Downton Abbey Creator Defends [Spoiler]'s Death, Reveals Length of Season 4 Time Jump

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Downton Abbey Season 4 Spoilers -- Matthew's FuneralDownton Abbey is making Matthew Crawley’s funeral a private affair — so private, in fact, it won’t even take place on screen.

Julian Fellowes, creator of PBS’ international phenom, tells the New York Times that Season 4 will pick up “six months later,” which means “we don’t have to do funerals and all that stuff. That’s all in the past by then.”

RELATED | Downton Abbey Season 4 Recap: Did You See Matthew’s Death Coming? 

In the present, Stateside fans of the show are still very much in mourning over Matthew’s untimely demise in Sunday’s Season 3 finale. For his part, Fellowes says he was left with no choice but to kill Dan Stevens’ beloved character off.

“In America, it’s quite standard for an actor to sign, at the beginning of a series, for five or seven years,” he explains. “The maximum any British agent will allow you to have over an actor is three years. And… Dan wanted to go. The show had been very, very successful, tremendously so, and [he was] being offered great opportunities.”

RELATED | Dan Stevens: Why I Left Downton Abbey

Fellowes adds that he asked Stevens to stick around through Season 4′s premiere episode (set to air in the U.S. in January 2014), so as to end the finale “on a happy note” with the birth of his and Lady Mary’s baby. “And then [we would've killed] him in the first episode of [Season 4.] But he didn’t want to do that,” preferring instead to make “a clean break.

“When an actor playing a servant wants to leave, there isn’t really a problem – [that character gets] another job,” he continues. “With members of the family, once they’re not prepared to come back for any episodes at all, then it means death. Because how believable would it be that Matthew never wanted to see the baby, never wanted to see his wife? And was never seen again at the estate that he was the heir to? So we didn’t have any option, really. I was as sorry as everyone else.”

RELATED | Downton Abbey Season 4 Scoop: Meet Matthew’s ‘Replacement’!

Looking ahead to Season 4, Fellowes teases that one of the overriding themes will be “the rebuilding of Mary… in a society that is changing,” adding, “We would see women’s roles in the ’20s as being very much behind women today. But it was a big advance on what it had been 30 years before. And that’s all explored.”

Comments (198)

  • This show was great in its first season. It became ridiculous after that. Great cinematography, great actors, great production values etc. Terrible writing, poor character development and very weak storylines.

    Comment by j mazerolle – February 24, 2013 05:41 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I think it was perfect for the time period. People died tragically and suddenly all the time, as the do now, but even more so back then. Entire families fell apart over the death of one person. I think the writers do a smashing job with what they have to work with, and this show is always a reminder of how far we’ve come as a human race. The irony of him recovering from what was thought to be a devastating, permenent injury, let alone surviving the war, and succumbing to death in this manner was a juxtaposition one does not see hardly ever in American television dramas. No matter how tragic, it was a breath of fresh air to see something different for a change. See you in a year, Downton Abbey. I can hardly wait.

    Comment by Christina – February 24, 2013 01:43 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Although him dying was so tragic, I couldn’t agree more with you.

      Comment by christianna – June 2, 2013 06:53 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • There are some filming pics that suggest while we won’t see the funeral, we will see his grave. It looks like some family members will visit it for some sort of dedication or memorial (or maybe just a visit) in S4, probably near the beginning. At least that way they acknowledge the event, even if the series starts six months later.

    Comment by LeeAnn – February 28, 2013 05:36 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am done with Downton Abbey! I lost interest in it.

    Comment by Ana Eugenia – March 6, 2013 07:25 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Why can’t season 4 be a BAD dream that Mary has??? She can wake up in Scotland still pregnant – Matthew won’t be dead (this will give Dan a season to re-consider his bad, bad decision) and then S5 can start again with Mary being pregnant about to give birth. This would be a great way to keep the new characters who will still come to visit – Mary will be very confused and since she will be trying to live up to Matthew’s image of her as a perfect woman, wife and mother she will be stressed out, overtired and sleep-deprived – like all new moms, this lending to possible romantic tension with the other suitors from S4!

    This also gives a reset on the Dowagers age which is becoming an issue for the writers and we all know that they defiantly do not want to write her off!

    Comment by IAMSOMAD – March 11, 2013 05:25 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m sorry to see Dan Stevens go but as far as believability, real life is unpredictable. I don’t like stories where you know the main characters are untouchable. I was really surprised Matthew’s character died, but I prefer that. It’s no fun if you can figure out the entire storyline in the first five minutes.

    Comment by Beverly – March 18, 2013 04:44 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

      Comment by Carolyn Rashti – March 19, 2013 10:12 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Dan Stevens is within his right to quit, but I can’t help but feel like he pulled a major Caruso…

    Comment by March – March 19, 2013 04:41 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I think its sad that some people wish Dan bad wishes in his career. I was under the impression that most actors wish to act in a variety of roles during their careers, to stretch their “acting “wings. He didn’t leave early, fulfilled his contract -all which seems fair. I agree with not recasting, I personally, don’t like it. I just don’t think we own an actor or that he is disloyal for wanting to change jobs.

    Comment by lyn – March 19, 2013 08:37 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • New Darren on Bewitched was much better looking and better match. They could’ve had car accident and facial difference from surgery It was done badly in 20s so makeup could’ve done a lot to show new matthew Poor choice not to recast

    Comment by Daher – March 27, 2013 09:48 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Just make it like an american soap. Patrick has him hidden away with Matthew having amnesia.

    Comment by Linda – May 5, 2013 02:20 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I think it’s sad that fans concentrate so much on the actor and not the character. Although it was a tragic death for a major character and left viewers unhappy – including myself – it is a shame to wish the actor’s career being ruined and that he will be sorry for leaving the show. I also believe recasting in television shows should be banned.

    Comment by christianna – June 2, 2013 06:48 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I really don’t understand actors that leave successful shows. Dan Stevens certainly has some talent but it is more than talent that gets you to the level of a lead actor on such a successful show. There are a ton of lucky breaks just to get any acting job and then a ton of ingredients an actor cannot control that go into success (great writing, directing, skilled players, technical aspects). Walking away from the pinnacle of a career seems to be foolish, and SO often it has not worked out for others. Much more often than not.

    I will go a little further and say that it almost seems a bit selfish, as so many other actors and production people are going to be affected by this. Can the writers bring the story back? Can the other actors carry the load? The ‘evil alliance’ of O’Brian/Barrow is played out, the door is shut on the Clarkson romance, how much further can they go with Anna/Bates? Matthew and Mary reviving Downton and their realtionship into the next decades were the real promise of the show. That is gone now. All because Dan wants to go to Broadway?

    I cant imagine watching this on Christmas Day with my family, a three year tradition of uplifting Christmas specials ending so horrifically. I had not heard of the contract problems, did not get any spoilers, but I could feel the ending coming in the last five minutes and I found myself trying to will the show to end before the inevitable tragedy. Great television, but a horrible Christmas surprise to be sure!

    Comment by Neal – September 26, 2013 02:42 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The first episode of season 4 was a surprise. The episode with the rape of Anna was a real shock, I was not happy. Knowing how bad Dan Stevens wanted to leave Iw was alittle surprised that he would sacrifice the integrity of the show. All in all season 4 was okay. I love mister Blake and I’m looking forward to season 5.

    Comment by Ms. me and thee – February 14, 2014 12:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

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