'Downton Abbey': A trailer for season six and a look at what's to come

The sixth and final season of 'Downton' is set to debut in September in Britain and in January in the US. Here's what we know about the end of the popular costume drama.

The last season of “Downton Abbey” will soon debut in Britain. 

“Downton,” which follows the fortunes of a well-to-do British family and their servants through the beginning of the twentieth century, has aired for five seasons. The sixth will debut in Britain on Sept. 20 and in the United States on Jan 3.

The program airs on ITV in Britain and on PBS in the US and is the most popular drama ever on PBS. It debuted in 2010 in Britain and in 2011 in the US (the show usually debuts in the fall in Britain and sometime in January in America) and has won multiple Emmy Awards and Golden Globes, including a Golden Globe for best miniseries or motion picture made for television.

A trailer for the sixth season of “Downton” shows the Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), telling butler Carson (Jim Carter), “If I could stop history in its tracks, maybe I would. But I can’t, Carson. You nor I can hold back time.” 

What do we know about the show’s sixth and final season? It will reportedly be set in 1925. 

Eldest daughter Mary Crawley features prominently in ITV’s promo for the final season, and show producer Gareth Neame has discussed the new character of Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), whom Mary met at a shooting party. “We like this idea that Mary has now been single for a while, and she’s had enough time to grieve her marriage and to honor her late husband, but to know that she will marry again one day,” he said. “She just has no idea who. That’s why she’s had all of these different suitors that she’s considered, but she hasn’t done anything about it. I’m also interested in how her first marriage to Matthew was relatively straightforward, and when you get married a second time, whether because of divorce or bereavement, it’s much more complicated. A mature marriage in your thirties compared to a first relationship in your twenties, there’s a lot more at stake, and I think that’s interesting.”

One of the “Downton” maids, Anna (Joanne Froggatt), and her husband, valet Bates (Brendan Coyle), have been involved in a plot line for some time involving a valet named Green who raped Anna and was later murdered. Mr. Neame said of the story, “Mr. Green was a very complicated, dark individual, and the ramifications of all of that are still haunting them. They’re going to continue giving us story fuel with more episodes to come.”

Fans may also be wondering whether the characters of Rose Aldridge (Lily James), a Crawley cousin, and son-in-law Tom Branson (Allen Leech) will be on board for the new season. In the final episode of season five, Rose was moving to New York with her new husband and Tom seemed set to go to Boston with his daughter, Sybbie.

However, Neame didn’t rule out appearances by either in the new season. “Both their characters have traveled to America to make new lives, but they are members of this family, so a visit home may well happen at some time,” he said in another interview.

And Leech tweeted in August, 

Meanwhile, James said in an interview of the new season, “I'm really hoping to come back. I feel like it's definitely going to happen.”

While “Downton” got PBS into the limelight for many and showed a costume drama can succeed today ("Downton" creator Julian Fellowes is set to work on a drama titled "The Gilded Age" for NBC), it also highlighted a problem with our new global view of TV. With shows like “Downton” and British exports “Sherlock” and “Gracepoint,” among many others, becoming popular, many viewed the “Downton” model, in which American viewers had to wait months to watch it officially, as old-fashioned. As evidenced by the release dates, however, the final season of “Downton” will follow the same schedule as before.

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