MASTERPIECE Downton Abbey Finale
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Downton Abbey fans here will get to bid farewell to Lady Mary, the Dowager Countess, Carson and all the rest a little earlier at a farewell party thrown by Panhandle PBS.
A Sunday screening – set for 4 p.m. Sunday in the Bud Joyner Auditorium at the Amarillo College Downtown Campus, 1314 S. Polk St. – is already at capacity, but a waiting list will be made at the door if you just can’t wait to see the final episode of the “Masterpiece” series, one of the most beloved dramas we’ve ever aired.
If you can’t make the party, don’t forget to watch the finale at 8 p.m. Sunday on Panhandle PBS.
And if you’re not sure how to go on without the series, check out “Life After ‘Downton Abbey’,” a special party set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Amarillo Public Library Northwest Branch, 6100 W. Ninth Ave. It’s sponsored by Friends of the Amarillo Public Library and will feature “Downton” trivia contests and discussion of favorite moments and characters from the show. You’ll also get video previews from us of upcoming shows on “Masterpiece” that might fill the Dowager Countess-sized hole in your heart. For information, call 806-ß359-2035.
The British-produced series launched about six years ago, the brainchild of Julian Fellowes. It has followed about 12 years in the lives of the Grantham family and their servants – foibles and heartbreak, scandals and societal change, love and loss.
Before they lock up Downton for the last time, though, let’s look back on some classic moments that made the show explode in popularity. These are just my Top 5 moments, and I’ll confess, I’m not terribly fond of the “Perils of Pauline”-style courtship of Bates and Anna, and I probably adore Mary far more than some. Keep that in mind, then let us know what some of your favorite dramatic, comedic or dreadfully sad moments are in the past six seasons.
1. Pamuk the Turk drops dead
It was obvious fairly early on that Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) was a bit more of a modern woman than much of her family, and that she, to put it delicately, certainly knew her own mind. It was still quite a shock, though, when she agreed to let Pamuk (Theo James), an attaché at the Turkish Embassy and friend of Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks), into her bedroom in the dark of night. But the biggest surprise was yet to come: Pamuk died in Mary’s bed during the night, succumbing to a heart attack, and forcing Mary, her faithful servant Anna (Joanne Froggatt), and her disapproving mother Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) to sneak the corpse back into his own bed. This was the first time we’d see just how disastrous Mary’s love life would become, and as the upcoming death of her future husband Matthew (Dan Stevens) would prove, not all of Mary’s suitors would make it out alive.
2. The Dowager Countess learns what the simple folk do
Surely, one of the most beloved characters on the show was the delightfully tart Violet Crawley, played by the inimitable Maggie Smith. Violet – mother to Robert (Hugh Bonneville) and Rosamund (Samantha Bond), and grandmother to the Crawley sisters – was our bridge to the past, the glorious era (in her mind) of the British aristocracy. The overriding theme of “Downton Abbey” through its six years was the unstoppable march of time and its deleterious effect on the aristocracy, and the Dowager Countess often stood athwart the rising tide of progress. Her character was never better summed up, though, than when she stammered in amazement when Matthew shared his plans for some upcoming free time: “Wh-what is a weekend?” Violet was always good for a zinger spat out between pursed lips, but this time, she was almost speechless.
3. The death of an heir
No, not Matthew’s tragic death behind the wheel, shortly after his son George was born, but instead, the death by miscarriage of Cora’s future son during the highly dramatic first season finale. The episode also saw Matthew withdrawing his proposal to Mary and the arrival of World War I, not to mention Downton’s first telephone. But the death of Cora’s unborn son showed that Fellowes was never afraid to use a shocking death as a plot point (in this case, one that would continue to endanger the family’s hold on its fortune), nor was he afraid to make his villains look extra-dastardly. The death was caused by Cora’s lady’s maid, O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran), who mistakenly thought her mistress was looking to replace her and arranged an accident by leaving soap on the floor outside the bathtub to cause the spill. O’Brien never really paid for that crime, and the black-hearted maid eventually left at the start of Season 4, sneaking out in the middle of the night. I miss her still.
4. A Lady falls
Dear young Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) was the youngest of the three Grantham sisters and, for quite a while, probably the most daring: She was the first to wear a pair of trousers, took a great interest in local and national politics, became a nurse and, most shockingly of all, married a servant, the family chauffeur Tom (Allen Leech). But Findlay wanted to move on after three seasons, so Fellowes decided to kill her character off after giving birth to her daughter, Sybie. When she began labor, Sybil was showing symptoms of pre-eclampsia, caught by Dr. Clarkson (David Robb), who suggested she be taken to a hospital. Robert, though, agreed with the hidebound obstetrician Sir Philip Tapsell (Tim Pigott-Smith) that the move would be too dangerous, and Sybil died, an on-the-nose symbol of the dangers of ignoring progress in favor of tradition. I’ve always thought that Robert learned something from the death, eventually opening his heart to at least some big changes, including Lady Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) emergence as a truly modern career woman.
5. The fight to end all fights
One of my favorite undercurrents of the series was the absolute distaste Mary and Edith had for one another. Sisters, yes, and allies when they had to be, but mostly, the two just didn’t have much use for each other. Their slow-boil squabbling came to a head in the series’ penultimate episode, when Mary at long last learned the secret of Edith’s illegitimate daughter Marigold and used that knowledge to wreck Edith’s newly announced engagement to Bertie Pelham. Finally, Edith let loose of any pretense of polite restraint and let Mary have it in a delicious fight, in which she called her elder sister a not-too-polite name. It was “Downton” soapiness at its best, and way too long in coming.
So what are your favorite moments, and what do you hope to see in the finale?