Nearly 10 million people tuned in as Downton Abbey came to a close on March 6—well, unless there’s a movie—making the series’ ending episode the most-watched season finale ever for the PBS show.
Nielsen estimates a total of 9.6 million viewers watched as the series wrapped its run with mostly happy endings for all. The series finale drew the fourth highest audience in the history of the show, surpassed only by the season-four premiere, when 10.2 million viewers tuned in, the season-five premiere when 10.1 million tuned in and 9.9 million in January for the sixth, and last, season premiere.
“So that’s it,” Gareth Neame, executive producer of Downton Abbey and managing director of Carnival Films said in a statement. “Downton has come to an emotional end, but what amazing ratings. We’re thrilled that a show no one could have predicted would have been such a huge hit in the U.S as well as a global phenomenon went on to become so beloved and garner such a huge audience for its final season.”
With about 66,400 tweets from more than 25,000 people, the finale also was the most-tweeted-about episode of season six, and the most-streamed season of the series - up 16 percent from last year - with 12.4 million streams across all PBS digital platforms.
The show closed with one really happy ending for Edith (Laura Carmichael), who had spent most of the series getting the short end of the stick with one fiancé leaving her at the altar and another dying in Germany as he was trying to get a divorce so he could marry her.
The truth is that everyone had their share of bad – and good—luck on Downton. Eldest sister Mary (Michelle Dockery) saw one suitor die in her bed, putting her reputation in danger, and then her husband, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) died in a car crash just as she gave birth to their son, George. Youngest sister Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) married the chauffer, Tom (Allen Leech), and the couple exiled themselves to his home country of Ireland. They returned when he, an outspoken political activist, got in trouble with the government, in time for Sybil to have her daughter, also named Sybil, and then died tragically in childbirth.
So in the end, Edith was actually the luckiest sister of the three, ending up with a husband, Bertie, she adored; getting to keep her illegitimate daughter, Marigold; and outranking all of her family and living in a far grander house. Sometimes life, or at least TV, is fair.
Since its debut in 2011, Downton Abbey has won 12 Emmys, three Golden Globes, four Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Producers Guild Awards and four BAFTAs. It’s the top PBS drama of all time and the most popular series in MASTERPIECE history.
In the end, though, Downton was always about the beginning of the end of the rigid British class system, with social barriers still in place but coming down quickly. As Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) says to the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith): “We’re going towards the future, not back to the past,” and the Dowager Countess responds: “If only we had a choice.”
Read more: Deadline