Downton Abbey is a feel-good show. I'll make no effort to deny that. Despite the tumultuous events surrounding the lives of the Crawley family and their staff, the reason most fans tune in every week is to get a sense of cosiness and safety as you join a world long lost, yet preserved with a sense of romanticism. It's basically a show full of nostalgia for things you never experienced. That said, the show is always ripe for a sudden cruel twist of fate. Could Downton Abbey Season 6 even decide to end the show in a way that will be displeasing to fans?
Critics of Downton Abbey have called the show meandering, particularly in the last two seasons. This is understandable, for the truly shocking events have been left in the dust in previous seasons. The veritable coasting Downton Abbey has done in the lead up to Season 6 makes way for a few suspicions.
Has Downton Abbey grown dull?
This is not meant as a dismissal of the show in general, but as an assessment of what kinds of events Downton has been giving us. It was back in Season 3 that everybody's favourite, Dan Stevens, was killed in a car crash, throwing the future of Lady Mary's happiness into question. It was in Season 3 that Lady Sybil tragically passed away after giving birth, tearing the family apart and showing that the sheen of the noble class is not immortal.
In comparison, what drama has Seasons 4 and 5 given us? Well Lady Mary is making her way through a veritable conveyer belt of suitors, while the story of Mr and Mrs Bates refuses to culminate in anything more than misery. Lady Edith almost introduced some drama by running away to London, before chickening out and coming back the very next episode, and I feel as if Lady Rose is only around to tell me how great Atticus is.
Downton Abbey Seasons 4 and 5 has covered a smaller amount of time than the others, and has slowed as a result. Again, I'm not suggesting that it's quality has diminished. Many fans enjoy this coasting, and prefer it to the barrage of shocking turns of misfortune. All this level playing; all this stable status quo that the narrative mulls over does however make me suspect one thing.
Is Downton Abbey building up to a tragic ending?
This has to be a suspicion present in the mind of anyone excited for Downton Abbey Season 6. It's natural, when a show you like approaches its ending, to get anxious about where it will leave the characters and the world you've grown to love. The issue for Downton fans is that it actually seems feasible that the show-runners might end Season 6 with a genuinely sad ending. They've whipped up tragedy before for the sake of quick drama; who's to say they won't do it for the show's swan song?
Might we see Lady Mary end up a struggling spinster amidst the fast moving 30s where she just isn't seen as special anymore? Perhaps Lady Edith will never recapture that happiness she had so briefly earlier in the series. Will we really be forced to witness Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess pass away, and leave behind the archaic legacy of Downton to be lost to the past? No matter how Downton Abbey Season 6 ends, if the rest of the series is anything to go by, we can be sure that not every character will end the story getting what they want.