If you were lucky enough to avoid spoilers from across the pond regarding Season 3 of Downton Abbey, then Sunday night’s finale came as quite a surprise. The sudden death of Matthew Crawley in the last 45 seconds of the episode was unexpected, and ripped the hearts out of every viewer.
Fans are up in arms, taking to Twitter to express their outrage over the season finale. While it seems no one enjoyed the end of the episode, everyone watched- over 8.2 million people tuned in, making Downton’s season 3 finale the most-watched show on PBS since Ken Burns’ 1990 ‘Civil War’ documentary series.
If you have a soul, you didn’t want any more death at Downton this season. After Lady Sybil’s untimely death in childbirth, there was enough sorrow for the entire season. However, the season finale led you on for an hour and a half, showing scenes full of joy and happiness, luring viewers into a false sense of security, save for a few hints that something might go wrong with Lady Mary’s pregnancy. But after delivering a healthy heir, all seemed well in Yorkshire.
Then the camera switched to Matthew, joyfully riding his sports car down a windy country lane. That is, until his car was hit head-on and he careened off the road, killed instantly. The final image of Lady Mary holding their newborn as Matthew lay dead and bleeding in the road left viewers with a sense of loss and despair, as if creator Julian Fellowes had personally ripped out our hearts and stomped on them.
However, all the blame can not be placed on Fellowes. Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew, had decided long ago not to return for Season 4. So the writers had no choice but to kill him off, though probably not so violently. Stevens said he is “very fond of the show,” but at the same time there is a “sense of liberation.”
Not everyone is outraged over Matthew’s demise. Some have argued that he had to die; after all, Matthew had done his job. He had produced an heir, after suffering some of the most important and plot-driving setbacks of the show; being rejected by Lady Mary, getting engaged to Lavinia Swire, being wounded in the war and paralyzed from the waist down, only to miraculously recover, losing Lavinia, finally winning Lady Mary, and struggling through all of Season 3 to produce an heir while simultaneously saving Downton from financial ruin.
Some people are taking the news of Matthew’s death harder than others. Someone is petitioning the White House to force Dan Stevens to return to the show, arguing that “Since PBS is partially funded by the US Government and US citizens tax dollars, Dan Stevens has basically committed a crime against the people of America. As a result he should be immediately deported to the UK and given a choice… either return to the show for at least another two full seasons or be permanently banished from the United States.”
While this may be taking it a bit far, we can agree that everyone was shocked and hurt by Matthew’s sudden death. While it may seem ridiculous to be this invested in a British television show (clearly you’ve never been on the Internet), the Crawley family is like a fictional version of the Kennedy’s, transplanted from Hyannis Port to Yorkshire.