With the Finale of Downton’s last Season wrapping up the six-year serial, we’ve come to the end of an era. Ok, maybe not an era, but definitely the end of a saga. What exactly are we saying goodbye to? That’s a worthy subject to discuss.
The Finale on Sunday night (March 6, 2016: A date to remember) is the epitome of what Downton is all about.
We’re saying goodbye to:
Multiple characters with multiple storylines told in equal appeal. Depending on your favourites, some of course are more appealing than others. Scribe Julian’s forte is in telling many tales at the same time. How did he do that? With the stopwatch on my iPhone, I notice that many of these fast-paced scenes are no more than one minute in length. More important scenes run longer. Take e.g. the one with Bertie and Edith at the Ritz’s surprised dinner, secretly arranged by a repentant Mary, lasted three minutes. Yes, only three minutes.
The old-fashioned goodness, kindness, honesty, courage, and even altruistic chivalry, are presented in a favourable light and not as acerbic laughing stock or shrouded with sarcasm. The value of overcoming evil with good is the prevalent virtue throughout. Why, even the once in-house villain, Thomas Barrow, can be turned around by the kindness of everyone; not only that, he can even replace Mr. Carson as the butler of Downton.
The retirement of Carson means we’re saying goodbye to an era of unquestionable loyalty. Think of the butler Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) in the film adaptation of Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1993), where nothing interrupts his sacred duties as a butler, not even his own father’s death, needless to say, unrequited love from Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson). While scribe Julian captures the hearts of viewers by gratifying us with the union of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, the surprised retirement of Mr. Carson in the last episode in a way is an end of that total devotion of a servant to his master. I’m sure Barrow won’t be as die-hard a Crawley loyalist as Carson is.
Even trite dialogues, when delivered by an expert actor, can be effective and even inspiring. Why, something like: “Make peace with your sister, then make peace with yourself” doesn’t sound like a contrived word of wisdom from a Kung Fu Master to Grasshopper, but from Maggie Smith’s mouth, becomes a genuine, heartfelt advice from a loving grandmother to a wayward granddaughter. That line is from the second last episode, setting the stage for Edith’s reconciliation with Bertie in the Finale. And the world is made peaceful as a result, with the rival sisters at peace with each other.
Grand mansions and castles as the setting for a TV series. I’m not saying there won’t be any more Highclere’s out there waiting to be used as filming location, but such an opportunity of using a classy, old mansion in situ sure doesn’t come by often. The Grand Finale shows us even that there are grander estates than Highclere. In a reversal of fortune, Edith gets to live in an even more magnificent property than Mary. Yes, Edith sure has found her Mr. Darcy and Pemberley. And I’m happy for her.
Old status quo being taken for granted. Downton is not about the maintenance of aristocracy, but the torrential changes that bombard traditions and social structure. The very first episode of Season 1 is a significant symbol. The thought-to-be unsinkable Titanic came to a tragic end; later, with WWI comes the break down of social status and yes, even the aristocrats suffered casualties. All men are equal in the face of death and destruction. In real life, that Highclere Castle was used as a convalescent home was an exemplar of how the war had brought about changes.
Are we also saying goodbye’s to traditional TV productions, or the conventional platforms of broadcasting? The blurring of the line between movies and TV productions could mean new kind of shows in the future. While the methods may be different, let’s hope the quality and values can be maintained no matter what change may come.
What’s your take on the last Season Finale of Downton Abbey?
Previously on Downton Abbey Season 6: