Oof. How does one even start this recap? (Warning: I'm going to discuss the big news right away, so if you haven't watched the episode, stop reading.)
Matthew is dead. After Mary gives birth to their child, a son, Matthew takes a joyful drive to the Abbey. The heir to Downton looks absolutely ecstatic as he drives his car down the road. Unfortunately, he's blissfully unaware of the truck barreling toward him. The next thing we know, he's lying on the side of the road, crushed under his car, blood pouring down his face. His fate has been sealed.
I have so many feelings that have basically incapacitated me. I really don't how how I -- or we as Downton fans -- are supposed to go on. Although we knew, or basically knew, this was coming, it's still a a huge punch to the gut. First Sybil? Now this? Yes, Dan Stevens didn't want to sign on for more seasons. And he could not have been written off unless his character died. So in that way -- it made sense. Yet, I'm heartbroken for Mary, who doesn't know what has happened to her beloved, and I mourn the loss of the Matthew-Mary dynamic.
But I suppose we must talk about what happens before the tragedy. Let's start from the beginning. A year has passed since the last episode, and the staff readies the family for their annual trip to Duneagle Castle in Scotland to visit their cousins Shrimpie and Lady Flintshire. (Why haven't we seen the trips before? Well, Bates gives us a handy explanation -- the Crawleys didn't go during the war or after Sybil's death. Plus season 1 was full of random time jumps anyway.)
Mary is eight months pregnant and Matthew doesn't want her traveling -- and neither does her father or Carson. Given Sybil's fate, can you blame them? Mary stubbornly insists, and the Crawleys -- with Molesley, Bates, Anna, and O'Brien in tow -- make the journey by train. (Branson, Isobel and the rest of the servants have been left behind.)
During their visit -- life is pretty typical of English nobility. The men spend their time stalking, the ladies lunch, they eat fancy dinners and there is even a ball. The late stages of her pregnancy, however, cause Mary much discomfort and she decides to leave Scotland early with Anna. She tells Matthew that he must stay -- she doesn't want to break up the entire party. She and Anna take the last train of the night back to Yorkshire. When they arrive back in Downton, Mary feels the pangs of labor, and goes straight to the hospital. They telephone Donegal, and Matthew and the rest of the family leave as soon as possible.
NEXT: Downton is safe, but Matthew is not