Head down to the drawing room, tell the maid to fetch supper and cuddle up with your white chocolate labrador inappropriately named after a terrorist organisation, because Downton Abbey is back for the final time. Yep, this is basically goodbye - there are rumours of a movie, but with the way the story is headed it seems unlikely, and nobody wants to spend two hours watching Lady Mary applying for (gasp!) a job. (Actually, that would probably work...) Anyway, let's take a look at the new trailer that ITV dropped this weekend and see what we can discern about what kind of journey season 6 will be taking us on.
The passage of time
"Neither you nor I can hold back time", Robert tells his ever-loyal butler, Carson, in the typically on-the-nose fashion we've come to expect from writer Julian Fellowes, who's always been rather fond of spelling things out for the audience.
Fellowes has already previewed the major theme of this series, and we saw hints in seasons 4 and 5 that change was afoot at Downton. For those not au fait with the history of the British aristocracy (so everybody), the affluent lifestyles enjoyed by wealthy families became harder to sustain after World War I, particularly with the rise of the middle classes. Families like the Crawleys began to run out of money and their decadence didn't sit well with the rest of society. That's basically where Downton is at this season, and even Robert - who is fabulously stubborn and delusional - seems to have accepted that he'll be the last of a long line of Crawleys to hold court in Downton.
On paper, Robert isn't actually a very likable guy, so major kudos to the awesome Hugh Bonneville (who is also incredible in the British sitcoms 2012 and W1A) for bringing some humanity and affability to this stuffy character and putting Robert right at the heart of the show.
Anna doesn't look suicidal
This is a pretty big deal. I don't mind saying that I despise Anna and Bates together. They've spent a good four seasons being moaning Myrtles, miserable martyrs, and getting arrested for shit they didn't do. It's a constant circle of depression that has no place in this otherwise feel-good series about the lives of the insanely rich and the poor people that wait on them.
But something seems to have lifted Anna out of her slumber, because we see her smiling and reminiscing with Lady Mary about all the great times they shared, picking out dresses and and sharing secrets. Perhaps Anna is just realising how lucky she is to have known the divine Lady Mary. Now keep her the hell away from Bates...
Carson and Hughes
At some point around season 4, after he'd started killing off the upstairs lot, Julian Fellowes realised he had to create some drama downstairs. We needed somebody to root for, and we got exactly that when Carson and Mrs. Hughes - slowly, cautiously, but surely - began to gravitate in one another's direction. There's something so right about these two together - she's probably the only person capable of bringing out the big, soft teddy bear which resides inside Carson. They don't feature much in the trailer, other than to share a quick kiss (scandalous behaviour!), but you can be sure Fellowes will build up to the inevitable wedding toward the end of the season. It'll be nice to see somebody get their happy ending.
Although this is Downton Abbey, so one of them will probably be mown down by a motorcar travelling at 12 mph right outside the church, and die right there on the cobbles. 'Til death do us part, indeed.
The return of a few old favourites
This being the final season, it would be rude to depart forever without giving us the chance to say toodle-pip to a few of our favourite faces. Tom Branson has been a huge part of Downton history, rising the ranks from lowly chauffeur to political activist to son-in-law and reluctant honorary member of the aristocracy, before packing it all in and taking the adorably-named Sybbie off to the States. Although he only left last season, he's too important not to show his face in the series finale. And of course, Robert's wise, borderline feminist sister Rosamund, who usually lives in London and works at MI6 but occasionally pops in to offer some words of profundity has to make one final cameo.
It's been an amazing six years, and although I mostly watch Downton for the upstairs characters I really am curious to see how season 6 resolves the stories of Daisy, Thomas, Mrs. Patmore and the rest. Then again, all that really matters is that Lady Mary has the last laugh. The time is right for Downton to end - time does bring change, and nobody wants to see the Crawleys lose everything. Better to bow out now and keep the dream alive. But what about you? What are your hopes for the final season? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Downton Abbey season 6 premieres September 20th in the UK, concluding on Christmas Day.