The final season of Downton Abbey has commenced with a few surprises and disappointments. I confess that the “age” of the show is a little bit more apparent. Since they’ve killed off as many as they could, I look at the “survivors” a bit warily – as if I expect them to suddenly be snatched away too. As I brace myself to permanently say farewell to “my family”, I already dread the thought of finding another Sunday night drama that is as captivating and addictive as Downton turned out to be.
But let’s start with the good news. Confirmed bachelor/Butler Charles Carson married Mrs. Hughes despite arguments over where the wedding/reception was to be held. Mrs. Hughes didn’t want her wedding in the great hall of the “big house” and was able to get her wish to hold a village celebration instead. I was surprised that Mrs. Hughes would be so cheeky, but this was only one of many instances of the servants asserting themselves. The Granthams graciously agreed to attend the “village” reception instead.
The relations between the Upstairs and Downstairs people has thawed considerably. In the latest episode, Daisy got it in her head that she was going to give Lady Cora Grantham a piece of her mind for reneging on a promise. The other servants merely gathered at the bottom of the stairs anxiously begging Daisy not to do it, but she trotted upstairs anyway, only to find out that Lady Grantham did keep her promise regarding land and a cottage. It seems surprising that a maid would even have the audacity to attempt such a feat. Dowager Grantham showed a very snobbish side revealing that she hadn’t been in the kitchens in 20 years!
A surprise visit from a former housemaid, now a married, upper class woman, turned sour when Thomas blurted it out to all the guests at the lunch table, but everyone just sort of laughed it off. It was odd because even the maid’s husband didn’t know her secret. But Thomas wasn’t severely punished -he only received a half-hearted reprimand from Lord Grantham.
Mary and Edith continue to bicker but it’s unclear why. They are no longer “little sisters” and both have fairly interesting activities to occupy them beyond merely changing their clothes 5 times a day. Edith is busy at her magazine and Mary is the agent for the estate. Progression of the characters gets pulled back with regressive, silly behaviors that are familiar, yet unappealing. It’s like watching a 40 year old throw a temper tantrum for “old times sake.”
Normally final seasons are about tying up loose ends but so far these seem to be loosely strung together. I suppose the writers don’t want everything too neatly resolved in case they decide to do a reunion series (which they probably will). But the frays on the edges of their antique carpets are beginning to show as the storylines seem to be pasted onto the characters. Edith’s illegitimate child, Marigold, is not to be found and hasn’t been mentioned thus far. Mary’s illicit sexual rendezvous, is water under the bridge since Lord Grantham paid off the blackmailer, a hotel maid who basically walked into Downton Abbey demanding money.
As I settle in for the rest of the season I wonder if we’ve all had “too much of a good thing” with Downton. It was a show that changed tv and made all of us (even us independent Americans) realize just how badly we wish to be mega-wealthy aristocrats whose toughest decisions all involve what to wear! Downton aroused a longing within us all for a simpler life with a larger estate. A more carefree lifestyle but with a little more drama. A houseful of servants to do our bidding, keep our secrets, and ultimately become our friends.