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‘Downton Abbey’ Review: Final Season Brings Closure for Crawley Family

Season 6 will give fans more of what they’ve come to expect from PBS’ most successful drama

“Downton Abbey” has always been television to luxuriate in, and its final season will delight fans with more of the same superb production quality and writing that makes the aristocratic Crawley family feel part of our own.

The season picks up with Anna and John Bates (Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle) still facing suspicion in the death of the visiting valet who raped her; Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) battling Isobel (Penelope Wilton) for dominance at the hospital; under butler Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) fighting for his job; Daisy (Sophie McShera) pursuing her education; Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) preparing to open her B&B; and Lord and Lady Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern) generally remaining the calm at the heart of the storm while so many great houses around Downton fall into disrepair and are auctioned away.

Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) both weigh new romantic opportunities this season — Harry Hadden-Paton as Bertie Pelham and Matthew Goode as Henry Talbot; while butler Carson (Jim Carter) and his fiancé Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) engage in a lot of handwringing over their pending nuptials (no one does consternation quite like Carson).

A few old faces also show up in the season–no spoilers, though.

Writer and creator Julian Fellowes provides a sweet parting gift, indulging fans with closure on so many dangling storylines, while offering fiery and long-overdue exchanges between some of the most popular characters. One explosively bloody scene feels so out of character for the series that it almost comes off as gallows humor — a show pulling out all the stops in its final act.

His ensemble of actors is equally generous, each giving such steadfast performances in these last episodes of the award-winning series.

Most notably in the season, the series bids a fond farewell to a lifestyle lost, parading the decline of great families one after the other. The Crawleys together bend and sway in the great wind of change sweeping over England’s class system, while individually facing it head on. The family frequently invokes the late Lady Sybil as a guiding light of strength, kindness and inspiration when the pain of that change is almost too much to bear. WWLSD?

At one point, a character remarks that allowing a tour of the house by paid visitors (to benefit the village hospital, naturally) would make the family seem like works on display in a museum. But isn’t that what “Downton Abbey” has provided viewers all along? Presenting the fictional living history of a sumptuous life enjoyed by the entitled few and giving the plebs a window into lives they will never know.

“Downton Abbey” Season 6 premieres Sunday, Jan. 3 at 9 p.m. ET.