Last week, we all acquired some important information: after years of speculation, the Downton Abbey movie is a go. And over the weekend, further dimension was added to the picture when Lily James (who played Lady Rose, and how dare you forget if you have) confirmed that she won’t be returning because her character’s story came to a natural end.
“I would have liked to come back for a scene, but for a movie it can’t be like a Christmas special, and it needs to be a good storyline,” she told People. “There was no space for Rose.”
Which, like, fair. But also: why do we need a full-length Downton Abbey movie at all? Why do we need to resurrect characters whose endings we’d come to terms with and who now existed as part of a cultural time capsule we could visit and revisit whenever we needed comfort and/or a sense of consistency? Why are we so into reunions in general?
I mean, I get it. On paper, reuniting a beloved cast or rebooting a series gives us the sense that we can go home again; that nostalgia is bankable cultural currency outside our individual feelings and that despite how terrible everything is in real life, we can still return to a world that brings us familiarity and comfort. What’s better than re-watching the entire series of Downton Abbey? More Downton Abbey — this time on the big screen, and with new conflicts, new characters (maybe), and a new era through which to deliver new wardrobe. But we also know logically that less is usually more. And when it comes to a series like Downton, what we see in its feature-length installment will change the way we see the show entirely. Remember when — SPOILER ALERT — Matthew died at the end of season three? Good luck watching seasons one and two without a profound sense of foreboding. New story changes the past (duh). And in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, Downton was wrapped up in a neat little package.
Endings are natural. In fact, they are one of our only constants since nothing lasts forever and nothing ever has. The best books and TV shows and franchises are the ones whose stories leave us wanting more; that leave us wishing we could write our own follow-ups, but only because we’re so content with the natural conclusion. None of us wanted to leave Downton, but it also felt good to go. We could breathe a sigh of relief that our characters were relatively fine and safe and living their lives, and we could go back and visit them when we wanted to and without worry. After all, in our head, they are our friends. Which explains why we tend to re-watch and re-watch and re-watch the TV shows we love so much when we need to feel safe and chill for a hot second. Like looking at a photo album and forgetting everything about that era that stressed us out.
But like those photos — those camp photos, those high school dance photos, whatever else we put up on #TBT — we don’t actually want to revisit that specific time or see the pals of our past now. I don’t want to hang out with people I went to high school with, I don’t want to continue my eighth grade romance with a guy who burned down a house. I don’t actually want to revive my past, nor do I want a specific sect of it continued. The beauty of time passing and getting older is that everything looks much more flattering in the rear-view mirror, and that goes for the continuing stories and revivals of our beloved TV shows. All I want to know is whether Mary is happy and Edith can still deliver an okay one-liner and whether Violet is actively haunting the estate. Please just let me live in the bubble of yesterday. Unlike Titanic, I’m not ready to go back.