“Downton Abbey” signed off Sunday after six seasons. This Brit hit, set amid the splendor of the English artistocracy, got rave reviews for the final episode (see below). Those, coupled with the desire of TV academy voters to give it a farewell hug, could be the key to finally winning Best Drama Series at the Emmys.
After winning Best Minseries for its first season, “Downton Abbey” has lost its four bids for Best Drama Series to “Homeland” (2012), “Breaking Bad” (2013, 2014) and “Game of Thrones” (2015.) That second win for “Breaking Bad” was for its final season. The only other shows to prevail for their farewells were “The Sopranos” (2007) and “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1977) which, like “Downton Abbey,” was set among the English elite of the 1920s.
Below, a sampling of the critical acclaim followed by your chance to enter our contest to predict the Emmy nominations.
Megan Vick (TV Guide): “Happy endings are rare in a drama landscape that exalts antiheroes and political scheming. ‘Downton Abbey’ has set itself apart from its prestige drama peers by never being about good guys or bad guys (whether you’re rooting for them or not). The show has been a character study, observing a specific way of life rather than purposefully pitting its characters against each other. A happy ending for everyone is the only one that fits for the period drama.”
Jeff Jensen (Entertainment Weekly): Compensating for years of inflicting so much melodramatic woe on his characters and audience, Julian Fellowes went full Oprah, raining parting gifts of love and hope and opportunity on his people, albeit some were wrapped with some gentle keepin’-it-real about life’s fragility. No one got a new car – but Henry (Matthew Goode) and Tom (Allen Leech) did giddily reinvent themselves as used car salesmen. As much as it tried to temper the sentimentality, the finale was an unapologetically feel-good send-off that also wasn’t afraid to be blunt about its politics and idealism. “We like strong women here. We like them very much,” said Tom, double underscoring with thick black pen the season’s feminist bent. Subtlety was scarce, but good cheer abounded. Downton’s good-bye was a roasted chestnut – warm, sweet, slightly salted.”
Ken Tucker (Yahoo): “‘Downton Abbey’ closed out its run on Sunday night with a finale that tied up every loose end with a smiley-face sticker: Clearly creator Julian Fellowes had decided there would be no surprise deaths or lingering unhappiness settling over this series like a funereal fog. Instead, to quote the Anglican hymn Lord Grantham probably doesn’t know because he’s not a regular church-goer, all things bright and beautiful suffused Downton with a rainbow of contentment.”
Brian Lowry (Variety): “The finale was about weddings and births. And if the episode raced around a bit to tie up loose ends and pair off characters, its warmth didn’t feel forced but rather proved inordinately satisfying, perhaps because of all the angst and melodrama that preceded it. Despite the sprawling assortment of players, both upstairs and downstairs, the linchpin to that happy ending ran through the relationship between Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and her sister Edith (Laura Carmichael). Ultimately, Edith – having given birth to a daughter while unmarried – was spared from a life of being “damaged goods” by the intervention of her sister and longtime tormentor.”
Jen Chaney (New York): “In keeping with the ‘Downton’ tradition of making the Christmas episodes as celebratory as possible, this most final of finales is a super-sized parade of new beginnings, fresh starts and, with one exception, pure joy. No matter how frustrated viewers may have felt in recent seasons — the show spent too much time on rapist-murder mysteries and whatever the hell Denker was doing — it was impossible to watch this last episode with anything other than a full heart and warm affection. This show will be deeply missed.”
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Photo Credit: Carnival Films and PBS