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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, September 28, 2023

Final season of Downton Abbey continues to portray past with relevance

I would like to address a serious peculiarity of mine that has entangled itself into my core for many years. It has affected my hopes, dreams, mannerisms and particularly, my viewing habits. I have tried to suppress this indulgence, but it still holds a firm grip on my life. No matter how hard I try, I cannot subdue it: I am an anglophile. There, I said it. I plan out my imaginary future vacation to England, I gravitate towards the many delights of the BBC, I often brew too much tea. I even changed the setting on my iPhone to a Siri with a British accent. Why is this relevant, you might ask? Well, as any fellow anglophile knows, the series “Downton Abbey” is not only a television show, but a ritual. Every Sunday, I look forward to Laura Linney introducing Masterpiece Classic, the montage of sifting book pages and even the ever-present Viking River Cruises ad because I know what joy awaits me. This joy, I regret to say, must come to an end. "Downton Abbey" is running its last season (or series, for all you anglophiles out there).

For the few of you who have not yet discovered this treasure of a show, I will elaborate. “Downton Abbey” is a British period piece that follows the life and times of the wealthy Crawley family and their servants. All of this takes place under the roof of Downton Abbey, an elaborate home that is arguably a character on its own. By the end of the series, it will have been on air for six years. However, the premise spans from 1912 to 1925, beginning with events such as the Titanic disaster and the introduction of electricity to domestic homes and continuing through World War I and post-war England. Throughout this duration, each character evolves along with the shifting horizons of the world that surrounds them. As the time period transforms, so do the small specificities that officiate the series as a true period piece with faithful accuracy. It is truly beautiful to watch. Every detail is carefully attended to with care, precision and respect to the year in which it is set.

What truly elevates the show to the success it is today is how relevant and relatable the content is, despite the era it depicts. It addresses and explores issues that were works in progress at the time and still are today, such as sexism, racism, homophobia and even rape culture. I have grown to care about each character; I root for characters I never thought I would have at the beginning of the series. This marks how wonderfully the series generates not only historic change paving way for modernity, but also the evolution of its characters. As annoying as the middle sister, Edith, was at the beginning, she finally found our hearts when desperately trying to escape the social imprisonments and stigmas surrounding women while trying to manage a magazine. Thomas once was the character everyone loved to hate; however, we have come to understand how he has struggled personally, whether it be through society’s lack of acceptance of him as a homosexual man or when he was weaned out of a job at Downton due to economic cuts to downstairs staff. I also became fully invested in the relationships of the series as I watched them progress, from Mary and Matthew Crawley’s arranged-marriage-turned-true-love, to Anna and John Bates' imperiled downstairs romance, to the focal point of the final season so far: Ms. Hughes and Mr. Carson, the leaders of the downstairs staff. This season feels much slower, but it makes sense considering everything is winding down to an inevitable finish.

In a sense, “Downton” is an ode to changing times, with the beauty of the past gracefully accepting the future. By the time the show ends, I will miss the exquisite setting of Britain’s Highclere Castle as Downton, the immaculate costumes, the sing-songy dialect and, of course, the snappy one-liners from Maggie Smith’s unforgettable Violet Crawley. The series manages to fully encapsulate a beautiful moment in history and seamlessly relay its stories as relatable and timeless in their own way. Initially, I was irritated and impatient when waiting for the episodes to be released in the U.S. after the British had the privilege of viewing them first. However, now that the show is ending, I am almost glad to have waited because at least I will have “Downton” with me for a little longer. As the series ends, us American anglophiles will mourn, yet we must remember the takeaway message of the series—in order for there to be change, one must accept the future, even one that no longer holds a series as special as “Downton Abbey.”

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