The sound you heard last night was the collective Nooooos, groans, wailings, cursing, and sobs of millions of Americans struck dumb and devastated by the surprise ending to season three’s finale/Christmas special. Though I was prepared for the inevitability of Matthew’s death thanks to a Norwegian trailer that leaked a few days before Christmas (not to mention the year’s worth of rumors over Dan Stevens’ departure), it still struck me as a cheap and unbelievable way to send off a departing actor because we already had the whole baby born–somebody dies scenario occur with Sybil. After watching it again last night on PBS, my opinion still holds, particularly because of the wretched dialogue thrown in the last act that telegraphed Something Bad Is Going to Happen!

And so, Matthew’s sudden death struck a jarring note in an otherwise very self-contained episode that tied up just about every loose-end of S3: Mary and Matthew have a son, Tom accepts his place Upstairs, Anna and Bates are happy and united, Thomas has made some measure of peace with Jimmy (even Alfred seemed to have grown a bit fond or at least respectful of Thomas after the previous year’s revelations), and Robert–via the horrid marriage of Shrimpy and Susan–learned to accept some of the changes of the future. There were the flapping ends of the sudden inclusion of Rose and the continued (excruciating) saga of Edith and her Rochester newspaper editor, but I assume that if Julian Fellowes hadn’t written S3 with the departures of Sybil and Matthew in mind, Rose would have never existed and Edith probably would have married Sir Anthony. Alas, the clamor for more Downton ruled the day, and we get a S4 of the slightly bitterest fruit.

Other notes culled from my Twitter reactions:

  • Mary had the glowingest pregnancy and labor ever!
  • Thomas must really be in love with Jimmy. I wouldn’t take a thrashing for him.
  • Bates and Anna have more tender and romantic moments than Mary & Matthew
  • Daisy’s picked up some snarkiness from Mrs Patmore!
  • Ugh, Edna.
  • Rose was less annoying than in the real end of s3. Her parents are a mess and a half.
  • Cora isn’t exactly mother of the year…
  • I was indifferent to Gregson last year, but last night he was annoying. I wish Edith had sent him packing.
  • No on Isobel/Clarkson. He was rude and dismissive of her for the past two seasons, and they hardly interacted at all during S3, and all of the sudden he’s fond enough of her to want to propose?
  • Molesley has become one of my favorite characters.
  • The creepy Tufton (new grocer and Mrs. Patmore’s suitor) played a gross character on South Riding.
  • Carson and Baby Sybbie were so cute together!

What did you think about the finale? If, knowing what was going to occur, would you have preferred Downton end with three seasons?

Thoughts around the web (scatter your weeping and gnashing of teeth across the internet):

Diana Overbey (love her recap and further ruminations)
Jane Austen’s World
Entertainment Weekly
Tom and Lorenzo
Downton Abbey’s IMDb message board (a favorite haunt)

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