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Downton Abbey: Season 1 - Final episode reviewed

Downton Abbey

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

HIGH drama marked the end of the first season of Downton Abbey on Sunday night (November 7, 2010) with several storylines left tantalisingly up in the air.

Having secured a second season pretty much from the outset, the Julian Fellowes-scripted drama had every reason to leave viewers wanting more… and it did not disappoint with turmoil up and downstairs for almost every single character.

On a personal front, we had a surprise pregnancy swiftly followed by a terrifying loss of the baby to deal with for Cora, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern), which had widespread ramifications for Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) and her potential marriage to Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens).

While the ongoing battle of wits between Rob James-Collier’s embittered Thomas and Brendan Coyle’s lame Bates finally came to a head… helped, immeasurably, by the plucky intervention of hard parlour maid Anna (Joanne Froggatt), who travelled to London to discover the truth behind Bates’ shock confession of theft.

Bates survived the axe, Thomas sought to escape the draft by joining the medical profession, and Matthew Crawley finally declared his frustration with Lady Mary and vowed to return to Manchester.

And these were only some of the dramatic highpoints of the final episode, which ended on a somewhat sombre note with Hugh Bonneville’s Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham announcing to assembled guests at an afternoon tea party that England was now at war with Germany (the year being 1916).

Hence, the Downton Abbey melting pot is almost full to overflowing as it prepares to negotiate a sophomore season…. and we can’t wait.

Fellowes’ screenplay took a while to get going, remaining content during its early days to build character and audience empathy. But once the dramas really kicked in, the show came into its own and viewers sat transfixed at the various relationships that unfolded.

Sunday’s finale therefore had a lot to get in, and did so over the course of 90 minutes, but it was a fittingly gripping conclusion to what has consistently been a cracking series.

And in typically brilliant fashion, we were left with as much to cheer as we were to mull over.

Of the cheering moments, Anna’s rescuing of Bates’ reputation was a triumph for decency and honour, while Thomas Howes’ William’s fight with the smug Thomas offered a thrilling slap in the face to one of TV’s most loathsome characters.

There was humour to be found, too… such as in Mr Carson (Jim Carter)‘s comical attempts to acquit himself with a telephone, Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith)‘s exasperated attempts to find a new head maid, and Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol)‘s attempts to maintain control of her kitchen… mostly through the hapless use of her assistant Daisy (Sophie McShera).

Of the questions that we’ve been left to ponder, however… first and foremost must be who will be forced to enlist for war, and which will survive?

Then there’s the issue of whether Thomas will return? Or how Siobhan Funneran’s bitter Miss O’Brien will come to terms with her guilt over the loss of Cora’s baby…

Will Bates and Anna realise their feelings for each other in a conventional sense (Bates did, at least, admit he was very interested), and likewise will Matthew return and finally realise his love for Lady Mary?

Like we said, the prospect of a second season is a tantalising one already…

More on Downton: Read how the Downton finale attracted 11m viewers or 10 reasons we fell in love

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