Here we are again, eight speedy weeks into the autumn schedule, and already it's the end of 'Downton Abbey'... again. Never mind the years rushing by as you get older, series of Julian Fellowes' period saga seem to fly by.
Anyway, here we are again, with a whole wool-ball of loose ends to tie up, both up and down stairs. Not everything has to be sorted, mind you, because ITV bosses confirmed this week that a sixth series is on its way. Just as well, because I, for one, feel sorely underserved by Thomas Barrow in Series 5. Still one of the best characters in the show, Mr Barrow's attempts to chemically subdue his sexuality were given only a few minutes in these past episodes, so cross fingers he'll be back on sly-fox, winning form next time around.
In the meantime, here are just a few of the questions that Lord Fellowes might need to answer for us, before credits roll for a the final time this year (well, if you don't count the Christmas special, the ITV charity special... TV bosses can smell a cash-cow, even when the storylines aren't quite as compelling as they once were). But for now...
- Can just one wedding at Downton Abbey go off without incident, and with bride and groom both present, happy and assured of a bright future? Pretty please. It does seem as though perpetually grinning Lady Rose has found her male counterpart in the ridiculously named Atticus Aldrige. But the furrowed brows of his father and her mother almost joining in their misgivings, let’s not dip our hands into the confetti just yet. But, please, Lord Fellowes… we need some more grinning children at Downton for the adults to play with, for three whole minutes before dinner.
- Talking of les enfants, will Robert discover that the new cherub under his roof is, in fact, his own grand-daughter, courtesy of Lady Edith’s shocking ‘trip to London’* (*euphemism) with her publisher gent, who swiftly had the misfortune to disappear and be swallowed up by “those nasty brownshirts, they’re on the rise” – thankyou, Lady Cora, for that swift pre-dinner history chat. Fortunately, Lady Edith was able to sneak little Marigold into the drawing-room, because Robert was far too concerned with Isis. Nope, the dog. But there seem to be a few too many people in on this particular secret for it to remain that way for long.
- Mr and Mrs Bates. Yawn. Now he’s discovered her little box* (*not a euphemism), the only trouble they’ve got brewing is the small matter of a murder charge. Because, let’s face it, somebody killed Mr Green. It’s terrible, really, what cruel winds come blowing for the smuggest, sorry, I mean, nicest people. Looks like that lil’ old B&B dream might have to wait.
- Will Lady Mary end up turning those new houses on the estate into a summer camp where ladies go to ‘try out’ prospective husbands, or will she come to her senses and see that the only man who still finds her charming is right under her very, pinched nose? Get on with it, woman. It’s what Matthew would have wanted.
- Now that her companion has gone and made herself a rich match, it looks as though the Countess Dowager and Mrs Crawley’s chances of rebooting ‘Rosemary and Thyme’ are somewhat reduced. Only one thing for it… some autumn romance for the Dowager-ski. Could we dare to hope?
- How soon will Daisy be running the country?
- Will he or won’t he get on that boat to Boston? Ever since he gave Lady Sybil a smile from his chauffeur’s seat, Branson’s position in the house has been neither up nor down, but somewhere on the stairs. So, sad as it would be to see him go, it might be his only chance to find a proper perch. But what about the child? Ahh…
- Will Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes ever have one too many sherries together one evening when the house has been put to bed, and get their life together sorted? In last year’s Christmas special, we had the tantalising glimpse of hands held at the seaside, but there’s been nothing since. Come on, you two, have you learned nothing from Remains of the Day? Carpe diem and all that.
- Dare we ask… Isis? Hugh Bonneville may have scotched pernicious rumours that the dog is being killed off because of its unfortunate name, but there is surely a bigger question here. Why exactly is an ailing dog being given so much air time, compared with, say, Thomas Barrow? The mind boggles.
- Never mind all that, when we do get to see the Countess Dowager flirting with George Clooney?
'Downton Abbey' Series 8 concludes on Sunday 9 November at 9pm. Pictures below...