'Downton Abbey' Season 3 Christmas special spoilers: Season 4 holds great uncertainty

mary-matthew-downton-abbey-season-3-dan-stevens-michelle-dockery.jpgThis article is for discussion surrounding "Downton Abbey" Season 3 as a whole and, more specifically, the Christmas special that just aired in the United Kingdom. Don't keep reading if you don't want to be spoiled.

Well. The Mary-Matthew happiness was fairly short-lived, wasn't it? It's a real shame Dan Stevens decided not to return to the show for Season 4 because it didn't leave the writers much of a choice. Re-casting the character would be weird and having him suddenly run off would also be extremely out of character.

Killing Matthew off was really the only choice and the future of the show will suffer because of it. The Mary-Matthew relationship has always been so nuanced and lovely and it will leave a huge hole in the show.

It also it unfortunate to have another child left without one parent so quickly on the heels of Lady Sybil's death. One wonders if the writers knew for sure about Matthew's end when they wrote and filmed Sybil's death because perhaps the show would've gone another way with that.

And speaking of Lady Sybil's death, while Matthew's car accident and demise was definitely shocking (the show really kept that one under wraps), we really wish the emotional payoff had been greater. The Lady Sybil death episode was gut-wrenching -- we cried quite a bit. Not so much this time around.

A car accident doesn't lend itself to the acting prowess shown by the cast when Sybil died, but still -- there should've been more there there when a character such as Matthew exits.

It'll be interesting to see what Season 4 holds for Mary. Whereas it's intriguing to see Lady Edith get on with her social life, even if the situation is less than desirable, we can't really picture Mary moving on from Matthew.

What do you think, fans? Agree? Disagree?

As for the other plotlines, the maid making a play for Branson was a little tired. There was perhaps a better way to examine his fish-out-of-water feelings, especially since we all knew he wouldn't act on it, so the dramatic tension wasn't quite there.

But the supporting players were marvelous, as always -- Grandpa Carson being so excited about Mary's baby and Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes dealing with the suitor. Also the trip to the Highlands was fun -- Anna and Bates were in fine form and it sounds as though Rose is set to be a major character in Season 4.

Overall, not quite the Christmas special from a year ago, but where as the Season 2 Christmas episode saved a rather mediocre season, the Season 3 special was more of a satisfying cap to a stellar season.

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Photo/Video credit: ITV