When you’re alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go … to Downton. Not that it’s an easy ride: The past five seasons of Julian Fellowes’s early 20th-century aristocratic soap opera have been fraught with drama, heartbreak, aristocratic disgrace, and the specter of socialism, which looms over the ridiculously privileged Crawley family even more insistently than rain clouds hover over Yorkshire. Still, there’s something about the combination of upstairs/downstairs antics, manor-house glamour, and the Dowager Countess’s bon mots that makes even the silliest storylines bearable.
The sixth and final season of Downton Abbey returns to PBS Sunday night, and for once, things might be looking up. Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), who got engaged at the end of season five, are preparing for their marriage, the potential intimate details of which prompt a heart-to-heart between Carson and Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) that reminds viewers how Downton really peaks when it’s a genteel sex comedy. Anna (Joanne Froggatt), out on bail after being accused of the murder of her rapist, might finally be off the hook after another of his victims comes forward to confess (the show hints at self-awareness by having both Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) continually refer to Anna as the most long-suffering woman in England). Little Marigold is finally ensconced at the Abbey with everyone apart from Mary having cottoned on to the fact that Edith (Laura Carmichael) is her mother. And Violet (Maggie Smith) is still gloriously, acerbically Violet, storing up one-liner after one-liner for The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and her countless parody Twitter accounts.