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Last night Americans across the country cried out in anguish as their adored Downton Abbey unfolded its season three finale. And as this will be a discussion of the finale's final moments MAJOR SPOILERS lie ahead.
It had already been a hard year for the Crawley family. Their beloved Downton Abbey was threatened because of the Earl's bad business investments. Then there was Branson and his criminal activities threatening the life of Lady Sybil, followed by her traumatizing death in childbirth. But finally, FINALLY, things were looking up for the Crawleys. Matthew and Branson had convinced the Earl about a daring new way to save the estate, Baby Sybil would be raised in her mother's old home, and Mary and Matthew at long last had a baby of their own. Then, Matthew died in a horrific car accident. Curtain.
In the UK the episode aired at Christmastime, and so here in the States, we're just catching up with this terrible fate for one of the show's most loved characters. (Unless, of course you were illegally sourcing episodes online…) Which means we already know why Matthew had to die. And the answer is so simple it sucks: Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew, no longer wanted to work on Downton Abbey.
The Telegraph spoke with Julian Fellowes, and the show's creator put it plainly:
" If he [Stevens] had been prepared to come back for maybe two or three episodes in a series, that would be different. Then we could have had a foreign posting or invented a career that would have made it possible for him to be away. Otherwise we would have had to make this tremendously successful love affair between Mary and Matthew unhappy, which I didn’t feel would be believable. For them to then separate and Matthew never set eyes on his son again would not be believable either. So we didn’t really have any option. By him dying, their love can remain intact.”Of course, he's right. It wouldn't have made any sense to send Matthew away from Mary for an entire season, which could be up to a year in the show's storyline. It would hurt the integrity of the show, even more than that burn victim "cousin." So, for all you putting the blame on Downton's writers, know that it should really be placed on Stevens, since he chose not to renew his contract.
So what’s next for the newly widowed mother, Mary? A spokeswoman for the show offers, "In the next series, alongside all the usual drama, comedy and romance involving the much loved cast of characters, viewers will see Mary adjusting to her life and attempting to move on without the man she loved."
Production on Downton Abbey season four begins this month.