After six seasons of pictorial English landscape, period-accurate costuming, and stiff upper lips, it’s time to bid farewell to everyone’s favorite soap disguised as highbrow entertainment. Whether it’s Mrs. Patmore fearing an electric mixer or the Dowager Countess’ zingers against change, we will miss them all.
There’s only one way to say farewell to Downton Abbey: by remembering its soapiest of moments. Here, Catherine and Stephanie pull together twelve shockers from the series. Excepting the final episode airing next week in the U.S., beware of spoilers if you haven’t watched the final season!
12. The Death of ISIS … the Dog!Stephanie: Every good storyteller knows you don’t kill the dog. You don’t kill the dog! Still, good ‘ole Isis was on in years and it provided a bit of a shock–mainly to Lord Grantham. Thankfully, the final season brought Downton a puppy, courtesy of the Dowager Countess.
11: Thomas Barrow Gets Shot … On Purpose
Stephanie: Our favorite scheming Under Butler was once a soldier back in season two. Ill-fit for horrors of war, Thomas lifts his hand above the trench during live fire to intentionally wound himself and get sent home. Throughout the series, we’re to expect Barrow to be conniving and unlikeable, but there are enough moments revealing his fears and deeper hurts. This may have been Barrow’s boldest move.
Catherine: Once his comrade-in-arms Miss O’Brien left, the fire in his heart went out. And no matter what he’s done– sneer at dimwits, sell contraband goods, get part of his hand shot off– he can’t get that zip back. He and O’Brien were partners in misanthropic mayhem and after she left, the joy was gone.
10. The Bates Share a Happy Moment and No One Cries or Goes to Jail
Catherine: In this last episode, the Bates shared a happy giggle. Let me repeat: they shared a giggle over a private joke. No one was then blackmailed, dragged into court, or thrown into jail. No one received hate mail, was raped, or miscarried a baby. In short, no one cried. Their peaceful giggling was unmarred by accompanying tragedy and this is Downton’s last and greatest miracle to us.
9. Sybil Wears Pants and Her Family Still Loves Her
Catherine: One of the great pleasures of Downton is the period costumes. The most memorable outfit appeared in Season 1 when youngest daughter Sybil Crawley showed up in evening dress for dinner and stunned her family. Instead of wearing the usual lovely evening dress, Sybil showed in harem pants. She set a few poses as the family gasped, reeled, and then laughed at how amazing she was. Oh, that Sybil! Showing up in pants and making us face modernity!
Yes, Sybil was just that kind of girl. Just look at her. She knows what she’s about.
8. Mrs. Patmore Strong-Arms Daisy into Marriage
Stephanie: Mrs. Patmore and Daisy have a shifting relationship through the series, with Daisy pushing back and also respecting her superior (and often mother figure). So when Daisy’s beau William, another servant, is sent off to war, Mrs. P urges Daisy to not send him off with a broken heart. Thus, a promise is made–Daisy accepts his proposal. William returns from war injured badly. On his deathbed, Mrs. P pushes Daisy further to go ahead and marry the boy to let him die happy. And she does. This is possibly Daisy’s bravest moment, and a bit of a shock to see her shift to a grown woman in one heartbreaking moment.
7. Lord Grantham Slums it with the Help
Catherine: Lord Grantham ricocheted between being a laid back gentleman and an ill tempered asshole from season to season. One season he opted in as the despicable landowner and decided to try it on with the help. He wasn’t very nice to the new maid but she decided to be nice to him and they had an affair. Cora found out, tears were shed, the maid was fired, and there were no consequences for Grantham whatsoever.
6. Mary Has Sex and Kills a Man (the Turk)
Stephanie: Perhaps there’s a not-so-subtle narrative here about chaste Lady Mary shacking up with a Turkish houseguest only to squeeze the life out of him, but the result was one of the earliest shocking moments of the series. Not only did future Divergent hottie Theo James bite it, but Mary enlisted her maid Anna and her mother to assist in moving the body back to the guest quarters. Better for him to be found the next morning where he fell asleep to protect Mary from scandal. Oh, Mary. If only you knew this is just the start of a storied man-destroying legacy.
Catherine: Mr. Pamuk. Never Forget.
5. Edith Wins Everything
Catherine: Downton Abbey’s best story is how Edith went from being a jilted bride and Mary’s chew toy to being a newspaper owner with a daughter she adores and her own flat in London. Her life goal in Season 1 was to make her sister miserable in the only way she knew how– by marrying first. Her elderly bridegroom left her at the altar and Edith’s life took a different direction. She fell in love with a newspaper editor and became pregnant out of wedlock. In a shocking turn of events, the editor was murdered and she became his heir. Each step of her life has met with heartache but instead of becoming bitter and malicious, Edith created a way for herself and is one of the most humane characters on the show. Even after her sister destroyed Edith’s engagement to Bertie Pelham, Edith came to Mary’s wedding and forgave her. Edith, who began the show downtrodden and depressed, is now independent with a promising future ahead of her. May she live a long and satisfying life.
4. Matthew Stands Up from Wheelchair Only to Crash and Die in Following Season
Catherine: Matthew Crawley was told he would never walk again due to a spinal injury. A few episodes later, he leapt to his feet to catch a falling lady. Gallantry never dies at Downton. Its power is so strong that the paralysed rise to their feet healed when a woman stumbles. Take note, screenwriters, take note. Gallantry is the polite and proper way to get a character out of his wheelchair.
But all this was for naught; Matthew died in a car crash a few episodes later. Gallantry did not raise him from his grave and his wife gave birth to their first son as a widow.
3. The Great Soap Drop
Catherine: One of the worst catastrophes to befall Downton was when Miss O’Brien left. She was Lady Cora’s lady’s maid and she made the wheel of drama turn and churn. Once she left, the crown of cruelty has passed from character to character but no one wore it as well as O’Brien did. Her malicious behavior had a special sparkle, no doubt due to the talented actress Siobhan Finneran.
One of O’Brien’s nastiest moments was when she caught the rumor that newly pregnant Cora might be looking for a new lady’s maid. She decided to take revenge on Cora for even thinking such a thought and laid out a piece of soap on the floor so that when Cora stepped out of the bath, she’d slip and fall. Cora promptly did so and lost the baby. She did not replace O’Brien but O’Brien left anyway. Her nastiness had been soul shaking even for her and she got out of there, leaving henchman Marrow to carry on all alone.
2. Sybil Dies
Stephanie: It had to be the nice one, huh? RIP Sybil.
Catherine: I’m still angry she didn’t haunt Downton as a lady in white.
1. Grantham Blood Spew
Stephanie: Many of the shocks on Downton are often so heavily foreshadowed, including this one, that watching the scene play out is more or less waiting on the inevitable story progression. But this moment, when Lord Grantham’s muttering about stomach pains shows its true and final form, was truly jaw dropping. During a lively discussion about some such hospital nonsense over a typical formal dinner. our fair patriarch sputters, stands, and lets loose a spray of bright red blood, splattering across the table, gushing from his mouth, and horrifying everyone at dinner and at home on their couch. While not nearly the weekly gore-fest of The Walking Dead, the exploding ulcer was enough to split the upper crust into crumbs. Since final seasons are known for the big three: babies, weddings, and deaths, there was a true note of uncertainty whether Downton’s Lordship would be passed on early. And wow, was that a lot of blood.
Catherine Eaton is a writer living in a western suburb of Chicago. She blogs over at sparrowpost.com and enjoys foraging around the neighborhood in her spare time.
Stephanie Scott is a Young Adult writer living in the western Chicago suburbs. Library superfan, award-winning TV-binger, and she just might be your cat’s new best friend. She tweets at @StephScottYA.