Oh, opening shot of a dog’s butt. I think I’ll miss you most of all.
Let’s just be thankful the Dowager survived the finale. She is 397 years old after all, so it’s a good thing she’s also an immortal deity who will be floating around glowering at grubby middle-class hooligans until the end of time.
Fittingly, the final episode begins with a breaking-news update from the show’s true protagonist, almost-crying. Almost-crying is having a huge week. Now that Bertie has callously abandoned Edith simply because she lied about having a daughter (we call that a “Crawley Tuesday”), Edith and almost-crying are cohosting a backyard pity party to declare that Edith is a lonely old crone who will ultimately die of complications related to overflowing cats. Everyone goes, “Yep.”
Also, Isobel still doesn’t know about Marigold. Really? How? Is this a try?
Meanwhile, in downstairs news, Thomas is…fine now? Suicide cured! He visits Shoeshine Closet of Perpetual Despair for an insightful one-sentence therapy session with Cool Dr. Anna, which instantly convinces him to grow and change and be kind now, solving depression forever. The end.
Not so fast, Carson. Thomas’s life improving from F- to D+ means that now someone else must spend every waking moment driving the misery bus into the sadness pit, and the winner is Carson. First, Anna insists on working while pregnant instead of sequestering her debilitating lady shame in the birthing hut like a proper woman, but even more horrifyingly for Carson, he spills the wine at dinner. The wine. Donk has no choice but to whip out his pocket guillotine and mount Carson’s head on a pike in the hallway. RIP.
Six million close-ups of rattling cups later, Carson reveals that he suffers from Mysterious Palsy of Mysteries, which is 1925 for Parkinson’s disease and will soon force his Downton farewell tour.
Thomas planned his own Downton farewell tour very intelligently by breezing through the preliminary B Team goodbyes with the duds early on (demonstrating that he has changed by shaking hands with Bates instead of filling his pants with dynamite) but saving his best almost-crying for the A Team goodbyes. He congratulates Mrs. Hughes on being a gem, Dear Sweet Andy on being dear and sweet despite his incorrect sexuality, and Little George on stealing the show.
Everyone suddenly loves Thomas now that he’s leaving, which is weird because he’s supposed to be the eternal sultan of unhappiness. Fortunately, his new house of employment is a one-room cobweb factory in Boringville owned by yet another whooping cough in a skeleton costume. Thomas proceeds to stare gloomily out the window for several months. There’s our boy!
Reveling in her own extreme woe, Edith visits the Golden Dowager Temple to offer a goat sacrifice for a better husband harvest next year. Her ulterior motive, however, is a chat with Spratt, a.k.a. Miss Cassandra, hot-tea-spilling queen of the north. Edith goes, “Let’s talk about this here so Denker can eavesdrop.” Success!
Sadly, it appears that Miss Cassandra is only Spratt’s penname and not the hidden drag persona we all needed it to be. Spratt on Drag Race. Please spend a whole year imagining that.
She organizes a good old-fashioned ex-fiancé ambush dinner so that Bertie can say, “I’m sorry. Wait, why am I apologizing? You’re the one who lied about having a child.” That’s good enough for Edith and almost-crying, who stare glumly at the table picturing genocide for a while, so…happily ever after? Start planning the wedding!
Arriving at the castle, Donk and Cora ride a floating emerald into the Lesser South Awkwardness Conservatory, where Cora says, “I just want Edith to be happy,” and Donk says, “I just want Edith to be CASTLE.”
Mother Puritantown welcomes them by eating a bucket of lemons and throwing on a sandwich board that says “FAMILY VALUES.” She proudly explains that she’s prickly and horrible and is currently bleaching the castle to get the gay out after Bertie’s cousin’s death. So she’s a winner.
Obviously, Mother Puritantown takes the news volcanically and turns inside out as she declares that Edith is a whore-faced trash goblin whose very presence besmirches the Puritantown name. “Edith is damaged goods!” she exclaims while Mary begins production on the t-shirt.
Unfortunately, Mary was not invited to the castle to gleefully shovel popcorn about this. A real shame. Instead, she stays home to mentor Henry as he goes through his very first Downton existential crisis. You’re a real Crawley now! After visiting all of Edith’s sadness corners, Henry realizes that charred BFF corpses make car racing less fun, so he wants to quit. Mary goes, “YES! In your face! I’m…sorry for your loss?” while Tom dives headfirst into a pile of black veils.
Displaying remarkable persistence, Lord Merton remains a character. This week, he has broken into Thomas’s old insomniac-werewolf-with-pinkeye makeup collection to indicate that he’s suddenly dying of a sore tongue. Heavens. What has he been up to? Answer: having pernicious anemia.
Because Lord Merton is dying, Isobel decides that she cares about him again. Desperate to free him from Evil Fiancée’s “just die already” dungeon, Isobel Bond initiates a covert espionage mission, which primarily consists of standing outside while Evil Fiancée says, “Go die in a factory fire. Door slamming sound.”
Back at the castle, Mother Puritantown had no time to cancel the billion-guest engagement party and longest-dinner-table record attempt, so it must go ahead in spite of Edith’s slutty garbage womb. Bertie attempts to announce their engagement anyway, but his mother hijacks his toast, beginning an extended game of Engagement Whack-a-Mole as they both keep standing and sitting and interrupting each other to give partial toasts. “We’re getting…” “Chastity belts!” “Won’t you join me in…” “Killing the whores!”
Finally, Donk leans over to Mother Puritantown and whispers, “Saving the day words,” which save the day. She retracts her stinger, swallows her vomit, and begrudgingly toasts Bertie and his engagement to his beloved Edith, who is definitely not a hell strumpet. Mother of the year. Edith swiftly declares she wants a New Year’s Eve wedding so that she can get married in a dark blizzard.
Flash forward to December! A dust devil of aggressive optimism is swirling through the great hall, so Rose must be here.
Diligently fulfilling her role as Fake Sybil, Rose forces Donk to watch Cora host the hospital town-hall meeting, tricking him into respecting his wife after he realizes that she can make mouth words like a human person. Donk rubs his eyes 150 times going, “WHAAAAA…?”
Oh, is it the “hastily wrapping up all the loose ends” portion of the finale already? Suddenly deciding to try, Dr. Clarkson discovers that Lord Merton isn’t actually dying. Hooray! Having been a teacher for a hot minute, Molesley becomes King of Education. Hooray! Denker tries to get Spratt fired for being Miss Cassandra and fails. Hooray!
Denker severely misjudged this entire situation. She attempts to show the column to the Dowager, who notes, “Opened to the right page, how convenient,” with enough concentrated withering to keep us going for another six months. But really, an article telling women to be less ugly? The Dowager is obviously Miss Cassandra’s #1 fan. Encore! Encore!
Henry finally pulls himself together once he decides to open Car Things Shoppe with Tom. They show off their new business to Mary, who purses her lips so hard she opens a rift in spacetime.
Disturbingly, Mary doesn’t want to announce the pregnancy yet for fear of stealing Edith’s wedding thunder. WHAT HAVE YOU BECOME, YOU MONSTER?
Of course, we can’t forget the noble quest to pair up every character except Thomas in romantic bliss. Baxter and Molesley, Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore, and Tom and Lady Editor are all haphazardly smushed together to go, “Short scene of implied future happiness.” Then there’s the matter of Andy and Daisy. It’s the classic tale: boy likes girl, girl hates boy, boy inadvertently asks Mrs. Patmore if girl is a lesbian.
She isn’t. She’s just Daisy, so she irrationally hates Andy until she randomly changes her mind for no reason. Well, not no reason. He does perform a sweating montage in a white t-shirt while Mr. Mason notes, “It’s mighty helpful to have the use of a young man’s muscles.” Wisdom.
For the wedding, Daisy suddenly decides she wants to look glamorous instead of perpetually preteen. (How old is Daisy? Eleven? Thirty-five? No one knows.) She furtively sneaks upstairs in the dead of afternoon to steal Mary’s new electric hair-drying contraption, and I love this dumb little storyline because it has a touch of season-one silliness, back when we cared about stolen hairdryers instead of just rape and suicide.
Obviously, her hair goes terribly.
Then the wedding happens. Then it’s over. Congratulations. Are there things that happen that aren’t weddings?
Post-wedding, everyone remembers that Carson has Parkinson’s. He’s unable to reel out the champagne glasses faster than Donk can chug them, which absolutely can’t be allowed to continue. Without a good wine-pouring hand, Carson is utterly worthless. Strap him to a block of ice and send him out to sea.
Uh oh, Donk has an idea. “Wait, Thomas has a wine-pouring hand!” Thomas got the day off from Hotel Snore to attend the wedding, and Donk suggests that Thomas take over as butler while Carson stays on in a special disapproving-lurking role. So wait, everyone else finds love and Thomas finds…Carson?
Last complication of the series! Anna shouts, “I have to gallop up to Mary’s room to give birth there!” Just as Mary remarks that Anna is looking particularly 923 months pregnant today, Anna’s water breaks onto Mary’s foot.
Now, with all the babies delivered, endless weddings finally over, mental illnesses cured, and storylines either resolved or forgotten entirely, everyone wistfully gathers to summarize the last six years.
Cora and Donk toast what super-awesome parents they are. “The last one’s off our hands!” Yep. Married, married, dead. Check, check, check. We did it!
Donk then pats Carson on the head saying, “You did good, Rover,” which is all Carson ever dreamed of, while Mrs. Hughes chooses now to reveal that she’s had the voice of an angel all this time. Thanks. But really, the last words of Downton Abbey could only ever belong to the Dowager Countess.
Clearly, the Dowager has been Donking the champagne because she’s saying nice things to Cora like “you’re good at hospital” and “I didn’t poison your food tonight,” then finishes by talking to Isobel about smiling.
Isobel: What else could we drink to? We’re going forward into the future, not back into the past.
Dowager: If only we had a choice.
Theme of onrushing modernity! The end!
Oh Downton Abbey, the lavishly preposterous period soap we all needed. You’ll always have a place in our hearts for bestowing the gift of the Dowager Countess upon us. From the brilliant first season, to those forgettable middle seasons, to…did Matthew just cure paraplegia?…Downton has been delicious, hysterical, insane, repetitive, and insufferable, often at the same time, allowing us to be equal parts obsessed with it and obsessed with making fun of it. What more could we ask?