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‘Downton Abbey’ Death: Americans, Be Warned

"Downton Abbey" loses a key player in British Christmas special

(Spoiler alert: Don't read this if you don't want to know what happened in the "Downton Abbey" Christmas special that aired in the U.K.)

"Downton Abbey" fans in America are going to have a hard time not getting some big news about the British show before its third season reaches our shores next month.

In the show's Christmas special, Matthew Crawley, the newly married aristocrat played by Dan Stevens, was killed in a car accident. Americans won't see it until season 3 airs in the U.S., beginning on Jan. 6.

To keep the season spoiler-free, Americans will need to stay off of Twitter, avoid articles like this one, and not speak to any loose-lipped British friends or relatives. 

"Sopranos" mastermind David Chase used to say it didn't ruin a show to know what was going to happen next if the story was told well enough. So viewers who didn't heed spoiler warnings will soon know if "Downton Abbey" meets that standard.

Stevens was known for tweeting "Hound's bum abbey time" at the start of each episode, a reference to the rear shot of a dog that graces the screen in the opening credits. He told The Telegraph of London that his character's death is both "odd" and "liberating." He is now starring with Jessica Chastain on Broadway in "The Heiress."

“We were always optioned for three years,” Stevens told The Telegraph. “And when that came up it was a very difficult decision. But it felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things.”

He added that there is "a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness, because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be.”

The loss of a major character shouldn't come as a complete surprise. "Downton Abbey" executive producer Rebecca Eaton said in April that in the third season, "somebody will die, somebody pretty key in the cast."