** Warning: Spoilers below. If you don’t watch Downton Abbey and plan to—which you should!—stop reading now. Spoilers from the first six seasons follow. ***
Tonight, Downton Abbey comes to its end. Technically, the show has been over for a few months in the U.K., but for me and the millions of other Americans who have fallen in love with Lord Grantham and his family, tonight we say goodbye to our favorite Brits.
I was late to the Downton Abbey fan club. Instead, I settled for listening to my colleagues’ talk about Lady Mary’s many suitors and Lady Edith’s lack thereof. It wasn’t until last fall when I was at school late one night that I decided to give Downton a try. I like having background noise as I work (especially when you’re alone in a nearly empty school building) and so I logged into my Amazon account, searched for a show, and settled on Downton Abbey.
For the first two or three episodes, the show wasn’t much more than background noise. But by the time Lady Mary enlisted the help of not only her lady’s maid, Anna, but also her mother, the Lady Grantham, to carry her deceased lover from her bedroom back to the guest quarters—I was hooked. I quickly caught up on all seasons and then re-watched when I got my husband hooked to the abbey’s drama.
The history of the time period could be captured solely through their wardrobe changes.
Although many of the show’s storylines devolved into more soap opera than social commentary, I enjoyed seeing how the characters—both upstairs and down—reacted to changes that began to disrupt the landed gentry’s social order. I’m sure I learned about these changes somewhere in one of my history classes, but it’s through powerful storytelling—whether on TV or in books (books preferred, of course)—that the experiences come to life. I found myself fascinated by the family’s intricate bell system; the unwritten social conventions and hierarchies that governed all relationships; Carson and Lord Grantham’s grudging acceptance of inventions like the telephone, radio, typewriter, and of all things modern; the obsession with titles and gossip and appearances; the interdependent relationships between the landowners and townspeople; and of course, Lady Mary and Lady Edith’s keen fashion sensibilities—the history of the time period could be captured solely through their wardrobe changes.
As I’m sure many parents can relate, the only TV (or movies) I’ve had time to watch lately has been whatever my boys are watching. This explains why I can tell you what happened on last week’s episode of The Flash and why I haven’t see a single Oscar-nominated film but have seen Star Wars Episode 7 multiple times in the theater. Since having kids, I can count the number of television series I’ve watched from beginning to end on one hand—Lost, How I Met Your Mother, Dexter, Newsroom, Gilmore Girls— and some series finales have disappointed terribly (I’m looking at you, How I Met Your Mother). And although I didn’t hate the Lost finale the way some fans did, I worry how I’ll feel when the abbey closes it doors.
Regardless of how the story ends tonight, I’m glad I made the time for the Crawley family. And regardless of how realistic or not the ending might be, I do hope it’s a happy one. Especially for poor Edith. Oh, poor Edith.
And in no particular order, some of my favorite Downton Abbey moments and storylines:
Mary and Matthew’s Will They / Won’t They / They Did! Romance and Tragedy | I was on Team Matthew and Mary the minute I saw them in a scene together, and like many fans, I was devastated when Matthew died at the end of season 3, immediately after holding his son for the first time (Why, Julian Fellows? Why?). My husband was so mad when Matthew died that he stopped watching the series for several weeks so that he could
Tom’s Development into a True Gentleman | I have to admit that I didn’t like Tom Branson very much when he first began to court Lady Sybil. He was just a little too sure of himself, a little too righteous in his disdain for aristocratic families like the Crawleys. But watching his relationship with the family grow, especially after Sybil’s death, was one of my favorite storylines. And after Matthew died, Tom became the son that Lord Grantham never had and a trusted friend and brother to Mary and Edith.
Anything that the Dowager Countess / Maggie Smith has to say | Although she’s had many memorable zingers over the course of six seasons, the first one I remember vividly—where I knew that this was a woman I was going to like getting to know—was in season 1 when she asked the newly-discovered heir, Matthew, “What is a weekend?”. I also especially enjoyed the friendship she developed with her once foil, Isabel Crawley.
The Politics (and Friendships) of the Downstairs Staff | I think many viewers have been shipping Carson and Mrs. Hughes from day one, whose slow courtship over the first five seasons was perhaps second only to Mary and Matthew. Bates and Anna will hopefully get their happy ending tonight; goodness knows they deserve it (their storyline was the soapiest of them all). And although I found Barrow’s character insufferable at times, his character—perhaps even more than any of the other characters—was the one that I found most fascinating and sympathetic.
And for Downton fans out there, some of memorable moments from the series’ run:
This post is part of the “Slice of Life” series, organized by the teachers at Two Writing Teachers, whose goal is to give teachers a place to write and reflect. This March, more than 250 teachers have committed to daily writing. If you’d like to read more “slices” (from other teachers and even some students), visit twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges.