It’s almost here. The upcoming Downton Abbey Christmas Special will be the final ever episode of the award-winning ITV show. The episode will be set on New Year’s Eve 1926, a full 14 and a half years after the pilot (and amazingly none of the characters look a day older than when we first met them).
For quite a while now there has been a growing sense of danger from the changing modern world that could render grand estates like Downton obsolete. Now that time of great upheaval may have finally arrived, with Lord Grantham asking butler Carson: ‘I hope you’re not too unhappy about how things have turned out?’ Carson stoically replies: ‘The world is a different place from the way it was my Lord, and Downton Abbey must change with it’.
The question on everyone’s lips is – will Lady Edith be happy? Now three times unlucky in love and struggling to hide her secret illegitimate daughter from prying eyes, Edith has had a rough time throughout all six series. To add to the unfairness Edith must watch as older sister Mary settles into her second marriage after having her pick of adoring suitors. Although there may be some hope as Harry Hadden-Paton ( as Edith’s former lover Bertie Pelham) will be returning for the final episode. It’s doubtful that Edith and Bertie’s encounter will be smooth sailing, but can they work out their differences and live happily ever after?
Another two characters who surely deserve some happiness and good luck by now are husband and wife Anna and John Bates. This final episode sees the couple awaiting the arrival of their first child (basically TV code for ‘expect the pregnant woman to go into labour’). But many viewers will be keeping their fingers crossed for a drama-free end for this much loved pair.
To add to the feeling of an impending ending, several characters are making plans for their future – none more so than Thomas Barrow. Becoming increasing isolated from everyone around him, Series Six saw Barrow plunged into a downward spiral that led to him attempt to take his own life. The trailer shows a thankfully happier Barrow preparing to leave Downton. However with several characters, including little George Crawley, trying to persuade him to stay, it remains to be seen whether Barrow really will go through his plans.
Also returning are Lily James playing Lady Rose Aldridge along with husband Atticus and father Shrimpie. At the moment it is unclear what role they will play in the story other than joining in the family reunion. Another uncertainty is how Tom Branson’s story will end. Actor Allen Leech has voiced his unhappiness at Tom’s ending, stating that he would have gone a different way with the character.
Writer and creator Julian Fellows is under a lot of pressure to provide satisfactory closure to the hugely successfully show and still keep the drama going at the same time. But final episodes are always touched with bittersweet emotions. Keep the tissues close, Downton fans – we can do this!
Downton Abbey airs on ITV, Christmas Day, 8:45pm