There was no ark to be had, but that didn't stop Julian Fellowes sending off his characters into the sunset, in a strict two by two formation, in Christmas Day's very, very final episode of 'Downton Abbey'.
Upstairs, Lady Edith was quickly back in the arms of that chinless but rich wonder Bertie Pelham, after scheming sister Mary pulled another romantic rabbit out of that hat she once went upstairs to take off. There was still some peril to be had, in the form of Patricia Hodge as Bertie's indomitable mother who would not brook any "damaged goods" in her family line. What fun!
But love and honesty conquered all, and Edith got her big day, making a stunning bride and temporarily coming first in her proud father's affections. (Okay, better make that second, as keen-eyed viewers won't have missed that scene-stealing Labrador pup sneaking onto the Earl's lap in the drawing room, fortunately not named after his predecessor Isis...)
The happy ending we've all wanted for Lady Edith, married to Bertie Pelham
But this wedding was the tip of the iceberg, as there was just love, love, love, all around. Mary announced a happy event, Isobel Crawley steeled herself to marry a very rich, very dying man, who - hurrah! - turned out to be healthier than feared. I felt a bit sorry for Doctor Clarkson, delivering this news with a smile, when he could have simply kept quiet, poisoned the old fella, changed his will and claimed Isobel for his own.
But Fellowes wasn't having any of that for his swansong. Even Barrow and Bates shook hands, while elsewhere in the pantry, it was all misty-eyed matings - Daisy and Andy, Mrs Patmore and Mr Mason, Mr Molesley and Baxter... okay, that last one didn't quite happen, but as good as.
Meanwhile, everybody, and I mean everybody! was dishing out advice like there was no tomorrow, fair enough as, for this unique time in Downton history, there really wasn't. While Anna shrewdly advised Barrow to work out the motives for six series worth of machinations, he was in turn giving Baxter a poke about letting go of her fear.. And she was giving Mr Molesley a poke about his new cottage, and so on.
Just think, Julian Fellowes could have spared himself all this bother six years ago and simply penned a self-help book about following your heart and making sure your forks are the right way round. But then we wouldn't have had the Dowager, who fittingly went out as she came in, with an all-seeing froideur and the best lines. Never mind "Where reason fails, try force" as she admonished Isobel, what got me was the majestically-timed "Open at the right page? How convenient" as she undid Denker's machinations by applauding Spratt's double life as an agony aunt. And of all the parings to warrant their own spin-off, the smart money is surely on these two with their gothic hostility and listening-at-key-holes mischief - the perfect lemon antidote for when it risked getting a bit too sugary up at the big house.
A little bundle of joy for Mr and Mrs Bates brought their struggles to an end
For example, I offer that bit of last-minute emotion-stirring, with Mr Carson and his nameless "condition". While it meant Jim Carter didn't get to hurrumph sufficiently in this final outing, Lady Mary's concern for her adoring butler was somehow far more moving than any scenes she shared with her former driver husband. And there was a solution to be had...
...which was, of course, ridiculous. Because it meant the ill-served servant Barrow got to come back to the establishment that had spent the entire last series coming up with excuses to kick him out, even though losing one single under-butler wasn't ever exactly going to put a bolt on the door of social change, and why he was so miserable doing exactly the job he'd always wanted somewhere else was never really explained. It was simply evident that his new mutton chops master wasn't nearly so charming with his instructions to pour the sherry as the faltering Robert, there was no Master George to cuddle and, of course, no Labrador pup in front of the fire.
And so the prodigal butler returned, just in time to pour the drinks in his rightful abode, and Julian Fellowes gave us his final proof of the thesis he's been subtly bashing us over the head with since 2010 - namely, that the affection, loyalty, trust and sense of community shared between Downton's inhabitants both above and below stairs were always stronger forces than those gusts of change so feared by the Earl of Grantham, and that, for all those years of standing by the fire and furrowing his brow, the master of the house never really had anything to worry about.