Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes has been criticized for killing off one of the main characters of the show, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) at the end of the Christmas Special for Season 3.
The episode had loyal fans up in arms, blaming Stevens for the heartbreaking finale, on Christmas day. Couldn’t it have been handled in a different way?
Dan Stevens had signed on for three seasons, which is not unusual for a continuous miniseries such as Downton, and he decided that it was time to move on with his career.
He did not sign for a fourth season and there were reports that Fellowes and show producers tried to convince him to stay on for the beginning episode of Season 4 without success.
Now, the show’s creator Julian Fellowes is talking about how difficult it was to kill off a character that was central to the story, after he was finally on the road to happiness, having just had a child, hours earlier.
“But having done that (killed off Jessica Brown Findlay’s character), when the news came through that Dan was also leaving we couldn’t very well do it again, so that was a bit testing.” said the Downton Abbey writer.
According to Fellowes, Dan Stevens announced that he was leaving just as Season 3 was starting production and he struggled with how to kill him off properly.
Executive producer Gareth Neame said: “We were all agreed that the only way we could break Mary and Matthew apart was for one to die. There really was no alternative.”
The couple had struggled through the first two seasons and a marriage to find each other in the end, wed, and have an heir to Downton.
“We couldn’t have three years of them being in love and suddenly him taking against her and nipping off to Japan. That wasn’t a workable scenario.” Fellowes added in an interview with THR.
Dan Stevens has apologized to fans for the way in which he left Downton Abbey:
“We didn’t see that script until the very last minute, so we didn’t know exactly how they were going to do it. I didn’t have any say in the manner in which he went. Ultimately, it was in the hands of Julian and the producers.” Stevens told Radio Times.
Downton Abbey is currently in production for Season 4, which premieres this fall in the UK and in January in the US.