TV Network: PBS
Premiere Date: Oct 3, 2010
Executive Producers: Julian Fellowes , Gareth Neame , Rebecca Eaton , Liz Trubridge
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Joanne Froggatt, Phyllis Logan, Penelope Wilton, Jim Carter, Jessica Brown-Findlay, Michelle Dockery, Amy Nuttall, Rob James-Collier, Brendan Coyle, Sophie McShera, Lesley Nicol, Dan Stevens, Siobhan Finneran, Rose Leslie, Thomas Howes,
Confession and disclaimer first: I love Downton Abbey. I didn’t watch it at the very beginning, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. But, I decided to give it a chance, and when I saw the first episode, I was hooked! I became a great fan of the show and a defender of Bates (Brendan Coyle). For those who watched the show, Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham was the central character upstairs. He was the family rock around which swirled the changing world and the Crawley family. He was tempered by his American wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), who helped him find his way in the new world. Fittingly, the show began with the news of the sinking of the Titanic, and the loss of the heir apparent, who was on the ship.
So, much has happened since the spring of 1912, the show has traveled many miles and significant changes that end with New Year’s Eve 1925. The family upstairs and the servants downstairs have gone through so much together, including turning the great house into a World War I convalescent hospital. Who would have thought? Ultimately, the show was about the new century and the inevitability of change. After all, the roaring 20’s meant change in dress, attitudes and attire even in England. Evolution over revolution, the family sought to maintain as much of their lives as possible, while embracing the breakdown of class barriers and distinctions. In today’s terms, the Crawley’s represented the 1% trying to be fair to the 99% before they lose them altogether.
Undoubtedly, Maggie Smith (Countess Violet Grantham) is one of the best written and acted characters. She is tough, witty and fair. She has some of the best lines of the show written so crisply by Julian Fellowes. “Don’t be a defeatest dear,” she scolds, “it’s very middle class,” is one of her many classic lines. She is often the foil that keeps the rest of the family in line, including beautiful but snarky, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). The downstairs equivalent of the countess is Carson, played perfectly by Jim Carter. Carson maintains the household with a softer, reasonable Mrs. Hughes (Phyliss Logan), the lion tamer who comes to love the beast. There are so many well written characters, more than I can mention in one column. Excellent writing with sterling performances. The actors who stayed the whole six seasons, knew they were creating something special. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not to be squandered.
The finale was like a train ride into London, fast paced with plenty of scenery. It’s always best when the production knows they are creating the last season and episodes, they can bring things together that would have been unsatisfying otherwise. I won’t give you any spoilers, if you haven’t seen Downton Abbey, I encourage you to rent it or find it online. But, in the finale, relationships are resolved one way or another, and in the very last scene look for the early bloom of a romance for Tom Branson (Allen Leech). Even the show’s ‘villain’, Thomas Barrow (Rob James Collier) gets what he deserves, and justice may surprise you. The last season was in a bit of a hurry, but I’m glad they kept it down to one wedding an episode. There was more joy than sorrow in the finale. Tragedy’s shadow hung over the show every season with the deaths of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) and Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), but that was put aside in the finale.
Drama, comedy, tragedy, and even scandal maked this wonderful series. Final kudos to Mrs. Patomore (Lesley Nicol), long suffering Mosley (Kevin Doyle), and Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), may she, and all the Downton family find joy at last.