‘Downton Abbey’ season 4 debate: How do you replace [spoiler]?

Downton Abbey CastFollowing the events of the “Downton Abbey” season 3 Christmas special earlier this month, one thing was very clear: Julian Fellowes has his work cut out for him moving into 2013. He has to try to find a way to appease a group of people over a decision that he really had nothing to do with. (Warning: the following contains major spoilers for American readers.)

At the end of the day, Fellowes had little choice but to kill off Dan Stevens’ character of Matthew Crawley, and the decision in many ways was similar to what “Grey’s Anatomy” showrunner Shonda Rhimes had to do with Eric Dane at the start of the season. There was no realistically way to just write either character out of the show without tainting their own reputation; and in death, they can at least be remembered for being the person that they always were, and not someone who just abandoned ship on their family. Could Fellowes have found a way to make Matthew’s death a little more realistic to the show? Sure. It never felt as though the car that swerved him off the road was driving that fast, and the entire incident came almost out of nowhere.

The question moving forward is just what “Downton Abbey” does now. Tom Branson has been more or less groomed to fill the position left open by Matthew’s death, but in between he and Sybil’s deaths, Robert is now left with two children in Edith and Mary along with a son-in-law in Tom. The only way to bring someone new into this fold now seems to be via marriage, and Edith is the only reasonable candidate to see that happening in the near future thanks to the other two being still very much in a grieving process.

Instead, expect to see “Downton Abbey” fill the void in season 4 by focusing a great deal on the servants. The Thomas / Jimmy storyline is obviously far from over, and there could still be something in play when it comes to Daisy and Alfred. Also, is it too much to ask that Mrs. Patmore find a nice love interest after what happened to her in the Christmas special?

What do you think the “Downton Abbey” writers will do in season 4 to fill the void left by Matthew? Be sure to share your theories below, and you can also read our latest debate when it comes to the deluge of “Downton Abbey” spoilers online over at the link here.

Photo: ITV

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