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Slice of Life 6: Goodbye, Downton Abbey

** 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. ***

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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:

daMary 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 mourn recover.

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:


slice of life

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.

10 Comments

    • I also watched The Good Wife, off and on, over the years, but I stopped watching shortly after a certain someone’s surprise death. I will go back and binge watch this summer to catch up, especially now that it’s ending. 😦

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  1. rosecappelli

    Loved this post, Tricia. I also came late to Downton, but binge watched the first two seasons just before season three started. I feel the same way about the characters as you do. I think the growth and change of the characters was what kept me coming back. The show is just jammed packed with good writing and story telling. And poor Edith! She has just got to find happiness tonight!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree – poor Edith! She deserves some happiness after everything she’s been through. I’m going to miss these characters so much. I have heard that they are in talks to do a Downton movie in a few years as they jump forward several decades. I would be fascinated to see where the characters are 10 years from now. Enjoy tonight’s episode!

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  2. Hi, I never watched Downtown Abbey. I know gasp. I will binge watch on Amazon Prime, however. I didn’t read your whole post because of the spoiler alert. I have heard it is a great show from others.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We missed the first two seasons, and like you, had to catch up. So thankful,that is possible now. My husband and I love this show. We are vacationing now and will miss tonight but have it recorded! I agree with all you have written. There was so much history that just wove itself through the storyline. I would now like to see the first show and see how the styles have changed. Great show!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rita K.

    Loved your post. Downton Abbey proves that wholesome entertainment that excites and educates is still appreciated. What a wonderful cast of character and what a interesting journey into a different time and place this show has provided. It will be hard to say good-bye!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sooo looking forward to tonight’s episode. Thank you for the YouTube clips. I love the “What is a weekend?” Completely forgot about it til you mentioned it. Such good writing. I wonder what BBC/PBS will come up with next.

    Liked by 1 person

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