On Sunday night, those in the United States watched the final installment of Downton Abbey. After six seasons it was time to button up the series and send off our favorite characters with some happy endings, new beginnings and touching moments. If you have not watched the finale, spoiler alert below, do not read any further.
In the finale, Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) became parents to a baby boy; Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) revealed to her her husband, Henry (Matthew Goode) that she is pregnant. Tom (Allen Leech) and Henry opened an auto dealership, and Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier) returned after leaving ‘Downton’ for a new butler job, and took over for the ailing Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) who came down with “the tremor” and could no longer work in his life long capacity. But the biggest and happiest event of all saw at long last happiness for Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), who married Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton), the 7th Marquess of Hexham, moving past her family members in social ranking and wealth. Good for her!
Addressing his decisions in story for the series finale, ‘Downton’ creator Julian Fellowes, who wrote each and every episode of the series, spoke to Deadline. Here are just a few answers to his decisions for the beloved characters as the show wrapped its Emmy-winning run.
Fellowes on if it was always structured that Lady Edith would finally get her long-awaited happy ending in the finale: “I always knew that, but not from the very get-go. You’re still feeling your way into creating characters and writing for the performances you’re getting. In a way, you fashion characters with actors and their process of performance changes the way you write. But Laura (Carmichael/Edith) had this marvelous for me sort of gallant feeling underneath all her defeats. She was wretched and vulnerable, but you knew she was going to bounce back. There was a kind of decency, even though she wasn’t decent to Mary, but Mary wasn’t decent to her so fair enough. But her refusal to give up the child — and there are stories like that — you had to be pretty brave to risk exposure and all the things that might happen; I felt Laura develop into this courageous person that worked.”
Fellowes on if there was ever a time he thought of killing off another character: The only person we killed off really was William the footman. We decided we couldn’t get the whole household through World War I and nobody dies. In my own family, my grandfather died in the trenches, an uncle died from injuries, there were four more cousins who died — including one woman who was on a ship that was torpedoed. That’s one family, so it wasn’t realistic. We kind of drew lots and it was William. Also, Lavinia came in to die. We knew that. Those are the only two I killed. The others died because the actors wanted to leave the show. When a servant leaves like O’Brien, she just got another job. But if it’s a member of the family and you know you’re not going to set eyes on them again… With Jessica (Brown Findlay/Sybil) and Dan (Stevens/Matthew), we said, ‘Would you be prepared to do two or three episodes? You’ll go away and come back.’ Neither wanted to do that. I’m not critical of that. They wanted to move on in their careers and not be pulled back into something they left which I understand. But the fact is they wanted to go so that meant the grim reaper, I’m afraid.
Fellowes on the evolution of Thomas and the series take on dealing with his homosexuality: “One of the things I like doing is when you create a character who initially the audience doesn’t take to but as the situation gradually unfurls and you understand the predicament, you start to see a point of view. Thomas was very aided by Rob James Collier’s performance and gradually the audience became aware that being a homosexual in 1912-1925 was very tough. It was a crime — one moment of indiscretion, one drink too many and your life is in ruins. Even if you’re not in prison, you’re unemployable, so this is all the time hanging overhead like a sword and by making the audience aware of his sense of loneliness, that his family didn’t accept him and he craves acceptance, to belong to something… He is constantly denied that so by the end even very stuffy old colonels would still secretly feel quite sympathetic. That’s what I’m hoping. You gradually enter into the situation of someone who in real life you might not take to, but maybe the next time you might think differently.”
Fellowes on the Downton Abbey movie that is being bantered about, and if it could happen: “I’m very pro-movie. I hope and think there’s a very good shot. They have to be sure to have enough of the cast. They’ve all rushed off into other work in television, films, plays… so I imagine it would be quite a job getting all the ducks in a row. But I’m not anti it at all.”
So, what did you think of the Downton Abbey series finale? What was your favorite part of it? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!