Vulture readers weighed in heavily in the comments section for our Downton Abbey season-three finale recap. Reactions ranged from the jokey ("Downton Abbey has become DOWNER Abbey!") to the angry ("Let's not forget that [this] was shown on Christmas Day in Britain. Happy Christmas, children! EVERYONE YOU LOVE WILL DIE.") to the jokey-angry ("Hey, any show that reprises the climactic scene from City of Angels is ok by me"). Critics and recappers from other sites and publications were equally outraged. A selection below:
Michael Hogan, the Huffington Post
"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."
Maureen Ryan, the Huffington Post
"I know it may be hard to hear this, but all things considered, I think Matthew Crawley's death was for the best ... Downton is all about maintaining a certain order in a certain way. Fellowes likes disorder and change about as much as Mrs. Hughes likes cheeky housemaids ... All that Downton held for Matthew was more of the same, and those repetitive storylines had reached the point of diminishing returns. I think more highly of the actor and the character than to want that. And his death will force the show to evolve."
June Thomas, Slate
"I swear, the Crawleys are the Kennedys of Yorkshire."
Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter
"The trouble ahead, however — and there's trouble ahead for virtually every series that just finishes a creatively successful season because there are no guarantees it will happen again — is that Downton has a Season 4. Shame, that. Season 3 might have been an excellent way to end it all. In many ways it felt like a series finale."
Richard Rushfield, BuzzFeed
"The suspicion strikes that with no particular dramatic destination, and the only order of business at hand being to write off two actors who had given their notices, Fellowes decided to milk as much excitement as he could out of their departures, exiting them by the cruelest means imaginable. And nobody could tell him, apparently, when to stop."
Willa Paskin, Salon
"The last Christmas Special, in which Matthew and Mary got engaged in the final scene, was a kind of magic trick: so happy, so sweet, so well executed, it made me forget all the absurd plot points that had come before. This Christmas Special is that magic trick but in reverse, so sad and brutal in its final scene it puts into relief how dogged and depressing this season has been all along. We’ll see how I feel in another nine months when the show returns, but for now, I think this just might be the last episode of Downton Abbey I will ever care very much about."
Liane Bonin Starr, HitFix
"Downton Abbey, which managed to keep death reserved for secondary characters through a World War and the most lethal influenza outbreak of that century, killed off two members of the Crawley family within just a few episodes. I realize that when an actor wants to leave the show, and he plays a character who isn't likely to want (or, in this time period, get) a divorce, there aren't a lot of choices beyond killing him off. Still, it's a little jarring that Downton Abbey seems to be getting a glut of bad luck in just one season — Edith being dumped at the altar seems like small potatoes in light of how the season ultimately wraps up."
Meredith Blake, the Los Angeles Times
"We get a grisly extreme close-up of Matthew’s lifeless face, a gooey crimson rivulet of blood pouring out of his ear. It’s an unusually — and, I think, unnecessarily — lurid image for Downton Abbey, adding to the sense that Matthew’s departure is handled with less tact than it should have been.
Sean T. Collins, Rolling Stone
"In thinking about this finale, I wonder if the tragedy that takes place in its final minutes is more instructive than it seems. If you've lead a life untouched by this sort of tragedy, I'm jealous. What I've learned from a life that isn't is that it's a fool's errand to try to make sense of tragedy, since the very nature of tragedy is that no sense can be made. Tragedy is a hole in sense. But if the hole doesn't suck you in, it can force you to pay more attention to where you're stepping around it. So when I look at the 90 or so minutes of tonight's episode that didn't involve the untimely death of Matthew Crawley, I see the same remarkable and rigorously observed relationship exploration that's made the show a must-watch for me."