Spoiler alert: Stop reading if you don’t want the latest ‘Downton Abbey’ twist spoiled. It’s a life-ruiner, folks.
Downton Abbey fans’ dreams for the future were shattered when Dan Stevens confirmed he wouldn’t be returning to the show for its fourth season, thus leaving Michelle Dockery‘s Mary without her other half. Dan’s final appearance on the show aired Dec. 25 in the UK, and broadcaster ITV released a super spoiler-y press release about his departure the following day.
“After three successful series and two Christmas editions of Downton Abbey, Dan Stevens decided not to renew his contract beyond the initial three years he had been contracted,” the statement read. “We wish him every success for the future. Michelle Dockery will be returning to her role as Lady Mary in series four which begins production in February.”
“Over the last three years, audiences across the world have been captivated by the ups and downs of Mary and Matthew’s relationship, culminating in their wedding,” the network continued. “Fans have enjoyed what has become a solid and loving marriage. It is for this reason that the Producers decided Matthew and Mary could not simply be estranged or parted, resulting in his untimely and tragic death at the end of the Christmas episode.”
The statement also gave fans a glimpse of what’s to come when the show returns with new episodes in 2013:
“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.”
Matthew Crawley’s Tragic Fate:
Fans’ minds were blown when news first broke that Dan was considering leaving the show, mostly because no one could fathom how his character could logically be written out without causing Downton to jump the shark.
Well, we finally got our answer Dec. 25 during the final moments of Downton‘s Christmas special, A Journey To The Highlands, when — spoiler alert! — Matthew’s car collided with another vehicle, leaving him dead and bleeding in a ditch. It was pretty brutal.
Adding to the tragedy of it all, Mary had just given birth to their son.
Dan Stevens’ Official Statement About Leaving ‘Downton Abbey’:
“We were always optioned for three years, and when that came up, it was a very difficult decision,” Dan admitted to the UK’s Telegraph. “But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things.”
“It is a very monopolising job,” he continued. “So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be.”
He also lamented the end of Mary and Matthew’s fan-favorite storyline: “After everything we have been through it will be sad not to see the relationship continue.”
Watch Matthew Crawley’s final scene on Downton Abbey below, then drop a comment with your thoughts on the show’s future:
— Andy Swift
More Downton Abbey on HollywoodLife.com: