A Bang, A Whimper Or A Slow Pan Out? Just How Will Downton Abbey End?

Credit: PBS

As the cast and crew of Downton Abbey are wrapping filming for the final time, just how the global phenomenon will end has become the focus of many. We know that the sixth and final series is set in 1925 so a good few years before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which plunged the world into the Great Depression so viewers will not have to endure the Crawley’s facing ruin due to that cataclysmic event. However, the world still shifted a great deal during the 20s so there is no guarantee that the series will end with sunshine and rainbows.

So just what can viewers expect to see over the last six episodes then one final Christmas special? Obviously those associated with the production are not going to reveal all their cards at this stage. However, executive producer Gareth Neame did let this slip in a recent interview with The Guardian, “Look out for all the old faces. The direction of travel is tying things up for the 20 characters, [with] some conclusions focused on the heroes.”

One of those heroes has been Michelle Dockery’s Lady Mary and her exploits in love. Having come to terms with the death of her beloved husband, Matthew (Dan Stevens) at the end of the third season, last year saw her venturing back out into society and toying with a number of flirtations. So will Lady Mary get her happily ever after? It is definitely a possibility with Neame saying that her love story is “the main part of this final season.”

Neame added,“But [the series is] focused on the end of an era. The dying of the light. The slight sense of finality. It is not Downton pulling up the drawbridge, not a thunderbolt that destroys it.” At the end, “the camera will move away.”

It all sounds very romantic, though perhaps a little too idyllic. However, don’t expect a charming ride off into the sunset for all attached to the great house. “We don’t have to have completely happy endings, but for the audience it is not a satisfying ending to have the place blown up. It is overwhelmingly a positive show, even when melancholic.”

While Neame confirmed that there currently no movie plans in progress, he did reiterate previous comments in that where they end the series lends itself to move to films, especially with the events of 1929 looming. So with continued high ratings worldwide, critical acclaim, and stories still left to be told, why end the season here at six seasons and in 1925?

For a very simple reason and one that was a collective decision “reached over time, by the producers and actors” – wanting to go out while people were still invested in the show and its characters. “I am very conscious, finishing the show earlier is a classic thing, quitting while ahead. I prefer that to [being] two years down the line and we couldn’t secure an actor.”

As fans look forward to the series’ return later this year in the UK and early 2016 in the US, the cast and crew have started to say goodbye, documenting their final days on Downton. With the hashtag #lastdaysofdownton, those associated with the production have been posting photos of their last day on set, as well as last night’s (August 11) BAFTA celebration honouring the series’ outstanding global success. There’s a little taster below.

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Downton Abbey returns to ITV this autumn and to PBS on January 3.

Clare Sidoti
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