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As with any much-loved drama series, expectations lie heavy on “Downton Abbey” as it begins its final run Sunday on PBS.

Loyal fans want satisfying closure, of course, with dangling storylines tied up. But in this case, even more hopes rest on happy endings for the characters we’ve cared about for six seasons and (soon to be) 52 episodes of the wildly popular British period soap opera.

Mainly, writer Julian Fellowes has succeeded in meeting these expectations. At times, though, it’s difficult not to get impatient with storylines that don’t seem to carry enough weight for a final season. When wrangling over who will run the local hospital continues episode after episode, chances are you’ll feel like snapping, “Stop wasting this precious time!” I know I did.

“Downton Abbey” has always meandered a bit. Remember Cora’s flirtation with the art historian and Tom’s awkward relationship with the schoolteacher? The Dowager Countess and the exiled Russian prince? Mainly, fans didn’t care as long as we eventually got to the important stuff.

But with just nine episodes to go (eight were provided for preview), it’s difficult not to feel a little panicky as we spend time on a fox hunt, at a race track and at Edith’s magazine office. Edith is on deadline, but so are we, with a clock tick, tick, ticking toward the finale.

At the same time, the final season makes clear that it was time for “Downton Abbey” to end. If it had continued, which other member of the Bates family could have been charged with murder? How many more times could Lady Mary break a suitor’s heart or crush her sister’s dreams? How many more schemes could under butler Barrow have in him?

None of this is to diminish the fact that the final “Downton” season is satisfying, engaging and nostalgic. And if there is, at some point, a movie? You know we’ll be watching.

The Season 5 finale of “Downton Abbey” aired in the United States 10 months ago, and you may have forgotten where it left off. Here are a few reminders, and note that if you haven’t seen the previous season, these will be spoilers.

When last we saw the Crawleys and their circle:

• On a holiday shooting trip, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) met Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), a racing-car driver, and Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) met Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton), an estate agent.

• Robert (Hugh Bonneville) was diagnosed with an ulcer and ordered to stop drinking. After the health scare, he told Edith he was aware that Marigold was her daughter, a fact everyone except Mary now knew.

• Bates (Brendan Coyle) went into hiding after confessing (falsely, probably) to the murder for which wife Anna (Joanne Froggatt) was jailed. Molesley and Miss Baxter (Kevin Doyle and Raquel Cassidy) played detective, coming up with an alibi for Bates, who came home for Christmas. But the case remained unresolved.

• Carson (Jim Carter) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) decided to get married.

• Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) spent her life savings on a cottage she planned to run as a bed-and-breakfast. Daisy (Sophie McShera) continued trying to get an education.

• Isobel (Penelope Wilton) broke it off with Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) because of his despicable son Larry.

• After honeymooning in Venice, Rose (Lily James) and her new husband announced that they were moving to New York.

• Inspired, Tom (Allen Leech) decided to move to Boston, taking little daughter Sybbie.{&rule}‘Downton Abbey’

Three and half stars (out of four)

When and where • 8-9:15 p.m. Sunday on PBS, followed by “Downton Abbey: A Celebration”

More info •

Gail Pennington is the television critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.