(Note: This post is spoiler-free.)
Believe it or not, Sunday will mark the last time we sit down to watch a new episode of Downton Abbey. That means no more Dowager Countess putdowns, Carson disapprovals, and certainly no more sex tryouts with Lady Mary. But how will the final hour play out?
Based on what executive producer Gareth Neame tells EW, tragedy is pretty much off the table, which will come as a relief to fans who might be nervous about the loose ends that still need tying up. According to Neame, the nature of the show and its characters help to dictate the tone of what a Downton Abbey finale would be.
“Plotting the final season was relatively straightforward. We have such a grasp for these characters, what we like about them, what we wanted them to do, what we know that the fans respond to,” Neame says. “It’s very satisfying because it was really working up how we wanted them to end up.”
And that meant — to a certain extent — giving the fans what they want, because would it really make sense to have Anna or Bates carted off to prison as the show is ending? No, not at all.
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“Although the show has light and shade and it’s got good and bad things going on in it — there have been big shocks and surprises even in the finale season — the overall direction of travel is one of optimism,” Neame explains. “It really felt that because these characters are so beloved, they had to have decent endings.”
Those looking for specifics of this “optimistic” ending will have to watch on Sunday night, but Neame offers up one clue, in regards to Lady Mary and her betrayal of Edith’s trust in the penultimate episode, about where things last ended with them and what the show needs to accomplish in its last outing.
“We knew that people would hate [Mary] for that moment,” Neame says. “Having brought her to this real low point, she can then swing back. We had the huge fight between them, which has been brewing for a year, but then you have the lovely little personal moment between them when it’s Mary’s wedding. Of course, for this finale episode, you have Mary actually try to go out and make her sister’s life work and make her happy.”
The finale of Downton Abbey airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on PBS.
For even more Downton Abbey, pick up LIFE’s Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes of the Iconic TV Show.