Fans on both sides of the pond were overjoyed this weekend with the news that Downton Abbey was renewed for a fourth season on U.K. channel ITV (the third season, save for a Christmas special, just finished airing there, and will air in the U.S. on PBS starting Jan. 6.)
This should be news that makes us jump for joy – or at least show a properly restrained smile during a formal dinner – but I can’t help but be concerned. Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, has yet to sign on to return. A report in The U.K.’s Daily Mail says that he’ll exit after the first episode next season to focus on other projects.
If true, this is, to quote the Dowager Countess, a ridiculous idea. I love Downton Abbey, but I mostly love Mary and Matthew. Would Friends be Friends without Ross and Rachel? Can you imagine The Office without Steve Carell? (Well, that actually happened – and that’s the problem.) A show that doesn’t continue to give me moments like when Matthew proposed to Mary in the falling snow is not one I’m interested in watching, despite my love for everyone else in the house. I think the Mary/Matthew dynamic is too big a part of the show to overcome if one of them were to leave. No offense to Laura Carmichael, but I have no desire to watch a show all about Edith.
Not only that, but I don’t know how they could believably write Stevens’ character out without having Matthew up and suddenly die. Matthew’s life is Downton! He’s the heir! THE ENTIRETY of the show typically takes place within that one house. And what would Mary conceivably be doing during his disappearance – would it force her to leave the show as well, to be with him? If it had to happen (which it doesn’t, Stevens. The ball is in your court!) then I suppose they could make up some business – a long-lost relative? Estate drama that requires visiting someone far away? – to explain away his absence. But it would still hurt the character: At this point in their story, Matthew wouldn’t desert Mary. The two have such a great story going – I’d hate for outside influences to force showrunners to ruin that romance.
I had beautiful plans in my mind for a fourth season full of babies running around the Abbey (Stevens recently told EW that we could expect a wedding and possibly a baby in the third season). Don’t dangle the dream only to take it away!
PopWatch Poll: If Dan Stevens doesn’t return to Downton, would you watch?