Madeline Wheeler


The featured aristocratic members of the Downton cast now includes the offspring of Mary and Cybil. Photo by

The sobs of dedicated followers
of 1920s drama “Downton Abbey”
were heard when the premiere
aired in America on January 3.
Refreshing and brilliantly
dramatic, the previous five
seasons of the show that aired
locally on PBS attracted an
audience of all ages and backgrounds.
Although the show takes place in a
time period and country that are
foreign to most Americans, the
conflicts and subjects register as
familiar to all. For those who
have never seen the show, it
documents the notable and fascinating
lives of the upstairs of Downton
Abbey (upper class) as well
as downstairs (kitchen staff,
butlers, maids and lower class).
In the final season opener, a strange
woman who reveals her- self to Lady
Mary Crawley (played by Michelle Dockery)
as an ignored chamber maid who happened
to see Lady Mary sneaking into a hotel
room with her lover, Lord Gillingham.
The incident took place such a
long time ago that Mary believed
its secrecy was buried underneath the
posh hotel’s bed. Much of the drama
and anxiety of the program is centered
around unfulfilled desires, squelched
by the rigid rules of
1920s society.
Down the spinning, cold stair-
case to the lower class at Downton,
brighter news was delivered. Bates
(a valet to Lord Crawley) was pre-
viously the major suspect in the
mysterious death of a visiting valet
on a dreary and foggy night many
months beforehand. Weekly vis-
its from police plagued Downton,
filling both upstairs and down-
stairs with the stress of a possible
criminal laying low in the halls.
But in the opener, the police chief
returned with the news everyone
was waiting to hear: Bates was free.
The captain revealed that a woman
had provided a complete, tear-filled
confession to the murder and as he
spoke, the Crawleys who were up-
stairs ran down into the dark kitch-
en with champagne and fine china
to celebrate the lifted tension.
On a positive note downstairs,
the marriage proposal between late
bloomers Carson and Ms. Hughes
was finalized. Doubts began to sur-
face in Ms. Hughes’s mind about
having a “full marriage” this late in
life, as she was no longer young and
beautiful, which she believed made
her irrelevent. Carson passionately
explained that nothing could make
him see her in anything but a posi-
tive light.
Along with new beginnings such
as births and marriages, “Downton
Abbey” has had many painful end-
ings over its critically acclaimed
run. Anna, Bates’s wife, was raped
by the valet that was murdered.
Lady Mary’s husband was killed
shortly after marriage and upon
discovering she was expecting his
ghost’s child, she fell into a deep
depression after the birth. Cy-
bil, Mary’s youngest sister, died in
childbirth and her remaining sister,
Edith, became pregnant shortly be-
fore her lover disappeared in Ger-
many in an attempt to divorce his
mentally unstable wife.
At the beginning of the sixth
and final season, the audience is
surprised to discover that Tom (Cy-
bil’s widower) and Rose (Edith and
Mary’s eccentric cousin) have both
gone to America to restart their
lives. Changing times pushed the
more progressive characters to dive
into fresh beginnings. During the
previous season, a “woke” school
teacher caught lonely Tom’s eye
when he heard her intense work-
ing-class theories that supported his
previous, not so extravagant life-
style. Tom brought Miss Bunting
to Downton for dinner and danc-
ing on several occasions and each
time her colorful background and
outbursts criticizing the upper class
caused quite the stir. Her rambling
made Tom question whether his
status as the noble widower gulping
down fine wines and fox hunting
was what he really wanted in life.
With the return of Downton Ab-
bey came the annual celebration
at the Altria theatre in downtown
Richmond. Spectators arrived in
the get-up of the roaring 20s as
the sun set and prepared to hide
away their technological devices
to set the scene. Several tears were
shed as attendees realized that this
would be their final year attended
the much anticipated event. And
as the curtain began to close, the
drama-filled audience felt their
streams of tears fade as the quality
of the season premiere satisfied all
of their inner fangirls.


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