Dec 26 2012 12:43pm

Downton Abbey Season 3 (Series 3) Christmas Special Recap: Highest Highs and Lowest Lows

Downton Abbey Series 3, episode 9 Christmas Special RecapLast night's Christmas Special is the last episode of Downton Abbey Season 3. Enjoy the recap, and check back at H&H for Downton Abbey Series 4/Season 4 news, speclation, and recaps!


Editor's note: Do not read this recap unless you've seen the episode or are willing to be thoroughly spoiled.

Need a refresher? Don't miss Naz Keynejad's recaps of the Series 3/Season 3 premiereepisode 3.02episode 3.03episode 3.04episode 3.05episode 3.06, episode 3.07, and episode 3.08And now, onto the recap for the Downton Abbey Series 3 finale, episode 9, the Christmas Special:

The episode starts a year later, as the family is taking off to go on a trip to “Shrimpie’s” estate (Duneagle Castle) in Scotland.

Matthew and Mary in Downton Abbey 3.09The family has clearly moved on, with Baby Sybil a cute little one-year old and oh look! Mary’s pregnant! Matthew’s worried that the trip might be too much for her, but she insists that she’s fine.  So excited for them!  Wait … she’s not just pregnant, she’s eight months along! Wow!  She looks great. Both Robert and Mr. Carson don’t really want her to go on the trip either. I guess everyone’s worried about the heir, not to mention that after the experience with Sybil, they’re all a little more cautious. In addition to the family, Anna, Bates, O’Brien, and Mr. Molesley are also going, obviously because they are the family’s ladies’ maids and valets. 

Branson hasn’t been invited to join the family on the trip. I suspect it’s more because he’s the former chauffeur, and the current estate manager, than anything else.  Violet’s worried that even though “he’s been house-trained,” the freedom of being alone at the Abbey might go to his head, and Isobel promises to keep an eye on him. 

Over at Duneagle, the staff are a bit more stuffy than our Downton crew.  In fact, the entire household is more formal.  They start dinner every night playing bagpipes.  You should see the look on Matthew and Violet’s faces when the player shows up.  I guess it is one of those instruments that’s really an acquired taste.  Apparently, the bagpipe player will also come back in the morning to wake everyone up, and goes on all through breakfast.  What … er … fun?

There seems to be a bit of tension between Shrimpie and his wife Susan.  Of course, Rose is being watched like a hawk, but the lord and lady of the castle are not exactly simpatico.   Shrimpie confides in Robert about his new posting overseas, and while he seems to be fine with the idea, Susan is not too thrilled about it.

Rose is back.  I didn’t realize she was Shrimpie’s daughter.  Now it makes perfect sense why they trotted her out in the last episode.  Let’s hope she’s learned from her mistakes and has calmed down a bit.  She doesn’t seem to have a great relationship with her mother, and Violet feels that Susan is not doing a very good job handling Rose.  That night, when she takes a bit of a break from her mother and goes out to sneak a cigarette, she runs into Bates and Anna.  They promise they won’t give her away and later, she thanks Anna for keeping her secret and offers to repay her in some way.  Anna takes her up on it, and asks Rose to teach her how to dance the Scottish reel in preparation for the upcoming ball (which includes the servants).  It’ll be so fun to see Anna and Bates dancing together!

Meanwhile, Edith’s editor, Michael Gregson, “happens” to be in Scotland on a sketching holiday at the same time, and Shrimpie tells Edith to invite him over for dinner.  Mary’s being a bit snobbish about the whole thing, which upsets Edith.  Really, these two need to put aside their differences and start getting along.  Gregson shows up and he’s perfectly fine and well-mannered, despite Mary’s reservations.  After dinner, Edith corners him and asks what he’s really doing there. 

Michael:  “I want to get to know your family.”

Edith:  “What do you hope to achieve?”

Michael:  “I thought that if they knew me … if they came to like me … they might find it easier to be on my side.”

Edith:  “It won’t change the basic facts though, will it?”

Michael:  “Edith, my basic fact is that I’m in love with you.”

Whoa!  Okay, that was a bit unexpected.  Edith’s being very practical about it of course, because really, they don’t have any options.  As long as Michael’s wife is alive, their relationship can’t go anywhere.  There is no way Edith would agree to be Michael’s mistress, and I doubt he’d even ask her to consider that option.  He seems more honorable than that.  Any way, their conversation is interrupted by Violet and nothing more is said about it that night.

The next day, while the men are off “stalking,” (i.e. hunting deer), the ladies go off for a nice picnic on the loch.  While out on the hunt, Robert asks Shrimpie if everything’s alright between him and Susan, and Shrimpie admits there are problems.  He also tells Robert that divorce isn’t an option for him because of his official position in the government.  Apparently, the main problem between them is that they simply don’t like each other any more.

Meanwhile, Matthew is bonding with Gregson.  They’re off on their own separate trail, he asks Gregson to join him the next day for some fly fishing, and stay for dinner.  When Gregson objects that it’s an imposition, Matthew calls him on it and basically lets him know that he understands Gregson’s motives for coming all the way to Scotland.  It’s not that Matthew thinks Gregson’s being sinister, it’s just that he knows what’s going on and I guess wants to be friends.  Clearly, Matthew has a soft spot for Edith and wants her to be happy, so it’s nice to see him make an effort with Gregson.

Anna and Bates take advantage of the family being away all day and arrange for a little picnic themselves.  Anna’s being really flirty, and even brings some beer, which Bates finds “racy.” They are adorable together.  After all the hardships, it is so nice to see them be a real couple, on a romantic picnic.

That night after dinner, we find out that Shrimpie’s actually being sent to India for his next assignment.  There is some question of whether or not Rose would accompany them – Shrimpie doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but Susan won’t even discuss it.  Edith asks Matthew to share his opinion of Gregson, and Mary jumps in with another one of her mean jibes, which of course, upsets Edith again.  Rose confides to Cora that she’s looking forward to going to India, even though her mother would drive her crazy.  It’s interesting to see a fuller family dynamic. 

There’s one important thing to keep in mind here:  Edith hasn’t shared Gregson’s story with the family, so they have no idea that he’s already married.  Later that night, Mary’s wondering if Gregson’s planning on proposing, and Matthew tells her that it seems like he might be, but he’s not sure.  This is going to go very badly for Edith once everyone finds out the real situation.  I was wondering why she hadn’t mentioned it, and then I realized that Edith doesn’t really have anyone to talk to or confide in.

Any way, the next day, Gregson comes clean to Matthew, who basically tells him that there is no way Robert would allow his daughter to become someone’s mistress, no matter how much they love each other.   He tells Gregson that he won’t support Edith living “a life of scandal” either, and that it’s best to just give it up.  Matthew suggests that Gregson use the ball to bid Edith a “proper goodbye.”

The ball starts off with Susan yelling at Rose about her dress, which she deems is too “slutty.”  The argument escalates until Shrimpie starts yelling at her to back off and not make everyone so miserable all the time.   Robert goes after Shrimpie, and finds out that the marriage is not the only thing in trouble.  Duneagle is in financial trouble, and Shrimpie will have to sell it.  He’s completely resigned himself to the fact, but he’s worried about Rose and her future. 

On a happier note, Anna surprises both Bates and Mary by joining in a reel.  There’s a really sweet scene where Mary comments on how marvelous Anna is, and Bates wholeheartedly agrees.  The love in his eyes as he looks at his wife!  Oh, my heart!

Meanwhile, Gregson tells Edith about Matthew’s reaction and advice, and tries to end his association with Edith, but she refuses.  She doesn’t actually come out and say that she agrees to be his mistress, just that the evening isn’t going to be their last.  Oh Edith!  What are you doing?

After dancing a reel, Mary doesn’t feel too well and tells Matthew that she’s going to go home the next day, but that he should remain behind so as not to break up the party.  Matthew’s worried, of course, but Mary assures him that everything’s fine.  I really hope nothing bad happens to her and the baby.  The family just can’t handle another tragic pregnancy!

There’s a bit of a side story with O’Brien and Susan’s maid, Wilkins.  Apparently, Susan’s modus operandi is to berate Wilkins all the time, so when she asks O’Brien to help Wilkins learn how to do her hair properly, Wilkins gets upset.  In a way, O’Brien’s stuck between a rock and a hard place; I mean, the lady of the house is asking her for help.  She can’t just say no!  Any way, Wilkins decides to pay O’Brien back and spikes her drink at the ball.  O’Brien takes one sip and realizes it’s way too strong, so she sets it aside. Molesley, who’s been dancing up a storm (all by himself, in a corner!), comes over and downs the cup.  He ends up getting real drunk and getting a bit wild on the dance floor. Watching Molesley making a spectacle of himself, Robert tells Violet that they say “there’s a wild man inside all of us,” to which she promptly replies, “If only it would stay inside.”  Hilarious! 

The next morning, Susan talks to Cora about Rose, and mentions that maybe it would be better for her upstart daughter to live at Downton while they go off to India.  Apparently, Shrimpie had had the same conversation the previous night with Robert, so Cora agrees to take on the responsibility.  So I guess Downton has a new resident.  And one that’s going to be a handful!

Back at the Abbey, the new delivery-man, Mr. Tufton, seems to have an eye for Mrs. Patmore.  He brings over a bunch of supplies, and flirts with her about her cooking.  So cute!  Apparently, there’s a fair in town and he invites Mrs. Patmore to join him.  Thomas, Albert, and James also want to go and Mr. Carson’s not too happy about letting everyone taking time off.  He has plans for them to clean all the silver, and you know, do all the “extra” work that they don’t have time to do when the family’s around.  But Mrs. Hughes talks him into it, and he lets the staff go off to have some fun.

It also looks like the new maid, Edna, has her eyes on our Mr. Branson.  She’s cute, but is definitely a gossip.  She wants to know why Lady Flintshire (Susan) didn’t invite Branson up to Scotland, and wonders why Sybil married the chauffeur in the first place.  Yup.  She’s going to be trouble.  I can just feel it.

And here we go …  She finds out that Branson is going to the local pub for lunch and goes over there to wait for him.  This can’t be good.  I mean, Robert just got used to the idea of Branson as a member of the family, I’m not so sure that he’s going to take kindly to him taking up with the new maid.  Any way, she tells Branson that he’s welcome to come downstairs and have dinner with the staff instead of eating all alone upstairs, and Branson seems to like the idea.

Meanwhile, Isobel invites Tom over for dinner and advises him to accept his new position as the agent of the estate.  Tom’s bemoaning the fact that Violet might not appreciate his associating with the downstairs staff while the family is away, and Isobel reminds him that his new position of authority gives him the right to talk to (and associated with) whomever he pleases.  So the next day, when Edna questions his reasons for not joining the staff for dinner (she wants to know if he’s ashamed of who he used to be), he goes downstairs and tells Mrs. Hughes that he’ll be joining them for dinner.  As Thomas says, wait till Mr. Carson hears about this!

Well, as expected, Mr. Carson is not happy about having Branson as a dinner guest at all, and Mrs. Hughes cautions him not to be rude.  Dinner goes over relatively well and in the end (at Edna’s nudging), Branson agrees to drive everyone over to the fair. 

It seems that love (or at least some serious flirting) is in store for everyone.  Isobel’s been inviting Dr. Clarkson over for dinner, and they’re really hitting it off.  When he finds out about the fair in town, he asks Isobel to go with him. 

At the fair, Edna really pushes her luck and actually takes Branson’s arm.  Mr. Tufton continues to flirt with Mrs. Patmore, who’s wearing a brand new blouse for the occasion.  She’s so cute, all blustering and blushing!  Mrs. Hughes doesn’t seem to like Tufton’s gregariousness, but Mrs. Patmore is eating it up!  Well, it turns out that she’s right:  Tufton’s flirting (and kissing!) other women, all while he’s wooing Mrs. Patmore. 

In the Thomas and James corner, it seems that they are maintaining a chilly distance.  James is barely civil to Thomas, and even Alfred calls him on it, telling him that Thomas doesn’t allow anyone to say a bad word about James.   At the fair, James gets drunk and when a couple of thugs attack him, Thomas jumps into the fray and basically saves James from getting beaten to a pulp.  He gets beaten up instead and James runs for Dr. Clarkson, who was in the midst of fumbling his way through a pseudo-proposal to Isobel.  Don’t worry, she turns him down without even realizing that he’s proposing!  Any way, Thomas is badly bruised and all his money (and watch) are stolen, so they take him home.  He doesn’t tell any one about rescuing James.  Later, when James checks in on him, Thomas admits to having followed James around at the fair, which of course, makes the situation awkward all over again.  This time though, James actually sits down and talks to Thomas.  He tells him that they can never have a romantic relationship, because he just doesn’t feel that way about Thomas, but he accepts Thomas’ offer of friendship.

Back at the Abbey, Mr. Carson’s been keeping baby Sybil company, when everyone returns.  He tells Mrs. Hughes that the baby reminds him of Lady Sybil, when she was that age.  He’s so good with the baby! 

Meanwhile, Mrs. Patmore confides in Mrs. Hughes that Tufton basically proposed.  Mrs. Hughes tells her everything she saw at the fair, and how Tufton was flirting with other women, and Mrs. Patmore realizes that the proposal wasn’t really about her, but her cooking.  Basically, Tufton was looking for a good cook to take care of him.  Ugh.  Poor Mrs. Patmore!  Wait a minute!  Mrs. Patmore is not upset at all!  She’s relieved!  She realized that Tufton was not a good match for her and couldn’t wait to get away from him.  Phew!

Edna barges in on Branson while he’s changing for bed, asks him to meet her for lunch the next day, and kisses him!  Oh dear.  I really hope Tom can resist this one, because honestly, no good can come of it.   Her plans are thwarted when Mrs. Hughes tells her to get Mary’s room ready.  When she resists, Mr. Carson asks her if she had other plans, and she fesses up about her lunch date.  Of course this infuriates Mr. Carson, and he tells Mrs. Hughes to fire Edna, and have a talk with Branson about the inappropriateness of the whole situation.  Mrs. Hughes does a great job with Branson, telling him that he shouldn’t be ashamed of his new life, and shouldn’t let someone like Edna make him feel ashamed.  She tells him that Sybil would be proud of him, and that some day, he’ll find someone who can help him bear her loss.  It’s a very sweet scene, with Mrs. Hughes being more of a mother figure, than anything else. 

Mary and Anna arrive at the train station, and Mary insists on being taken to the hospital right away.  I guess the baby’s early.  They send word to Matthew right away, and the entire family cancels the rest of the vacation and heads back home. 

As they’re packing, Robert tells Cora that staying at Duneagle has made him realize how much he owes Matthew for saving Downton by modernizing its management.  He tells her that after seeing Shrimpie’s unhappy marriage, he’s even more grateful to have Cora and his family around him.  It’s really great to see him snap out of his blind insistence on the “old ways,” and embracing the new world.

Oh joy!  Mary gives birth to a healthy little boy!  Matthew is thrilled, of course, and Mary’s happy that they’ve done their duty, and provided Downton with an heir.  You have to love the way Mary can be brutally practical at a time like this!  The new parents have a lovely, intimate scene together, and I can only do it justice if I transcribe the whole thing:


Matthew:  “You are going to be such a wonderful mother.”


Mary:  “How do you know?”


Matthew:  “Because … because you’re such a wonderful woman.”

Mary:  “I hope I’m allowed to be …your Mary Crawley for all eternity, and not Edith’s version or anyone else’s for that matter.”


Matthew:  “You’ll be my Mary, always, because mine is the true Mary.  Do you ever wonder how happy you’ve made me?”


Mary:  “You sound rather foreign.  Shouldn’t you be saying things like, ‘you’ll be up and about in no time?’”

Matthew:  “I’ll do that tomorrow.  But right now, I want to tell you that I fall more in love with you with every day that passes.

Mary:  “I’ll remind you of that next time I scratch the car.”

The family’s all gathered at the Abbey, waiting for Matthew to come back from the hospital.  They are celebrating, happy and relieved that both Mary and the baby are fine.  Matthew is driving back home, with the top down, smiling, not a care in the world.  He misses the truck coming down the road towards him.  As the family is talking about what a fantastic addition he’s been to the family, we see the truck driver jumping out of his truck and running over to the incline on the side of the road, where Matthew lies underneath the overturned car … dead. 

The last shot of the episode is of Mary, happily holding her new baby, waiting for her family to come, completely unaware of Matthew’s death.

Such a sad, sad ending for this season. 

Can't get enough Downton? Look for The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era by Jessica Fellowes and Matthew Sturgis, a behind-the-scenes look at the show, available now.


Naz Keynejad is an avid reader, wanna-be writer, editor and self-professed geek. She has a “thing” for period dramas and will watch anything as long as it’s filled with suppressed sexual tension, angst and of course, period costumes. Oh, and there has to be tea. Lots of tea.

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1. JeriH
I thought this season could not get any worse and I was wrong.

I realize it probably had to be done. With Dan Stevens wanting to leave Downton for other work (where his stylist will hopefully dye his hair back to its Sense & Sensibility dark and dashing look and never allow him to assume a highlighted combover ever again) I guess they had no choice. But honestly, if I met Jullian Fellowes on the street, I'd poke him in the eyeball.

This season kind of killed my love for Downton. If you root for a couple, one of them dies (but don't worry, Fellowes will introduce a new, much more boring love tangle to distract). If a character has a good heart and everyone likes them, they meet a tragic end. And if you are a lying, cheating, scheming, manipulating, murdering, theiving scoundrel, you'll just keep climbing the ladder. Because that's what we want from our fairy-tales, Fellowes. Widows and jail cells, motherless babies, tears and heartache, the bad guy gets it all in the end. Jolly good fun.

My predictions for series 4 - O'Brien steals the heir to raise as her own, Anna is hanged for the crime, Gertrude the scullery maid has a thing for Larry the hall boy, Lord Grantham takes up needlepoint and Thomas inherits the estate.
Naz Keynejad
2. nazkey
I completely agree with you. I hated the way the series ended this season. I mean, I get that these actors want to leave a show that originally, was only supposed to be a mini-series of sorts for one season, but why kill them off like this? It was horrible to watch, especially since there was a close-up of Matthew with dead eyes, lying in a pool of blood.

I honestly don't understand what they could possibly have to say for an entire season next year. Rose is not a very compelling new character IMO, and I swear, if they turn Edith into Gregson's mistress, I will join you in poking Fellowes in the eyeball.

Loved your last paragraph, btw. I wouldn't put it past them to do something equally ludicrous.
3. JeriH
Did you notice that Bates didn't have his cane? I wondered what was up with that. Also I was hoping for SOME interaction with Bates, O'Brien and Thomas after the last episode.

I'm still mad though. I'm not sure what deep-seated issues Mr. Fellowes has but at least one major character has to live past the birth of their child.
4. EvangelineHolland
I covered my eyes so I didn't have to see dead Matthew!

Since rumors of Dan Stevens' departure have been flying for weeks, I was at the stage of acceptance by the time the Christmas special rolled around. But really, Julian Fellowes' hands were tied--both Jessica Brown Findlay and Dan Stevens felt it was time to move on, but the other half of their ships--Allen Leech and Michelle Dockery, respectively--were more than happy to remain on the show. If Sybil remained in Ireland, Branson would have to as well, and if Matthew was shipped off somewhere, Mary would have to death is the only answer.

I accept it only because Upstairs Downstairs wasn't shy about killing off main characters when the actors wanted to move on or for the sake of the plot (and the show ended with a suicide!), which then pushed the show into interesting tangents.
5. Thelma Dickinson
Downton is only to go one or two more seasons, is it not? And shooting only 8 or so episodes, surely, there was time enough for other work. It really irks me when actors gain fame through a beloved venue only to become too good for what brought them notoriety. I'm disappointed that Dan Stevens, a major character to a program, decides to ditch the program, when it's almost done anyway. Moves like this make me not care for such actors or their work anymore. May he find other work not so forth coming since he has ruined Downton Abbey.
Naz Keynejad
6. nazkey
@JeriH - yes, there were scenes where he didn't have it, but I really doubt that Bates is going to be miraculously cured (although, who knows at this point, right?) I just feel that killing Matthew was a cop-out. There were many other ways around it. Meh.

@Evangeline - I hear what you're saying, but I feel that there were many other ways to deal with Dan Stevens' wanting to leave. He could've been sent on some sort of assignment somewhere, etc., and his not being there would've been excellent fodder for more Mary/Matthew drama. Killing him off is a cop-out, IMO.

@Thelma I agree. I think it's a shame when actors bite the hands that feed them. As a fan of Grey's Anatomy, I was so put off by Katherine Heigl's antics towards the end, that I really wished she would fail and fall flat on her face after she left the show. Last I heard, Dan Stevens was doing a play on Broadway. I think he's moved to New York permanently. Regardless, he could've easily set aside some time to at least have guest appearances on Downton. I don't know. I just feel the whole thing was handled really badly. And you know, Mary/Matthew are such a main "ship" that I bet they're going to lose a ton of their audience by killing Matthew off.
7. EvangelineHolland
@Naz: but ship Matthew off to where? He was just a solicitor-turned-estate manager. I can't think of any logical reason for him to be off and away for the rest of S4--and without Mary and their son. So death--IMO--was the only answer.

From a story standpoint, I'm eager to see Mary as a widow. Her entire existence from S1 has been about obtaining power through traditional means--first through marrying Patrick, flirting with marriage to the Duke of Crowborough and Evelyn Napier, and then through marrying Matthew. She even stood back during Matthew's conflict with Robert over the running of the estate because that part of being Downton's chatelaine did not interest her.

Now, without Matthew, she will be forced to see what she's made of: actively getting involved in the estate, because there's a chance Robert will mow Branson over; actively taking an interest in her power outside of just being able to rule people; and perhaps realizing her own agency as a woman. We might also see her bond with a woman who is not a servant (as nice as the Mary/Anna dynamic is, Anna is still subordinate to Mary, making their friendship lop-sided because Mary had the privilege of making the first step towards establishing it) and opening up in public as well as in private.

I guess this is my heroine-centric brain coming to the forefront, LOL.
8. MS
Thank you for your re-caps. What a huge disappointment for Matthew to live through Season 2 & the war..only to be killed in a car accident. Don't British shows ever re-cast actors in roles? I like the actor who plays Matthew...but wouldn't have objected to a different actor playing the role going forward. I think I'm going to stop at Season 2 and not watch again. I like the day to day life of the Crawleys & the challenges they & the staff face...but the deaths of major characters so close together is too much. I don't find this entertaining at all.
I'm happy owning Season 1 & 2 and watching them over & over and considering the proposal between Matthew & Mary the end for me.

It's too bad this show has gone the way of so many others shows & isn't special anymore. I expected to see the Crawley family left in tact...fighting through life...not dying off one by one.

Again...thank you for your re-caps of the Season.
Naz Keynejad
9. nazkey
@Evangeline - I honestly don't know, but I don't feel that killing him off was a good way to go. The show's going to lose a lot of viewers as a result of this (and of Sybil's death earlier on). It's just too much. They could've ended the show with the birth of the baby and left it alone, then maybe start season 4 a few years later, and figured out what to do with Matthew. I honestly find it really hard to believe that Dan Stevens couldn't make time for a few guest appearances, or conversely, just show up, film all of his scenes for the season, and go back to whatever else he's doing. This is a huge turn-off, IMO.

@MS - You're very welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed the recaps. I do feel that you're not alone in wanting to abandon the show. Killing Matthew is going to turn off a lot of viewers, especially since the Mary/Matthew ship is so strong among the fans. We'll see what happens in S4 I guess, but like you, I would've been just as happy if the show had ended in S2. This season was just way too depressing!
10. JVP
I thought the series should have ended at the end of season. 2 . MARY AND MATTHEW are the engine that has always driven the series. What a dumb thing to do--killing off Matthew. Who would bother to watch season 4? NOT ME!!
11. FA
i am so disappointed, i cannot believe Dan Stevens wanted to leave the show, how unprofessional of him, Downtown Abby made him famous. he knew he was one of the main characters, why couldn't he wait a season or two. The writer could of tried a new Matthew for season 4, if it didn't work, then yes kill him off. Not sure if i will be watching season 4.
12. Lisa B.
Well, although I'm going to have to wait for a few more months before I can get the DA3 dvd, I am grateful for these recaps. Now, while I realize that all of you - indeed, all DA fans - are seriously upset over this development, I really don't think anyone can blame Julian Fellowes. I read his explanation for the decision to kill off Matthew Crawley, and I understand where he's coming from. He has categorically said that Dan Stevens did not leave the door open for guest appearances in future DA seasons, so there was no possibility for keeping Matthew Crawley's character around. The same is true for Jessica Brown-Findlay.

Now, given this turn of events, the only choices open to Julian to get Matthew out of Mary's life would be for him to fall out of love with her, or for him to ... well, die. I certainly didn't want Matthew to perish, but I certainly don't think it would be credible for him to fall for another woman so soon in his marriage, particularly after we were told throughout Season 2 that he carried a torch for her for several years. And to be honest, I am really rather fed up with using infidelity as a plot twist. I was so glad when Robert Crwaley came to his senses before he betrayed his wife altogether. This may not be the way we all wanted things to turn out for Matthew and Mary, but I think we can all take comfort in the fact that their love for each other remains true.

Now, since the show must go on, I have to say that if my most fervent DA-related wish came true, we'd have Richard Armitage join the cast. That man is a wonderful actor and a magnetic presence - he's got "nobility" written all over him, and he would make an incredible addition to the cast, wouldn't he? :)
Naz Keynejad
13. nazkey
I thought long and hard about this and I think my solution would've been to end this season on a happy note, then start S4 two or three years down the line, maybe at Matthew's funeral. We could see Mary with a little toddler, etc., and his death would've/could've been explained as some sort of accident (even a car accident). My point is that after losing a main character like Sybil, it was really bad form to end the series with Matthew's death, especially when the last shot of him was so graphic.

@Lisa B. I get that that there was really no other option but to kill him off, but I feel it could've been handled better. I think Richard Armitage would be an addition to ANY cast, the man is magnificent. I don't think he would be available though, especially considering his being tied up with The Hobbit (and its inevitable fame) for the next few years. But yes, he would be fantastic!
14. JeriH
@Naz I agree that it was a season ending in poor taste, like they went for total shock instead of a satisfying finale like last year's Christmas episode. It leaves me sickened and not at all eager for series 4 next fall.

And the death of one parent on the same day their first child has been born? It's been DONE people! In fact, it was done 4 episodes ago! They might as well have had Daisy marry Alfred on his deathbed and Bates go back to prison.

@LisaB, it is a pity that they probably couldn't tempt Richard Armitage into the cast with all the A-list movies he's done in the last little while because he would be a dream as a second love for Mary. Imagine him as a lonely widower, perhaps with a little girl of his own... le sigh...

As long as we're dream-casting the next male lead, what about his Spooks castmate, Rupert Penry-Jones?
15. Lisa B.
Rupert Penry-Jones? Ah, che bell'uomo! Yes, he definitely gets my vote! All that cool, Nordic handsomeness striding across the magnificent lawn of Downton ... absolutely wonderful!
16. Canucks
The very last episode of DA gave me a chance to reflect on this series more generally ... going back to its very beginning.

It is perfectly understandable how MC’s untimely death cast a spell on many a viewer’s enjoyment of this show. With due respect to all the raw nerves and feelings, however, you might be missing the point of this show … if you persist on your doom and gloom.

I have been one of the early proponents of this show ending as gracefully as it started more than three years ago. And as I wrote in Naz’s column in the past, I thought S03 would have been a good time to make this happen. Reflecting on the totality of the DA series today, however, I am not sure if I can advise the same.

If the avid viewers really reconsider the nature and scope of this show, I believe many of you will come to the inevitable conclusion that this show is not, and was not ever, about M&M, or their tortured love story. Downtown Abbey is and always was a show about “continuity.”

The true meaning and essence of DA is not about its personalities (though they help us entertain ourselves), but it is about the dogged will of grand families or dynasties to “survive” ... whatever the circumstances or conditions. It is about that irrepressible, almost innate urge to continue and persist as being.

In that greater drive, an MC’s death or Sybil’s passing are but just simple footnotes in the history of an age old land and a grand family who has survived all ill winds, and if their key players would have it their way, will continue to infinity and beyond.

If you reflect back to the very first episode of DA, you will remember that the show opened with the death of two heirs, and the single minded pursuit of the key members of the family, to make sure that this family, land, and tradition continued. Robert reminded viewers that, despite his love for her daughters , his sole role in this world was simply to be a worthy “custodian” … not an owner. In this sense, Robert's growing "love" for MC was less a love of a person but a reaffirmation that, MC, too, was a true custodian.

For these reasons, MC will rest in peace. And so Mary .. as she/they did "their duty."

After three years ... no viewer of DA would be surprised to hear that Mary carries the same genetic code as her father, who in turn gets it from her mother.

For real life examples of this innate drive, I invite the DA viewers to reflect on the current Royal Family, and how, following Princess Diana’s untimely passing, lined up in the corner of the Buckingham Palace to say their farewells, and how two little boys sadly but proudly marched behind their mother’s coffin, and how they confidently and with determination march on forward today. Personalities come and go. Grand families (and land) are meant to be … forever.

Nothing assures this continuity, but the sheer will of the main players in these families ... be it in DA or within the current Royal Family.

In DA, there are really four individuals who will make sure that this land, this house, and this family survives; three upstairs and one down: The Dowager Countess, Robert, and Mary … and Carson.

Unless a tragedy simultaneously strikes the first three, DA story will continue for many seasons to come.
Naz Keynejad
17. nazkey
I always love your comments @Canucks! Very insightful and thought provoking.

I see your point. I guess my biggest bone of contention is in the way they chose to show it. This is not a gore-fest type of show. I really don't need to see Matthew in a pool of his own blood. I still feel that his death could've been handled better and this season could've ended on a happy note, with M/M as parents, and DA assured an heir. They could've easily started the next season alluding to Matthew's death. Like I mentioned above, maybe even start it with a funeral. I just found the ending to be way too jarring for this particular show.

Thanks again for commenting on my posts! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on next season's recaps!
18. Devine
It's over for me. I know it's not Fellowes's fault, but this isn't the show I signed on for anymore. Matthew's death leaves me utterly disinterested. My wife can catch me up on their antics next year, and I'll consider watching retroactively, but I'm too disgusted to watch in real time. I suppose I could change my tune by next fall, but I feel well and truly burned, so I doubt it.
19. shirlkey
I am surpirsed by the fact that no one has speculated on the return on Patrick Crawley. I am a US DA watcher so my knowledge of S3 is limited to the premiere episode and Internet recaps. Was there any mention of Patrick in S3? If not, then last we heard of him, he was possibly alive in the form of Patrick Gordon. I was always surpised that JF let that story fall to the wayside.

His return and verification as Patrick Crawley would open all sorts of possible story lines. Who is the true heir of DA? Does Patrick supersede Baby Crawley? Is he still in love with Mary? Is Edith still in love with him? Perhaps he returns with a conniving wife in tow.

Given the intervening time, he could have recovered from his war injuries with minimal scars. That would allow the use of many a handsome actor with rugged good looks.

Does anyone share my curiousity with this plot line?
20. dmillz
I do! Im a US DA watcher too and i wondered about Patrick all throught last nights episodes. I got online and read all these recaps trying to find out if/when he comes back.
No mention of him at all?
charles cornwallis
21. charlescornwallis
I too am a US DA watcher. I did enjoy reading the Season 3 recaps here on this website although I suppose I should not have "read ahead" only to learn that Mary ends up being a widow at the end of the Season 3 Christmas "special."

My guess is that Mary will be fine. She's going to marry a rich American (think oil, railroads, and banking), turn the DA estate into a money machine, commute back and forth between Highclere Castle (nee DA) and her penthouse on Central Park South in New York, and survive very nicely thank you. Her son will die in WWII at the controls of a Spitfire during the battle of Britain. She and her husband (a commoner who loses everything in the crash of '29 ) then decide to close out the DA operation and move to Marjorie and Richard Bellamy's old place at 165 Eaton Place in Belgravia. They'll take Daisy (now a graduate of Ecole Escoffier and Cordon Bleu) and Anna and John Bates with them to cover the downstairs. Mary will become friends with Lady Prudence Fairfax who replaces Violet (now deceased) as Mary's purveyor of matriarchal advice, wit, and wisdom.

Can't wait for season 4 to see how it all plays out.

Naz Keynejad
22. nazkey
@shirlkey and @dmillz - no mention of Patrick whatsoever, no. I don't understand why that plot line was brought up last season only to be dropped abruptly, but no one's mentioned anything about him this season.

@charlescornwallis - loved your speculation! You should drop Julian Fellowes a line and make some suggestions :-)
23. Fleurdamour
Part of Matthew's inheritance from Lavinia's family included tea plantations in India. If Dan Stevens wanted to leave the show, surely Matthew could have gone to India with Shrimpy & Co. to overhaul the management of the plantations' affairs for a year or two like he did with Downton? Better than dying in a ditch on the happiest day of his life. I could write this show better than these fools. I'm glad they let Edith be a journalist, it plays to her strengths, but I still haven't gotten over her and Sir Anthony. He was treated very unfairly by her family, I feel. He showed himself to be a nice man, and really cared about her. He wasn't disabled when they first started hanging out, and he was hurt defending his country, so I don't know why everyone put him down for it. He and Edith seemed really compatible, but first Mary meddled, then her father and grandmother. They had tried to fix Mary up with him before, so I don't understand why he suddenly wasn't good enough for Edith. I think I'll start writing Downton fan fiction and make it turn out how I wanted it. They might as well have aliens blow up the manor house and kill everyone at once instead of picking them off one by one.
24. limi
Excuse my ignorance, but having not yet seen the last episode, did anyone confirm Matthew's death or does it just look like he's dead?
Naz Keynejad
25. nazkey
@limi - sadly, he is in fact, dead. There is no way around it. He was lying in a pool of his blood with dead eyes. We all know that Dan Stevens wanted to leave the show, and apparently, he left no room for negotiations to do guest spots, so yes, Matthew is gone. :-(
26. Heather Feather
As a US DA watcher I have to admire the way that characters are killed off without hesitation. How many US tears were shed when JK kept killing off HP characters. Americans so disliked a season of Dallas when Bobby was killed that the writers felt compelled to bring him back to life by saying that the entire previous season was a dream while the now "not" dead Bobby was taking a shower.

It is sad to see Matthew dead but at the same time I hope JF uses this as a creative springboard to introduce some great new characters.

My only negative comment is that Rose is a rather uninteresting character.
27. limi
Thanks for the info, oh boo, I was hoping for a "cliffhanger", oh well!!
28. Cat Cook
What was JF thinking? Matthew and Mary were THE SHOW!! Without them, DA is just another soap opera with mediocre characters (with the exception of Dame Maggie Smith who is totally amazing). Surely there was some way to dispose of Matthew's character in the short term so that he could have been brought back for guest appearances etc. I'm so angry at JF that, like others here,I would poke him in the eyeball if ever I meet him on the street!!
29. MeganS
It seems that even British shows turn into American soap operas. I realize that there have to be story lines, but killing off 2 major characters in one (very) short season is a bit much. There were plenty of ways to have Matthew out of the Country on business without having him lie in a pool of blood on the day of his son's birth.

All I see for Season 4 is Mary vs Robert. She as the widow will want to implement all of Matthews ideas, because she did tell him that she would always believe in him. Robert will resist & Mary will push.
Also starting Edith in a relationship with a married man is beyond silly. This is frowned upon now & back then unheard of, especially for her position. Can't she just find a single man who loves her already?

Not sure where the rest of this show can go. Will they kill someone off each season now? Is that the only story line JF knows?

For me, a better story line would have been for Patrick Crawley to come back & stake his claim on Downton now that Matthew put his inherited money into it. Patrick would have brought some drama to all of the Crawleys, including Edith who always loved him.

Killing off characters, whether the actors want to leave or not, is a lazy way 'write'.
30. Joy Flnoiz
I am an US DA watcher and just received the DVDs and watching them all the way through in one night. Oh how disappointed I was this season to see two of my favorite characters killed off. I can understand historically dying in childbirth at that time, but I liked Stevens playing Matthew. There was no need to kill him off. I agree with a previous blogger..."It is just lazy writing." Send him to India with Shrimpie, since that story line was so random anyway. Then Edith with a married man. Poor, poor, poor! Now their are two young widow(er)s and two babies without parents in the home and oddly has anyone noticed only young people die in this drama?(Aside from Lavenia's father whom we never met) Perhaps this show has changed from a historical drama to an American soap opera - and they are not only predictable, but boring. On a positive note I will say, my husband I laughed more during many of the character interplays this season.
31. HeckyPet
Somewhere I read that Violet (Maggie Smith) would die early in season 4. How she will be missed!

*Edited by H&H moderator -- please be sure to white out major spoilers or speculation for future episodes.
Naz Keynejad
32. nazkey
I still feel that the best way to have dealt with this was to end the season with the happy scene of Mary holding the baby, and start the next season maybe a year (or two) down the line, at Matthew's funeral. There was absolutely no reason why we should've seen him the way we did.
33. Sunkist2
Mr. Branson is liking the Country Squire role and Lady Mary has found his eyes bright, while bouncing the little Branson babe in S3E8... so, I'm thinking the Brady Bunch here. He can attend Berlitz School of proper English language, learn to sip Earl Gray, Glenmorangie vs. Jamieson ( they like to drink, don't they), and all will flow well. That is, until somebody else dies.
34. herladyshipelizabeth
I too, am now done with this show. I have really enjoyed it and now own three seasons that I will sell online. It was such a disappointment to have season three end this way and I will not be watching any more seasons. Terribly disappointing.
35. MamaBizKit
This week I had the flu so I literally laid in bed and watched the first two seasons on Hulu and was hooked. Next I purchased season three because this show is awesome. This morning I watched in horror the death of Matthew. To have the dead eyes and the blood coming out of his ears was too much. To think that the folks in the UK were "treated" to this ending on Christmas is unbelievable. How insensitive of the writers!
37. RFL
I thought the return of "Patrick" was a prank by one of his war buddies to get the inheritance. It also highlighted another disappointment inEdith's life. I thought the "fake Patrick" left when he realized they were on to him. I suppose the story is about endurance -as one of the commentors mentioned. Just to go on despite what life throws at us. So, I'm going to stay with the show next season, as I would with my own family if something unthinkable happens. The acting, costuming and sets are worth it.
Naz Keynejad
38. nazkey
Thanks to everyone for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

I still truly believe that if they had just ended the episode with Mary and the baby looking happy/content, and Matthew just driving back to DA, it would have been fine. They could've easily done a time jump at the beginning of next season and started it off at Matthew's funeral, with Mary standing stoically by, maybe holding a toddler's hand, etc.

I believe that (at least for me), the biggest turn off was actually showing Matthew's dead face.
39. Kerry H
I cannot understand why not have the season end with Matthew's accident and come back next season with a new actor. The accident would explain why Matthew looks or even acts somewhat differently. It would have been funny if he had amnesia and finds himself not caring for Mary but attractive to Edith. Much better than killing him off.
40. sunnygirl
Nooooooo! Not Matthew too! I can only hope that it's all some silly dream the Mary wakes up from and she is still in Scotland, then everything can resume.

I agree, with only 8 episodes surely there is ample time to do other things.
41. Lilyflowers
Hello DA fans. I absolutely agree that two major deaths in one season is too, too much. What Mr. Fellowes perhaps did not take into consideration is that his viewers become attached to his characters. They become our 'friends' and we have already endured the tragic loss of beautiful, darling Sybil. That death, while accurate, was very graphic. I am certain all of us were taking extra breaths to try to help Sybil breathe. Losing her loving, caring personality which blended so well with her willingness to take chances for love that the others in her family would never approve of, was a very real loss. Watching Tom watching her slip away from him breath by breath was excruciating. Now, we are to lose Matthew as well. His character is/was not as compelling as Sybil's for me, but his happiness with Mary and the very real change in her that we saw as a result of their relationship makes this loss particularly tragic. Although I believe Mary will rally and "carry on," for those of us who have to wait until next January for S4, both of those deaths leave us downcast and wondering if we dare trust our hearts to Mr. Fellowes. The only delights of this season, besides Mr. Bates' release, were the fabulously written and delivered lines of Dowager Countess, Violet. She has the best lines in the entire show, bless her. At least she keeps me watching!

I like the idea of introducing someone akin to Richard Armitage to be Mary's new love interest. And, should Mr. Fellowes check in here, may I just say that ruining Edith's wedding day was dreadful and unnecessary. Her wedding gown was so lovely (congrats to the costumers!) and I believe she would have been truly happy with Sir Anthony. I read somewhere that Mr. Fellowes believes his audience prefers agony to ecstasy. Please sir; a little more happiness. And I must agree with the writer above who found Rose's character unappealing. She sparked no interest for me at all. If she goes away and we never see her again, I shall not miss her. Nor would I miss O'Brien! Where is that woman's soft underbelly?!!

One more note; I think Patrick may return. There's more to that story to tell . . . at least it seems so to me. Would anyone besides me like to see Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes get together?

Best to all of you.
42. Stewmour
Dan Stevens was a wuss of a character the way he played Mathew. But the
he was just a Lord lite, wusses all. Maybe the myterious Canadian will show back up or the brother of the Turk will return to sweep----Thomas off his feet. Gotta love the Brits..
43. Stan Kansas
Hello from Arizona! Just finished season 3. Huge DA fans here. I am not bothered by Matthew's death; I have only to look at the Kennedys to see how death can hit a great family over and over again, unfairly and mercilessly.

What I WAS bothered by, and no one has mentioned, was how false Doneagle appeared. It looked like a styrofoam castle!!! Did they use a miniature set when taking in the whole castle and grounds? I think they did. It was awful, as were half of the outdoor shots that appeared to be shot in front of green screen. It looked absolutely fake. If Doneagle is set in a real place, then please forgive me, but I don't think I am wrong. Sorry, but it is the geek in me. I expect great things from DA and that miniature castle and grounds were just silly. There must be dozens of great homes and grounds in the UK that could have been used.

I did not realize that the actress playing Sybil had wanted off, though I had noticed that she was not in the Christmas episode and wasn't much seen prior to her death. I just thought the writers had found Edith more interesting.

Still a big fan.
44. PhyllisV
Mathew was my favorite character on DA and I was sorry he had to be written off. I don't blame Fellowes for killing him since Stevens did not even want to do guest appearances. I just HATE when they use different actors to play the same part, I just can't relate.

I will gladly watch Season 4. I'm interested to see what they plan for Mary and Edith. I didn't like Edith in the beginning but in Season 3 I started liking her a lot, she has the makings of a strong character, hope Fellowes does great things with her in Season 4. No, I don't want her to be a mistress, even though I feel sorry for Michael and his predicament.

My only problem is that being in the US, I now have to wait one full year for the continuance of this great show. I even read up on the history of Highclere Castle and about Almina Carnarvon (the real Cora). With or without my beloved Mathew, I will continue to watch Downton Abbey. I still care about all the other characters on the show, upstairs and downstairs, especially Anna and Bates.
Jamie Brenner
45. jamieloganbrenner
@nazkey Your comment #13 about a better way to handle the loss of Mathew would have been opening with the death in season four rather than ending with it in season #3 is absolutely brilliant.
46. Cyn Durichek
I couldn't believe DA killed off 2 main characters this season. One yes, but two, no way. They could have recast Matthew by instead of killing him in the car accident, having him be burned and disfigured and possibly sending him to some rehab. place for awhile.
47. Marivene
I was quite irritated with the prospect of Edith becoming a mistress, until I thought to google British law & divorce of an insane spouse. Apparently the law was changed around 1925, so I would guess that Edith, as a modern journalistic woman, will have some part in changing the laws through her column, since she will have skin in the fight.
48. chattycat
I loved the finale.There are characters with heart and integrity who are not paired off-Mrs Patmore narrowly escaped marrying a cad.That was a delightful scene.Branson is,appropriately, in mourning and ,thanks to Mrs Hughes(who has a heart) he did not go with the horrid Edna.
Fellowes resisted the pressure to make it a romcom.Mrs Crawley is happy with her situation.She is a heartful woman,although,at times,bossy.
Robert and Cora are doing well,thanks to a reminder from Shrimpy of what could have gone wrong for them.
Young people often died in childbirth then,Cars were not safe.
I look forward to seing Mary's new man in series 3 but I can't forget this great finale.
49. Stan Kansas
Well, color me embarrassed. That castle is Scotland is real. I wish I could say that I had the flu and was high as a kite, but I was well and sober. I have no idea as to why it looked so strange to me.

I am now reading that Mrs. O'Brien is leaving, with some saying that she is probably going to India, but doesn't she have to pay the piper over the soap?

The paper also says that Shirley MacClaine is returning...I felt her first appearance was over-hyped and I hope they give her something worthy of her talent for her return.
50. Adrian Klas (Argentina)
The end of the season 3 (episode 9): Furthermore the unnecesary choise of killing Matthew due to any unrevealed script development, I'm afraid the production did not take a proper notice that in every novel, story, t.v. series, etc. along time the public get's slowly emphatizing with the characters and the actors that feature them. Due to this phenom, I think that it's not completely them right to hurt us so sadly thru absurds endings. Doenton Abbey was not a "Hollywood-like" T.V. serie to spoil it at the end of the season so vulgarly. Best regards form Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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