Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, is crafty.
He knows how fans will be feeling about the final season of the show, and so has set the first trailer for it to a haunting, weep-on-impact version of “Time to Say Goodbye” by Lauren Aquilina that will surely become an immediate hit.
Aquilina understandably enjoyed watching it, but the trailer also requires a box of tissues for any fan wondering how things will work out for Anna, Bates, Edith, Lady Mary, Thomas, Carson, and co.
And this, the trailer suggests, will be a season of closing chapters, saying goodbye, tying up loose ends, and a hunt for happy endings, with a whole heap of drama, and tears, and endurance faced by our favorite characters too.
For all of this, American fans must wait—and somehow not go on online—until January 3 when the season airs here.
Will Downton be safe? Why does it look as if the grand house is being emptied?
Why is the first thing we hear, apart from that amazing song, Lord Grantham saying to Carson: “If I could stop history in its tracks maybe I would, but I can’t, Carson. For neither you nor I can hold back time.”
“We have had our moments, haven’t we, m’lady,” poor Anna Bates says to Lady Mary—meaning, you remember that time we dealt with that poor dead Turkish fellow.
“We certainly have,” says Lady Mary, perhaps momentarily confused about how many times Anna and Mr. Bates have been wrongfully imprisoned.
A car zooms down a road, children gambol in the living room, Lady Violet is both imperious, then gives a shrug that is pure “Que sera sera.”
Lady Mary is excited to see someone, there is more closing up of curtains, Thomas opens a door to a hot guy kneeling (fully clothed) beside a bed.
Most amazingly there are shots of both Lady Edith—or “Poor Edith,” as she is known in the Downton world—and Anna Bates smiling.
Read that again: Edith and Anna both smiling.
Servants dance in the kitchen, Carson kisses Mrs. Hughes, Daisy is seen with Mr. Mason, the farmer father of dear William, and he is indicating a farmhouse.
Oh good: Anna is seen crying again. That seems more familiar.
There is more closing up of shuttered windows, more suitcases, and more emptied rooms, and then the Crawleys gather to look up at the front of the house, and then—at night—a car speeds away from a darkened Downton Abbey.
The trailer does not spoil anything, but rather tantalizes fans keen to know how long Anna and Bates—seen in the trailer in an anguished hug, for which they should hold seminars in performing; all they do is anguishedly hug—must be tortured for crimes they have not committed. We don’t know if Lady Mary and Lady Edith will finally be happy.
We don’t know if Downton is to stay the Crawley family home, and home to the servants. We don’t know if the world’s most evil gay footman will be redeemed by love.
Carson and Mrs. Hughes look like a dead cert for a happy ending, and at least we know that Fellowes tends to write within the moral framework of the good and dutiful ending well.
As Gareth Neame, Downton’s producer, explained at the Farewell To Downton session at the Edinburgh Television Festival: “It wasn’t a plan from the beginning. It wouldn’t have happened if we had not enjoyed the chemistry of Phyllis [Logan] and Jim [Carter, who play Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson].”
Carter himself said of what happens: “I am not going to give a spoiler, but these characters, we say goodbye to them, but it is not final. We see them setting off on different paths.
“It is really satisfying and you will need two hankies on Christmas night.” (The traditionally special Christmas Day episode of Downton in the UK will also this year be the final-ever episode.)
Absent from the trailer in any meaningful way is zonked chatelaine Cora, but apart from slipping on that soap ages ago, all she seems to say every episode is “Oh Raabert,” in her American way; and Branson isn’t there. Branson should come back, right?
Anyway, the trailer is a teasing masterpiece in its own right, which will leave you in pieces. We shall be waiting for you, Downton.