Can this really be the end? It is, dear Downtonites.
The hit PBS show Downton Abbey is coming to an end after six successful seasons. The final installment of the series, which has already aired in the U.K. (save for the traditional Christmas Day special, which serves as the final, final episode), premieres in the U.S. on Sunday, January 3, 2016, on PBS.
The call to end the saga was theirs. “We made a group decision,” executive producer Gareth Neame told reporters while promoting the final season in Los Angeles. “Everyone’s been completely supportive of the producers and the cast who all felt that now was the right time.”
“Maybe we’re leaving a little bit earlier,” he added, “but, I think, on a really high note.”
Downton patriarch Hugh Bonneville, who spoke to Bio and a small group of reporters after the press conference, said that the Downton phenomenon has been the experience of a lifetime.
“It’s lovely. It’s not all the time that you are engaged in a show that’s approved of by so many people all over the world,” Bonneville told us. “It’s never happened in my career before, and probably never will again. It’s been a rare treat.”
As the doors close on Downton, how will it end? The cast couldn’t elaborate much plot-wise for fear of spoilers, but we learned there will be a happy ending for some – but not all – of the Crawley family and their servants. Love and loss has been a consistent theme for the show, after all.
“It’s satisfying,” said Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, of the final episode. “It feels special.” She also told us to have some tissues on hand.
“We’re criers,” Carmichael continued, referring to herself and close castmate Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary). “We’ll probably be the ones crying the most at the end. We have grown up on this show, really. It was a huge change for us, we started when we were 20, growing up on the job.”
There are many things the cast will miss about the show, but the same answer came up again and again when asked: “Each other.”
One thing that Joanne Froggatt (aka Anna Bates) won’t miss when the show’s over? “The clothes,” she laughed, referring to her drab downstairs maid’s uniform.
Alas, if the thought of never seeing this crew again is too hard to bear, keep this quote in the back of your mind: “I guess there is this speculation about whether we’ll ever make a Downtown movie, and we might,” Neame told reporters. “I think a Downton movie could be a wonderful thing, but we don’t have a script or a plan or anything as yet.” Still, that sounds awfully hopeful, people.
Now, before you get your tissues ready, here are a few things to know about the final season of Downton Abbey:
~As the season opens, the year is 1925, and change, in many ways, is the key word. The way of life that the British elite are used to is evolving, with the Crawleys feeling nervous about the future and streamlining the estate’s staff, among other things. Who will stay and who will be forced to go? The decision will add to the downstairs drama and at least one servant will take their bleak prospects very, very hard.
~Lady Mary is taking more control this season and is essentially running the estate, much to the chagrin of the men she must deal with. Speaking of men, will Mary’s hunt for a husband ever end? Racing car driver Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode) drives the romantic storyline for Mary this season, but, as charming as he is, the last thing Mary wants is someone whose profession puts him at risk for dying in a car crash! (#RIP Matthew Crawley)
~What about poor, poor Edith? There’s perhaps no one fans are rooting for more to have a happy ending than perpetual sad-sack sister Lady Edith. She’s back in London, running the paper she inherited from Mr. Gregson—a challenge for a lady in a man’s world in the 1920s. You can expect a new (or a familiar face?) love interest to come onto the scene, but the truth about her daughter Marigold will continue to present an issue for Edith in more ways than one.
~Then there’s this juicy bit: Edith’s contentious relationship with Mary hits a new low after Mary’s wicked tongue causes the worst damage she’s ever done. It leads to the showdown of all showdowns – the one you’ve been waiting six years for – between the rival siblings.
~There will be a wedding...or two. Of course, adorable, seasoned couple Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) got engaged at the end of last season, but a new cause for concern may give the bride-to-be some second thoughts, potentially tripping up their walk down the aisle. (Our favorite sidekick Mrs. Patmore tries to intervene, to hilarious effect.)
~Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Bad-Luck Bates (Brendan Coyle) will continue to have … bad luck. Even if and when that pesky Mr. Green murder investigation is resolved, producers thought it would be fun to give the downstairs supercouple a new heartbreaking challenge to deal with.
~Since he’s already been doing press all over U.S. TV, it’s safe to reveal here that Branson is back. Ex-chauffeur Tom Branson (Allen Leech), who took daughter Sybbie and left for America at the end of last season, finds life in Boston isn’t all he thought it would be. Look for him to reappear a few episodes into the season. You can also expect Lily James (Lady Rose) to return from America at some point as well for a final goodbye.
~As for the handsome one we love to hate, Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier)? The scheming butler’s storyline takes a dark turn this season. His reluctant buddy Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) will play a pivotal role. And in the wishful thinking department: Here’s to hoping for a series finale return of Thomas’ former conniving co-conspirator O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran), who abruptly departed Downton after Season 3.
~Last but NEVER least: You can still count on the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) to pop in and out to drop her brilliant zingers and spar with BFF Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton). Let’s just hope those funeral rumors we’ve been hearing about DO NOT pertain to either of our favorite British Golden Girls.
'Downton Abbey, The Final Season' premieres January 3, 2016 on MASTERPIECE on PBS.