Do you watch Downton Abbey? Have you watched the finale yet? Did you read the title of this post and go, “But surely Maggie wouldn’t really talk about spoilers for something that just aired!”. Surely you kid. The finale was three days ago. Get your butt and gear and watch it, but don’t come crying to me.
I’ve loved Downton Abbey since the beginning. I may have been an episode or two late to the party, but I started watching at the beginning of Season 1, and I remember having a long involved discussion with my mother while on a long road journey discussing that first season. Why was Edith so horrible? Would Mary and Matthew ever get together? What would Sybil get up to next? And that was just the upstairs – the drama between Anna and Mr. Bates, the horrible scheming of Barrow and O’Brien. There was just so much. And then the years went on. Edith became less horrible and more tragic. Mary and Matthew were happy, and then he died. Sybil got up to the most scandalous things…and then she died. Anna and Mr. Bates were never really and completely happy, and neither was Barrow. O’Brien left unceremoniously in the night halfway through the run.
But this past season, things started wrapping up properly. Mary found a man that she would be happy with in Henry Talbot (though I was still hoping all season to see the return of Charles Blake from Poland – did the writers forget about him?), though they both had to come to terms with his car-racing. But things turned out so well, that by the last “regular” episode of the series, Mary is married again and happy. And that was at the expense of the happiness of Edith. Mary, being the unhappy Mary that she is ruined Edith’s chances with a wonderful man, merely because Mary felt a) sorry for herself in being left out of the loop re: Edith’s love child and b) jealous that Edith was about to make such a highly advantageous match that would outrank Mary herself. The amount of incredulous mouth gaping that I made at Mary when all this went down was amazing. The Boy – who loves Mary and her boldness – was more willing to forgive. I needed a penitent Mary to atone for the crimes she had committed.
(Side note: yes, The Boy likes Downton Abbey too. I got him watching it soon after we started dating, and as an Englishman, a lover of history, and a fan of waistcoats and hats…he thinks it’s great and we totally watched it together)
Before we get to all the happy endings, we have to acknowledge that Carson gave up his life’s pursuit because of ill health (Parkinson’s?), but he still gets to be the majordomo for big events because his protege Barrow is taking over! I can’t tell you how relieved I am that Barrow (who made a huge turnaround this season) landed on his feet, and is back in a place where there are people who will support him now that he’s stopped being such an ass. And Carson will be ok too. He’s done what he loves for so long, and now he’s married to the wonderful Mrs. Hughes (who taught him how to appreciate everything a woman does in the home in the best possible way – LOL).
Anna and Bates got the real happy ending they were looking for. No more ridiculous legal trouble for either of them. No more accusations about not wanting a baby (when really, that’s ALL they’ve wanted for a couple seasons). And no more tragic miscarriages. Instead, we get to seem them happy with their newborn son, and appreciated by their employers such that Mary gave up her bedroom so Anna and baby (who was born there) are left undisturbed for as long as necessary.
And all of this happens on Edith’s Wedding Day – New Year’s Eve, 1925. I was so pleased that Mary figured out what a horrid bitch she’d been, and called Bertie Pelham to tell him it was her fault. And Bertie figured out that he needed Edith more than Edith needed him. But the scene where Edith walks in to the dining room of the Ritz and sees her lost love, waiting for her and looking desperately hopeful…my heart swelled up and when she agreed to marry him, I nearly cried. This photo shows just how beautiful she looked on that day. As Lord Grantham implied in this (and the previous) episode, she’s had so much difficulty and sadness in her life – losing not one, but TWO fiancees in horrible and different ways – and she deserves to be amazingly happy and to get everything she wants. I think of the main “upstairs” characters, she’s gone through the biggest transformation: she started as this whiny conniving girl, and became a mature, thoughtful woman.
Basically, it was a very satisfying finale. Everyone who should have been happy ended up happy. Perhaps it was a little cliche to make that happiness based on pairing people off, but that’s what viewers like to see from relationships on TV shows. Most importantly, there were no unnecessary deaths, no last minute bizarre reversals of fortune, and we got to leave the rose-tinted view of how the upper-class lived. I didn’t love everything all the time, but so much of this show was satisfying that it’s hard to complain. Thank you Downton Abbey, for doing it right.
Details: Downton Abbey, on PBS. Available streaming (?)