Michelle Dockery and Dan Stevens
[Spoiler alert! The following contains important details from Downton Abbey's Season 3 finale. Read at your own risk.]
Mary: "We must never take us for granted. Who knows what's coming?"
Matthew: "I have to take one thing for granted -- that I will love you until the last breath leaves my body."
This exchange from a previous episode was cruelly prophetic because in the closing scenes of Sunday's Downton Abbey finale, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) did indeed take his last breath, in love with his wife Mary (Michelle Dockery) to the end. After the couple welcomed their newborn son in the hospital and savored a lovey-dovey moment, Matthew perished in a car accident on the way home to Downton. Whether fans were already spoiled about his fate or not, how the traumatic event unfolded prompted feelings of sadness mixed with anger and betrayal. We examine why below:
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Too much, too soon: In Downton Abbey time, it's been more than a year since Lady Sybil's (Jessica Brown-Findlay) tragic death from eclampsia, but for American viewers, the loss and heartache only occurred a few weeks ago. We haven't had enough time to even accept the Crawley family's new dynamic sans Sybil! How much punishment are we expected to endure before we are allowed to heal?
Christmas, ruined: Season 2 set a precedent with its uber-happy finale/Christmas episode (airing on Christmas Day in the U.K.): Matthew and Mary got engaged and kissed as magical snowflakes fell upon them. Compared to last year's fairy tale ending, Season 3's finale felt like the Grinch, Scrooge and Jack the Ripper teamed up to destroy everything we held dear. How is this supposed to foster the holiday spirit in us again? Just give us coal next time!
Disconnect: The Crawley family and viewers alike were there to watch, bawl and eventually mourn together when Sybil died in bed, struggling to breathe. Matthew's accident, however, occurred off-screen. Perhaps because of this, we were only certain of his death when the show cut to his lifeless eyes and thick blood oozing down his face. And sadly, the finale ended without anyone on the show — not even Lady Mary — knowing of his death. It's unfinished, and we're left hanging until the show returns.
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Heir replacement therapy: Must we go through the Downton heir business again? "Downton will survive because of Matthew's vision," Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) said in the finale. If, God forbid, Lord Grantham dies, who will act as regent (or whatever you call it) and run things until Mary and Matthew's son is of age? It seems an awfully heavy burden to put on the shoulders of Infant Crawley. We could barely wrap our minds around an entail. We're not thrilled with having to save Downton yet again next season.
A sinkng 'ship: The Mary and Matthew (M&M) romance upstairs is as central to the series as the one between Anna and Bates downstairs. We reveled in Mary's snobbishness that kept her from accepting Matthew initially, but rejoiced when even she couldn't resist their chemistry. "I only feel half myself without him," she once confessed. We don't want to see another man romance Mary, ever, but neither do we see her as a lady who will remain alone. M&M 4-eva!
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Unnecessary death: Although Matthew was written out of the series because Stevens wanted time to pursue other work, killing the character seems a little like, well, overkill to us. Couldn't he have been called away for some important family business overseas just in case Stevens came to his senses or at least condescended to do a few guest spots? Death is just so permanent.
Biting Branson's bereavement: Sybil's widower Tom Branson (Allen Leech) had a lovely character arc this season, but in the finale he revealed a heartbreaking steadfastness to his late wife when he broke down in tears and admitted, "I can't bear to be without her!" Sorry, but now that Mary will be in mourning, we fear that will eclipse Branson's suffering.
What did you think about the finale's shocking turn? Will you stick with Downton Abbey for a fourth season?