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Eight Better Ways To Kill Off Matthew Crawley

Submitted by on February 19, 2013 – 10:15 am9 Comments

American fans of the British import Downton Abbey were livid this week  when the third season ended by suddenly killing off beloved husband and estate savior Matthew Crawley in a car accident. And while writer Julian Fellowes may have had no option except death for writing off this character, he could have done it in a much more integrated and less lazy way.

Actor Dan Stevens, who played Matthew, did not renew his contract beyond this season. And Fellowes explained in interviews that it wouldn’t make sense to write off the loving father and husband without killing him.

Fine. But Matthew’s death seems like it was written in one sentence- “Suddenly, Matthew’s car runs off road”- after the entire episode had been filmed already. This is in stark contrast to the well-written and affecting tragedy of Lady Sybil’s death earlier in the season, which reflected her father’s unwavering commitment to statues and tradition, and the marginalization of women in that era.

Here are a few other ways Downton could have killed off Matthew:

  • Mrs. Hughes’ electric toaster sets the house on fire, Matthew dies as he gets Mary and his newborn son to safety.
  • Matthew is killed by an irate farmer who lost his livelihood because of the changes at Downton.
  • Matthew dies in the infamous Abermule train crash.
  • Matthew is assassinated by a greif-stricken former Turkish diplomat, who believes Matthew is responsible for the death of the diplomat’s son (yes, I know Matthew wasn’t even around then, but maybe the Turk wouldn’t know that).
  • You know what was going on in 1921? THE IRISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE. And once upon a time, Tom Branson cared about such things. This violent conflict could have offered any number of ways to off Matt. For example: Tom secretly flees back to Ireland to get involved, pursued by his brother-in-law/best friend who wants to keep him safe. Maybe Matthew leaps in front of a bullet intended for Tom.
  • Alternatively, Matthew is called back to military service, sent to Belfast, and killed in the hostilities.
  • Matthew is killed in an airship crash, which seems to have been a very modern and very dangerous mode of travel in the 1920′s.
  • Matthew gets sick, is misdiagnosed repeatedly, and catches an infection in the hospital. Seven years before the discovery of penicillin, this was not uncommon.

Silly? Sure. Not entirely plausible? Maybe. But I’d say each of these has more thematic resonance than getting run off the road by a chicken truck. And they took me about five minutes to think of.

What do you think?

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  • diana says:

    I for one will not be watching any more episodes of Downton Abbey. I felt totally manipulated and agree with all the above commentary. Albeit we all know it is a very well produced and directed BBC period soap opera no one wants their mouths washed out with soap. I did get a very bad taste in my mouth and my emotions. To go from such a loving and tender scene in the hospital with his wife and newborn to not even paying attention on a narrow road in a matter of minutes when everyone then had to be extra cautious because of horse drawn wagons and other devices is simply not believable. His character was not a reckless one and that he would be paying so little attention stretched my credulity. I thought that entire scene was written in total disregard to the audience. Count me as one less devotee.

    But could it possibly be that it was one way to score a direct hit against Dan Stevens and prejudice the audience against him for leaving the series. Makes one wonder. Really wonder.. hmmmm?

  • Shmeee says:

    Wow, well put. I completely agree. Matthew’s death was BRUTAL, not because it was surprising, but because it was weak, like an afterthought. It’s insulting to viewers, and truly pushed Downton into soap opera territory.

  • Cindy Fleischer says:

    HELLO! We don’t know yet that he’s dead!! Doesn’t anyone remember JR?

  • Mom2Joe says:

    …….”Albeit we all know it is a very well produced and directed BBC period soap opera”.

    A true Downton fan would know that it is an ITN production.

  • PhilipD says:

    Why not just cast a new actor and keep the character alive? I feel bad for the writers that they have to adjust their story telling because an actor doesn’t want to continue in the role.

  • Joan says:

    Oh, please…..all they needed to do was have in a hunting accident as the messenger was running over the hill to bring him the news about his baby being born……they spent enough time on the hunt on the last episode!!

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