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'Downton' season ends with tragic loss

You can't say "Downton Abbey" isn't an equal-opportunity tormentor. Each of the three "Downton" daughters began the season with high hopes for a happy life, and each daughter's life was devastated in turn.

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Mary and Matthew welcomed a son, and then tragedy struck.

Edith thought being left at the altar by Sir Anthony Strallan was the worst thing that could happen to a woman. She looked at her two happily married sisters, both with baby plans, and saw herself as the unloved perpetual spinster.

She soon found out that there are worse things than being single. Sybil died after giving birth to a daughter earlier this season. Mary fought to get pregnant, succeeded and, this week, delivered a son and heir. But in his joyous rush to get home from the hospital to tell the family about his child, Mary's faithful husband, Matthew, driving too fast on a country road, collided with a truck and was killed instantly. There's no hope for a soap opera-like resurrection -- actor Dan Stevens did not renew his contract with the show. It was even worse for British fans, who saw the death air on Christmas Day.

Despite what fans may think of Mary, Matthew was always firmly on her side, running interference between his wife and Edith, and loyally sticking up for brother-in-law Branson. In the finale, he even lent an ear to Edith's new suitor, editor Michael Gregson, who has an insane wife but still dreams of a relationship with Edith, "Jane Eyre" style. (Look, Gregson,  the Earl didn't like Sir Anthony for being old -- he'll never let her date a married man.)

Matthew always saw the best in his wife, and she knew it. "I hope I'm allowed to be your Mary Crawley for all eternity, and not Edith's version or anyone else's," she told him as they held their son. But now that her true rock is gone, whose Mary Crawley will she be? And how will the family, from Mary to Isobel to the rest, recover from the loss?

Before Matthew's death, the family vacationed at Scotland's Duneagle Castle with Cousin Rose's family. There they were exposed to the nasty relationship between Rose's mother, Susan, and father, unfortunately nicknamed "Shrimpie." The couple can't divorce, but they're off on a posting to India, and leaving young Rose at Downton. The sudden insertion of Rose into the plot has led numerous fan sites to dub her Cousin Oliver, from the "Brady Bunch" character who was thrust into the show when the family's kids aged out of cuteness. (Cousin Oliver didn't save the show -- does Rose need to?)

In Scotland, O'Brien forges a friendship with Susan's maid, Wilkins. Two evil staffers who can plot evil together? Their alliance didn't last: When O'Brien proved herself more adept at doing hair, Wilkins tried to embarrass her by getting O'Brien drunk. Oh, please! What is this, Amateur Hour? Wilkins clearly has no idea who she's dealing with. O'Brien immediately tasted the alcohol in the drink, and it was Moseley who ended up downing it and entertaining the room with a wild and crazy dance at the Ghillies Ball.

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Mrs. O'Brien thought she'd found a friend in Scotland, but the woman was as two-faced as O'Brien herself.

While the family was gone, Branson and the staff stayed behind. The staff headed off to the Thirsk Country Fair, where Mrs. Patmore continued a flirtation with new supplier Joss Tufton. Mrs. Hughes thought she'd break her friend's heart when she gently let her know Tufton was a big ol' flirt who just wanted Mrs. Patmore for her cooking, but thankfully, Mrs. P was relieved to hear it.

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Mrs. Hughes helped Mrs. Patmore through some issues with a flirtatious grocery supplier.

The fair saw another flirtation too -- Isobel Crawley, Matthew's mother, and Dr. Clarkson seemed like a match made in heaven. But when he attempted to take things farther, she gently let him down. Why, Isobel? He may not be a Harley Street doctor, but he's a kind man who truly cares about her. Perhaps he'll return to comfort her next season.

Also at the fair, Thomas ended up saving a drunken James from some muggers, taking a beating himself for his trouble. He ended up cut and bloody, but the beating served a purpose. James came to Thomas' room later to thank him, and the two agreed they could try and be friends again. Whether they'll be able to pull it off without the romance Thomas wants remains to be seen.

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James was furious with Thomas over the stolen kiss, but events this week made him think differently.

Dear Branson, always the odd man out, rattled around Downton by himself until a flirty new maid, Edna, suggested he join the staff for dinner. Not only that, she boldly showed up in his room later and snatched a kiss. Of course, Carson and Mrs. Hughes found out, and Edna got the boot. Branson's just still so lonely and out of place without Sybil, and it was Mrs. Hughes who kindly  told him, "You must bear it, and one day, find someone to bear it with you."

The residents of "Downton Abbey" have had a lot to bear this season, and with Matthew's loss, they'll have to bear up again. We've got nearly a year till we find out how they manage.

Great Dowager Countess quotes:

  • "I know he's housebroken, more or less, but I don't want freedom to go to his head." -- Does she mean the dog, or Branson?
  • "Oh my dear, you flatter me, which is just as it should be." -- Even in Scotland, the Dowager holds sway.
  • "Poor souls. It's bad enough parenting a child when you like each other."  -- Let's see a prequel about Robert's childhood!

What did you think of the season finale? Vote in our poll, and tell us on Facebook about your favorite and least favorite things of the season.

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