Downton Abbey’s finale for its third season sees another pivotal character exit with the death of Matthew (Dan Stevens) while paving the way for new drama next season.

Matthew’s death is understandably the aspect of the finale that’s creating the most buzz in the aftermath of Sunday’s episode. It seemed untimely and unnecessary given that Sybil was killed off just a couple of episodes ago. However, Julian Fellowes is not to blame. The actors helming these parts, Jessica Brown Findlay and Stevens, respectively, had chosen to leave the show, thereby abandoning their characters. Their deaths then, become even more problematic. If Fellowes' plotting of future seasons had once hinged on these characters remaining, what will he do to allow the Grantham Estate story to endure? Anyway, there was more to the episode than Matthew’s death in a car accident.

The episode takes place a year after the penultimate episode. The family takes a trip to Duneagle Castle in Scotland where Rose and her parents reside. The trip results in Cora, who is still grieving for her daughter Sybil, to take Rose away from her antagonistic mother to come live with her and Robert. Mary, who is eight months pregnant, was urged to refrain from traveling by Matthew, but goes anyway. Soon she goes into labor and must return to Downton, and is soon followed by the rest of the family. Meanwhile, Edith is paid a visit by her editor while in Scotland. During his visit, Edith agrees to be his mistress due to the fact that his wife is in a mental institution.

Back in Downton, Branson finds himself the object of a young maid’s desire. She plants a kiss on him and is later forced to quit her place at the estate. Branson then receives a telling-to by Mrs. Hughes about the behavior that’s expected of him after Sybil's death. Mrs. Hughes also steps in when Mrs. Patmore is asked out to a carnival in town by a new grocer. Once at the carnival, the grocer proves to be a flirt. Dr. Clarkson invites Isobel to the fair and she accepts. As he tries to woo her, she seems oblivious before he is called away to care to Thomas. Also at the fair are Jimmy and Thomas. Jimmy gets drunk after winning big on a bet only to get cornered by a group of town boys. Thomas comes to his rescue, earning Jimmy’s appreciation and friendship.

After Mary gives birth to her and Matthew’s son, securing the earldom of Grantham, Matthew hops in his car and speeds to Downton to share the news. Before he arrives there, he gets into a fatal collision and meets the death that now defines Downton's season three finale, and joins Sybil's death in defining the season of tragedy as a whole.