'Downton Abbey' Shocker: Fans, Critics React To Death Of Popular Character

Nathan Francis

Downton Abbey had quite a shocker for fans on Sunday's episode. And, for those yet to see the episode, it might be best to turn back now.

The show put a hard and final end to Matthew Crawley, who was killed in a car crash. The killing sent immediate reverberations through the internet as fans took to message boards to complain about the killing of the popular character.

The plot twist wasn't too shocking for those following the Downton Abbey's behind-the-scenes drama. There were rumors that the actor who plays Crawley, Dan Stevens, was not renewing his contract and would be off the show in one way or another.

After Sunday's episode aired, Entertainment Weekly published an interview with producer Gareth Neame confirming the contract problems.

"Well, we had a quite a lot of notice that he wasn't going to re-up with the show," Neame said. "Whereas all the rest of the cast [renewed their contracts], he didn't. So we had a lot of notice and a long time to plan the exit.

Michael Hogan, the arts and entertainment editor for The Huffington Post, said Crawley's killing on Downton Abbey is a troubling development and not just for the show's plot. Hogan said he is upset to see that contract disputes dictate major plot developments on the show.

Hogan added that Matthew Crawley's killing didn't really make sense either:

"Never mind that Matthew's car accident came out of nowhere. We had no indication that Matthew is an unsafe driver, or that the roads near Downton are perilous, or that trucks have been known to careen down the one-lane highway in a fashion highly dangerous to giddy new dads driving sports cars. Never mind that even the thematic foreshadowing began about 45 seconds before the end of the episode and, for that matter, the season. Let's leave all that aside, because the truth is that Matthew's death just feels wrong. It's too much, too soon. Yes, I know that tragedies don't always come in neatly spaced out intervals. I heard a story recently about someone who lost three close family members in a single year. But we don't watch Downton Abbey because this family is unusually susceptible to tragedy. In fact, I suspect many of us watch it because it extracts such high doses of drama and tension from such trivial concerns."

She wrote:

"The actor, who talked about his decision to leave the show late last year, was saddled with some of the show's dumbest story lines. In Season 2, Matthew went from wheelchair-bound invalid to healthy chap in less time than it takes for Carson to serve tea, and in Season 3, he kept turning down a fortune (a magical fortune that fell from the sky at just the right moment, of course), thanks to hidebound morality that even Queen Victoria would have thought was a little too uptight. That's to say nothing of the endless, repetitive obstacles that were placed in the path of Lady Mary and Matthew, whom we all knew were going to get hitched as soon as we saw them start to spar in Season 1."