This is the last season of Downton Abbey.
It has had, in my opinion, five seasons too many. The first season was bloody perfect, just perfect. I loved it. I’m a fin de siècle kind of guy because of the excellent manners, decorum, restrained behavior, even proper dress of that era. Heck, if we were serious about creating a more cordial society today, we’d consider bringing all that back. Men should wear suits for everything, even digging ditches; we’d all get along better. At least we’d look better.
And the Crawley’s were the perfect embodiment of those times: elegant and sophisticated and imbued with an aristocratic sense of noblesse oblige. But, they were also ferocious defenders of rigid class lines and stultifying customs and traditions that ensured their own primacy while keeping Daisy and Bates down.
And they’re doomed.
The storm clouds are gathering, and they do not know it. We do. We know what’s coming. Their world will disappear in blood and fire, in a manner they never expected. And it will not come back. So the way Season 1 ended, with the tides of that destruction rising off camera, was perfect. The men enlisted, stiff upper lip and all that. The women created the homefront, just close your eyes and think of England. And a world passes. Downton Abbey should have passed in the same way, with inevitability, not with a friggin’ cricket mallet across the knees.
Because that is exactly what the next five seasons were, a severe beating of the audience. Julian Fellowes, hearing all the swoons of various trust-fund babies and people who actually go on Viking river cruises, rode the tide of sighs all the way to the bank. He gave them what they wanted: impossible romances, more murders in one household than is usually found in a small city, more deaths by deus ex machina, and one death that completely obviates everything that happened in the first two seasons, bringing us all back to square one.
And now, this season, so treacly and sticky that viewers are in danger of developing diabetes. Everything is being set up for the most wonderful and sweeping Happily Ever Afters ever conceived. More Lords Sticks-Up-Butts are presented as matrimonial matches than you can shake a butt stick at, and there’s even a Jughead for Daisy. Former Fenians come home with precious child in tow and declares this den of English kaniggits is family. A hard-working farmer and his wife who did the Crawley’s a huge favor are summarily dismissed because, because, well, we gotta do something for Daisy’s father-in-law! And Barrow is going to get away with everything.
No doubt, the last show will be a swoon of almost mortal consequences. And Viking river cruises will have a banner year.
So, then, why am I still watching?
Because Dame Maggie Smith has the best lines.