Downton Abbey: A New Era Ending Explained (In Detail)

Downton Abbey: A New Era saw massive changes to the lives of the Crawleys. We break down A New Era's poignant, emotional ending and what it all means.

Although Downton Abbey: A New Era ends with a tragic death of a beloved character, the sequel also marks new beginnings for the Crawley family and their servants. The motion pictures come to Downton Abbey in A New Era as Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) oversees a film production in her ancestral home. Meanwhile, Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), and his wife Cora, the Countess of Grantham, lead a contingent of the family to the South of France to investigate why Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) was left a posh villa by a former lover.

After the Crawleys are reunited at Downton, their servants are thrilled to play extras in The Gambler, the “talkie” film directed by Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy) and starring Guy Dexter (Dominic West) and Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock). It gives the entire household the chance to be in the film or, in the case of Lord Grantham, at least learn to appreciate how the magic of the movies brought some excitement to Downton, in spite of the turmoil. Meanwhile, two romances among Downton’s servants that began during the Downton Abbey series move forward: Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle) finally proposes to Phyllis Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) while Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nichol) and Daisy’s (Sophie McShera) former father-in-law, Albert Mason (Paul Copley) agree to move in together and leave his farmhouse to Daisy and her husband, Andy Parker (Michael Fox). However, Barrow (Robert James-Collier) also leaves his position as Downton Abbey’s butler.

Beginning with the wedding of Tom Branson (Allen Leech) to Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton), concluding with a funeral procession, and bursting with mirth, high-jinks, and heartwarming displays of emotion, Downton Abbey: A New Era encompasses everything that made the original TV series a global sensation for six seasons. A New Era successfully juggles over two dozen characters but it exceeds the 2019 Downton Abbey film by being even more resonant. A New Era also pays off long-running storylines and sets up the next phase of the Crawleys’ lives, while also saying goodbye to perhaps Downton Abbey’s most iconic character.

Lady Violet’s Death And What It Means For Downton Abbey

Lady Violet died peacefully and was surrounded by her loved ones at the end of Downton Abbey: A New Era. In 2019’s Downton Abbey movie, the Dowager Countess told Mary that she was deathly ill, but the grand dame fought on into the sequel, which is set about a year or two after. Of course, Violet couldn’t leave without one last scandalous mystery about her past; before she nearly eloped with Prince Kuragin (Rade Serbedzija) in Russia, the young Violet had a week-long fling with a Marquis in the South of France who gifted her with his villa. Yet, in spite of the intrigue, Violet insists that nothing ever happened with the Marquis, who nonetheless loved her from afar – and above his own wife (Nathalie Baye) -f or the rest of his life.

Violet’s final moments in Downton Abbey: A New Era were comprised of her trademark witty barbs and touching scenes where she counseled her granddaughter and protege, Lady Mary. Violet entrusted her closest peer, Isobel Merton (Penelope Wilton), with reading her letters from the Marquis to determine the truth, and they commiserated on the close and loving bond they developed. The Dowager Countess also shared a lovely final moment with Tom and Lucy Branson that reflected on how the former chauffeur once caused chaos by eloping with the late Lady Sybill (Jessica Brown-Findlay) but Tom has since transformed into a beloved member of the family.

Finally, Violet put aside her animosity toward her cousin, Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), and gave her son and daughter-in-law, Robert and Cora, her love before she passed. It’s Lady Violet’s death that gives the title Downton Abbey: A New Era its true meaning. With the Dowager Countess gone, Downton Abbey says goodbye to the woman who embodied its Edwardian past and the Crawley family enters the modern world with Lady Mary at the helm.

Will Lady Mary Divorce Henry Talbot?

Lady Mary embodies the title A New Era and she held fast by keeping Downton Abbey intact during the filming of The Gambler and by not succumbing to her mutual attraction to director Jack Barber. But noticeably absent from Downton Abbey: A New Era, and lamented by Mary, is her husband, Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode). It was explained that Henry, who Mary fears loves fast cars possibly more than he loves his wife, was away at a rally in Istanbul. Thus, Henry spent months away, including missing Tom and Lucy’s wedding and, presumably, the funeral of Lady Violet and the birth of the Bransons’ baby nine months later. While Henry was abroad and her grandmama died, Lady Mary began her transformation into the next Lady Violet, complete with a new romance that echoes the trysts the Dowager Countess had in her youth.

In real life, Matthew Goode missed Downton Abbey: A New Era because he was filming The Offer, the Paramount+ series about the making of The Godfather. Henry’s absence from Downton Abbey: A New Era allowed Mary a new love interest, although she smartly kept Barber at bay because Mary is wise enough to know “it isn’t always about what I want.” But Mary also reflected on her late husband Matthew (Dan Stevens) for the first time in a Downton Abbey film, complete with a sly in-joke about his “fairy tale prince” handsomeness that’s a clever reference to Stevens starring in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast. Since Henry also only cameoed in Downton Abbey 2019, his absence from A New Era makes one wonder whether the end of Mary and Henry’s marriage could come in the next film.

Cora’s Death Scare And What Violet’s Secret Means For Robert

Downton Abbey: A New Era also insinuated that Cora was dying, which thankfully turned out not to be the case. Dr. Clarkson (David Robb) assuaged her and Robert’s fears that she has cancer. Cora telling Robert that she was ill and feared she would die in the South of France caused the Earl of Grantham to emotionally break down in a devastating scene. This is because Robert faced an existential crisis in Downton Abbey: A New Era. Based on the timing of Lady Violet’s affair with the Marquis and Robert’s birth nine months later, the startling possibility was raised that the Marquis was Robert’s true father. This would have meant that Robert was never the Earl of Grantham and lived his entire life as a fraud. Coupled with facing the loss of his mother and the possibility that Cora would also die, it was too much for Robert to bear.

However, Robert is, indeed, the Earl of Grantham. Lady Violet swore on her deathbed that “nothing happened” between her and her French suitor. Taking the Dowager Countess at her word, Robert’s title as Lord Grantham is secured and will be passed to Mary and Matthew’s son George (Zac and Oliver Barker) when Robert passes away and George comes of age. Robert and Cora were cast as supporting players with relatively little to do in Downton Abbey 2019 so A New Era giving Lord and Lady Grantham a major storyline again that determined the past and future of the Crawley family was a highlight of the sequel.

Barrow Leaves Downton Abbey And Gets A Happy Ending

The Downton Abbey movies have completed their mission to give Thomas Barrow a happy ending, at last. Upon discovering that film star Guy Dexter is also a closeted gay man who fancies him, Barrow took the actor up on his offer to become his jack-of-all-trades. In Downton Abbey 2019, Barrow, who suffered as a closeted gay man all of his life, which fueled his nastiness throughout the Downton Abbey TV series, met the King’s Valet, Richard Ellis (Max Brown), who is also gay. Barrow and Ellis became friends but, in A New Era, Thomas received the sad news that the King’s Valet got married.

Unlike Ellis, Barrow wants to live more in the open and be happy “as much as our cruel world will allow,” in the words of Lady Mary. With Barrow deciding to leave with Dexter, he formally gave his notice as Downton’s butler. This presumably marks Barrow and Robert James-Collier’s exit from Downton Abbey after being a principal member of the cast since the very beginning.

Carson Returns As Downton Abbey’s Butler To Train Andy To Replace Him

With Barrow departing, Lady Mary asked Carson (Jim Carter) to return as Downton’s butler and train Andy Parker as his replacement. Carson, who took the utmost pride as Downton’s butler, developed palsy and was forced to retire, with Barrow replacing him at the end of the Downton Abbey TV series. Carson’s humorous escapades in the South of France, which prevented him from obstructing the film shoot at Downton Abbey, set the stage for his return as Downton’s butler emeritus. Downton Abbey: A New Era also indulged an in-joke of a French shopkeeper assuming Carson and Lady Maud were husband and wife, winking at the fact that Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton are married in real life.

Carson’s return to duty means he will work side-by-side with his wife, Elsie (Phyllis Logan), once more. It also sets up Andy Parker’s rise to become Downton Abbey’s butler in the future. Andy and Daisy were engaged at the end of Downton Abbey‘s TV series but she wasn’t truly sure she wanted to marry him until the 2019 Downton Abbey movie. Daisy and Andy married off-screen in between films and moved into Mr. Mason’s farmhouse but the couple is now poised to enter A New Era of their own among Downton’s servants.

Moseley Has A New Career And A New Fiancée

Mr. Moseley finally proposed to Mrs. Baxter, which was hilariously broadcast to the entire Downton Abbey household. Just as outstanding, Moseley ended Downton Abbey: A New Era with a new career writing “plays for the screen.” Moseley saved the production of The Gambler by proving he had an ear for dialogue and the talent to write new scenes when the movie switched from a silent film to a talkie. Moseley became indispensable as a screenwriter and script supervisor, which led to Jack Barber offering him a permanent job adapting material into screenplays. Now that he had a better life to offer than a mere schoolteacher, Moseley took Baxter’s obvious hints that they should marry and he bent the knee to propose.

Moseley owns perhaps the most hilarious moment in the Downton Abbey 2019 movie when he embarrassed himself in front of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James). Moseley has had a remarkable arc throughout Downton Abbey, starting as the butler Matthew Crawley didn’t want or need. Moseley lost status by working at Downton as a footman and valet as well as other odd jobs until his knowledge and skillset led to a new career as a teacher. The upward trajectory of Mr. Moseley’s life has now, unexpectedly, turned him into a hot and in-demand screenwriter as well as the future husband of Mrs. Baxter, who will happily become Mrs. Molesley.

Mrs. Patmore And Mr. Mason Are Downton’s Next Romance

With most of Downton’s servants settled with wives and husbands, like Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and John Bates (Brendan Coyle), it was finally Mrs. Patmore’s turn. Downton Abbey’s cook and Daisy’s former father-in-law Mr. Mason were interested in each other in the Downton Abbey TV series but nothing more came of their flirtation. Daisy and Andy were eager to help Mr. Mason move on so she helped reignite Mason and Patmore’s interest in each other. Mr. Mason’s roadblock was simply that “it isn’t right” that he would move in with Mrs. Patmore and be supported by a woman, but all it really took was for Beryl to share whiskey and talk Mason into it for him to agree. This sets up Mrs. Patmore to get a happy ending of her own while Daisy and Andy take up full ownership of the farm.

The Crawleys’ Future In Downton Abbey 3

Downton Abbey: A New Era doesn’t close out the long-running saga but instead, leaves the door wide open for another sequel without Maggie Smith returning as Lady Violet. As Cora reflected, her family has seemingly left the turbulent years behind them and are all in happy places. Lady Mary may have an absentee husband and feels the daily pressure of running Downton but she also knows her children with Matthew and Henry are set up for the future. Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), the Marchioness of Hexam, is very happy with her husband, Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Patton), the Marquess of Hexam, and their children’s futures are also financially secure. Tom and Lucy Branson are clearly in love and will inherit Lady Maud’s Brumpton Estate, plus Lady Violet ensured that Sybbie (Fifi Hart), Tom and Lady Sybil’s daughter, will inherit the villa in the South of France. Finally, Lady Isobel Merton is happily married to Dickie Grey, Lord Merton (Douglas Reith).

If Downton Abbey 3 happens, it will bring the extended Crawley clan and their indomitable servants into the new decade of the 1930s. Perhaps there will be more emphasis on George, Sybbie, and Edith’s daughter, Marigold (Eva and Karina Samms), as the three eldest Crawley cousins. Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes will also have to concoct another scenario to bring outsiders into the great house, just as he did the King and Queen and a British film production in the first two Downton Abbey movies. The final shot of Downton Abbey: A New Era assures that Lady Violet will never be forgotten, but the sequel also ends with the generations of the Crawley family united to welcome their newest member, Tom and Lucy’s baby, and ready to face the future together, come what may.

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