Credit: © Copyright ITV plc 2013

Downton Abbey was never meant to last this long. Originally expected to be a one-season miniseries, the show received so much praise for its first run that Julian Fellowes and crew decided to see how long they could keep a good thing going. That was three years ago.

The show just wrapped its fourth season in the UK on November 10, with news breaking almost immediately after the finale that Downton would return for Season No. 5. But what if the announcement hadn’t been such a good one for fans of the series? What if Downton Abbey hadn’t been renewed?

For one thing, there would be a lot of ground to cover in the Season 4 Christmas Special. The special, set to air on December 25 in the UK, has a reputation for tying up loose ends (and causing mass depression in the case of Season 3’s conclusion) but even with two hours to work with, we doubt all of this latest season’s plot points could be addressed in a satisfactory manner.

Credit: © Copyright ITV plc 2013

There would have to a hasty conclusion to Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) latest round of romances as well as a quick fix for the pregnant Edith (Laura Carmichael). Also, what about Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle)? The Season 4 finale shrouded the death of Mr. Green (Nigel Harman) in mystery, setting us up for potentially serious, far-reaching consequences for both Bates and Anna (Joanne Froggatt). And don’t even get us started about Tom Branson’s (Allen Leech) blooming romance and the abrupt end of Rose MacClare’s (Lily James).

Yep, there just is no way one Christmas special could give us all the answers we need. Thankfully, the folks behind the show understand our need for closure and kindly gave us that whole new season to dream about.

Of course, someday Downton will have to end (a harsh reality, we know). So when will that dark day arrive? Both cast and crew have said they’d like to see it going for as long as possible though some, including the ever-practical Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), point out the series can’t go on forever. “It is a merry-go-round that will stop at some point and we will all get off and go in different directions,” Hugh told Daily Mail in August 2013.

Credit: © Copyright ITV plc 2013

There’s also the question of contracts. The end of their original three-year obligations led to the departure of main characters Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Matthew (Dan Stevens). Many of the current cast have already renewed but some key players, including fan favorite, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), have yet to put ink to paper (or at least publicly confirm it). Losing many more stars may spell the end of the show with even leading lady Michelle admitting that to say goodbye to more people would mean the end.

“If more people start leaving, that’s when it can’t go on,” she told Vulture in September. “Like if Maggie Smith decided not to do any more, I think that really is the end.”

Well, let’s just keep everyone around then, shall we?

What do you think? Should Downton go on as long as possible or should the cast and crew quit while ahead? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

SourcesDaily MailVulture

Elisabeth Kramer is an Assistant Editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident Downton Abbey expert. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!