, their servants, and that honey-colored house of intrigue?
We left them, at the end of Season Five, in various states of romantic and personal chaos. I think it’s not too much of a leap to suggest there is a consensus that Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson should indeed proceed happily to the altar.
However, this is Downton Abbey, and as Mrs. Hughes for some reason had a huge, where-the-hell-did-that-come-from? speech at the end of Season Five about having to take care of psychotic relatives, perhaps their journey to marital bliss will not come without a bug-eyed sister appearing out of the shadows with a rolling pin.
Unless series creator and writer Julian Fellowes has had another idea for them, bets must also be placed on who, out of Mr. or Mrs. Bates, will spend the duration of Season Six wrongly accused of murder and in jail.
Currently, it’s Mrs. Bates facing the slammer, but this is only until Mr. Bates finds someone evil associated with the case, and doesn’t kill them, but looks like he does, and then he is wrongly accused of it, and then ends up…
Unless. Unless. Unless Julian Fellowes can think of something new to put Mr. and Mrs. Bates through which doesn’t involve a wrongful murder accusation.
I know. Radical suggestion. Just saying.
Similarly: Edith. The ugly duckling child has basically been Fellowes’s punching bag since the story’s start. First, it was her plainness and dourness that was bitchily targeted by her glamorous, man-magnet older sis. Then Fellowes put Edith through a succession of hurtful, humiliating romantic disasters.
Then she gave birth to a baby that shame dictated she give away, but have near. Then that baby was introduced to her home as an orphan, which she would take care of.
In Season Six, Edith and Mary will surely both be shown pursuing career-oriented paths—both very different, and both probably derailed by romantic intrigues.
How long can Edith, or Poor Edith as her many fans know and love her, go through this cycle of relentless degradation and having emotional excrement thrown at her?
We may want Edith to have a happy ending—I want it more powerfully than I want Mary to have one, or Cora to have a full-blooded storyline of her own—but you sense Fellowes is going to put her through yet more ludicrous wringers to get there.
As for Lady Mary, she had a bottleneck of posh suitors by the end of last season: handsome chaps with chiseled jaws, but all truly dreary and dull. The problem with Mary is that she can never outdo her initial love story with Matthew, and the death of Mr. Pamuk. But more men come for her, armed with defrosting guns, in Season Six. I want to know nothing else. Lalala.
It seems kind of ridiculous that they don’t put her together with Branson, her dead sister’s surviving husband. It is ruining nothing to reveal he is coming back for Season Six.
A good ending must surely be in line for Barrow, whom we last saw scheming for good against Lord Sinderby in Season Five. The formerly total evil, closeted gay footman has been softened of late—and, after a dispiriting flirtation with reparative therapy, may be set to hold his nascent rainbow flag a little more proudly.
Lord Grantham and Cora can only be rocked by something totally unpredictable—even regular viewers have tired of how many times Downton itself can be in peril—although Season Six will surely open up a new avenue of this perennial favorite.
Ever since she slipped on the soap and lost her baby, Cora has been storyline-free—apart from batting her doe eyes in a perfect-hostess way—until last season’s set of brief and ultimately chaste assignations with that art critic played by Richard E. Grant.
As for Baxter and Molesley: get them together, extend their Hart to Hart-style detective work into a fully fledged agency.
This leaves posh cuz Rose, whom I don’t yet really care about (nice as she is); Mrs. Patmore, under siege from more kitchen technology; the Countess Dowager (the fierce, incomparable Dame Maggie Smith), last seen dispatching a lovelorn Russian aristo back into the arms of his estranged wife; and kitchen maid Daisy, who wants something better but keeps coming back to scraping potatoes.
The barest of things we do know, or may care to know, going into Season Six: It is 1925, the estate—yes—is going through yet more change as, in a mirror to modern, recessionary times—the high costs of running Downton mean servants may be in the firing line.
Texts from friends in London—shut up, lalala—suggest that happy endings are in order. But the soft, driving winds around Downton have always been about “change” and its imminence and its inevitability.
Even when episodes are bad, and storylines drift incomprehensibly for months at a time—as with the Bates’s and their wrongful imprisonments—there is still the charm of a soup competition, or the parrying banter between the Countess Dowager and Isobel Crawley—a favorite of this viewer’s, played beautifully by Penelope Wilton.
The perfection is in the mix; and even when that mix is not perfect there is something in the way Fellowes crafts Downton that keeps fans satiated.
The final season of any show, however, is the hardest—saying goodbye, giving the characters the endings that both they deserve and the viewers deserve.
For that, Fellowes’s autocratic stewardship of the show augurs well—if anyone knows this eclectic, maddening, loveable group of servers and the served, and the both tender and tense yoking that binds them, it is Fellowes. Whatever else—no spoiler, this—he will do right by them.