Hugh Bonneville presides on 'Downton Abbey' finale
This publicity image released by PBS shows Hugh Bonneville in a scene from the popular series "Downton Abbey." Bonneville portrays the patriarchal Lord Grantham in the series, "Downton Abbey." The season three finale airs Sunday, Feb., 17 on PBS. (AP Photo/PBS, Josh Barratt)
NEW YORK (AP) — The third season of "Downton Abbey" ends this Sunday with a bang.
Exactly what that bang is, we're not going to say, in deference to the maybe half-dozen "Downton" fans who still don't know the shocking truth.
The larger point remains that after Sunday's "Masterpiece Classic" (airing at 9 p.m. Eastern on PBS), viewers must suffer "Downton" withdrawal until next season.
But until then, we'll have our memories.
And what a season this has been! The beloved valet Mr. Bates was sprung from jail and a trumped-up murder charge to begin married life with his bride, the plucky lady's maid Anna. Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, has gotten Downton Abbey back on its feet financially with an able assist from his son-in-law and presumptive heir, Matthew Crawley. Matthew wed his true love, Lady Mary Crawley. But another of Robert's daughters, Lady Sybil, died tragically during childbirth.
Through it all, Robert's mother Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham (played by the sublimely scene-stealing, Emmy- and Golden-Globe-winning Maggie Smith) delivered a barrage of withering, hilarious rejoinders to virtually every narrative twist.
"I remember my very first scene with her in Season One," says Hugh Bonneville, who plays Robert, lord of the manor. "She's complaining about the new electric lights, and suddenly she put her fan up to her face to shield herself from 'the glare,' and spent the entire scene like that. It was so funny, and I was just, 'All right! There's no point in my even being here. She's just marched off with the scene!'"
FILE - This Dec. 12, 2012 file photo shows British actor Hugh Bonneville in New York. Bonneville portrays the patriarchal Lord Grantham in the series, "Downton Abbey." The season three finale airs Sunday, Feb., 17 on PBS. (Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP)
Now, as then, "Downton" is a plush, penetrating peek into the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their household servants in an English castle of a century ago. With a cast that also includes Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Dan Stevens, Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle, the series this season has drawn an average 11 million viewers each week while spurring another surge of "Downton"-mania, even from first lady Michelle Obama, who pulled strings to get episodes of the new season before it premiered.