‘Downton Abbey’ Debuts An Emotional Final Season [Spoilers]

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Downton Abbey.

The season premiere of Downton Abbey is set to air tonight, but the PBS program’s sixth season is unlike any previous installment. For five years, the characters of this dramatic series have kept fans enthralled, but that’s all coming to an end sooner than some might have expected. As the show premieres tonight, many will embark on the season with feelings of bittersweet joy at seeing their favorite show, knowing that it won’t be long before Downton Abbey is gone forever.

Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey Offers An Emotional Roller Coaster Ride

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Even with news of the impending finale of the show, things are not so bleak in the series’ fictional world. In fact, one might even say there’s joy and jubilation coming to the manor. Fans might remember that Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and Mr. Carson (JimCarter) closed out Season 5 by announcing their engagement, so it should come as no surprise that, as Downton Abbey debuts Season 6, the couple will be preparing for marriage. The happy news and ensuing plans prompts a rendezvous between Carson and Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol). One can only imagine the deeply personal words exchanged in that meeting.

Additionally, Anna (Joanne Froggatt) stirs up more drama, when she returns home on bail, following her arrest for murdering her rapist. Edith (Laura Carmichael) takes in Little Marigold, as almost everyone at Downton Abbey comes to terms with the fact that the two are family.

Offering up just this small taste, fans can see that the last season will be as amusing, depressing, frustrating, and joyful as every previous installment of the series. Perhaps it will be even more enthralling with the knowledge that this will be the last hoorah for Downton Abbey.

Joanne Froggatt Says Fans Should Expect Plenty Of Love In Downton Abbey‘s Final Season

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The actress says the final season was written with a general theme of love and she feels that by the end of the series finale, fans will come away from the show feeling the bonds of family among the characters. She cautions not to expect a strong conclusion, however, because, just like the real world, life goes on.

The Downton Abbey story began in 1912 and, as the series closes, it’s 1925 and the world has changed by the first world war and a Spanish flu epidemic, just to name a couple of major causes of social and economic upheavals.

As managers of the estate, the Earl and Countess of Grantham, Robert and Cora Crawley (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern), have keenly felt the pinch of these changes, even as the lives of prominent landowners intertwine with the lives of the manor’s staff.

“[Creator Julian Fellowes] brilliantly weaves in the social climate and what’s going on politically … but this is more about the characters and the relationships,” Ms. Dockery said of Downton Abbey‘s melding of history and fiction.

Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary Crawley on the series, added that Season 6 is as suspenseful as ever. She says that Fellowes has kept everyone on their toes with more mysteries and twists, even when the actors think they have done it all.

Apparently, Fellowes does think Downton Abbey has done it all, in spite of continued good performance. The series peaked with Season 4 and now, as Season 6 is set to premiere, the show boasts 12.9 million viewers. That’s just a 3 percent drop from the fourth season. Still, Julian feels it’s time to say goodbye.

The creator and showrunner says that he’s enjoyed being a part of something that has drawn such a large following, something with which so many have become emotionally invested, but, he adds, he wants to close out the series, before Downton Abbey wears out its welcome.

Downton Abbey airs Sundays on ITV in the U.K. and on PBS in the U.S.

[Featured image by ITV Studios/PBS]