The Final 'Downton Abbey' Cast Picture Is Here, But What Do The Missing Cast Members Mean For Season 6?

Try to keep that upper lip stiff, guys, or else the Dowager Countess will call you overly sentimental when she catches you sniffling over the final Downton Abbey cast photo. With Season 6 fast-approaching, it is time to treasure the last photo of the Crawleys and their downstairs staff all lined up in front of the Abbey. Curiously, though, through your tears, you might notice three characters are missing from the photo: Rose, Branson, and little Sybbie. Rose and Branson left for America at the end of Season 5, but I didn't believe they were gone for good — and, despite their absence in this photo, neither should you. Before the alarm bells start ringing, it is best to consider the facts.

While stars Lily James (Rose) and Allen Leech (Branson) have been busy with other projects — especially James, who starred in Disney's Cinderella — at least one of them will return to Downton Abbey in some capacity, because we would have heard otherwise if not, and there's actual proof: The Daily Mail spotted Leech filming at least one episode. The best part isn't even that Branson will return, it's that he will return and be involved in a car race. Let's be real, as awesome as upstanding Branson is, chauffeur Branson will always be the best Branson.

So, that's Branson accounted for. Even if he isn't a full-time cast member, Leech will be back to let fans say a proper goodbye to Branson. What about Lady Rose though? James has enjoyed a sharp rise in fame since the end of Season 5. In addition to Cinderella, she also filmed the War and Peace miniseries and co-starred in the Bradley Cooper project Burnt. With more projects lined up, James appears to be quite busy and as of right now, there have been no reports of James being spotted on set for the recently wrapped Season 6.

As sad as it would be not to see Lady Rose one final time, at least she got a proper sendoff. Rose found her happily ever after when she married for love and proved to everyone that she had grown into a independent-minded, thoughtful young woman. Rose and her husband moved away to America and all of the loose ends with her parents were tied up nicely. Bringing her back would be rather perfunctory. It would be welcome, of course, but Rose had a good ending, so there's no real reason for her to return other than to showcase one last time how wonderful James was in the role. If it happens, you will see no arguments from me, but I am also happy that the character escaped without any tragedies befalling her or the man she loves.

Branson, on the other hand, still has a fair amount of story left. His connection to the family runs deep and his move to America came at a point when both Mary and Edith were leaning on him and Robert had begun to truly see Branson as a son. While he probably won't be around for the entire season, it is good to know Branson will be back to visit the Crawleys at least one more time.

The sad truth is, soon Downton Abbey fans will have to say goodbye to all of the characters for good. In many ways, the cast photo is just preparing fans for the tearful final season to come. Hankies at the ready, everyone! That whole stiff upper lip promise is going to be hard to keep.

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