The answer to the question “Did Matthew Really Have to Die?” is an obvious one to any fan of the Abbey and/or actor Dan Stevens: Of course he didn’t! But that’s us thinking with our hearts, not our heards, fellow Dan fans.

When the distant English cousin we all wish we had announced he was leaving the BBC show, creator Julian Fellowes figured death was the only plausible exit for Matthew Crawley. There was just no other sensible way to separate the new father from the love of his life, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery).

"We couldn't have three years of them being in love and suddenly him taking against her and nipping off to Japan,” Jules dished to The Telegraph. “That wasn't a workable scenario.”

Who said anything about workable? We would have been totally happy to suspend reality (and the laws of physics) to have Matthew emerge unscathed from that horrid car crash, but such is not the fictional television world in which we wished we lived.

Still, couldn’t Jules have made the break a little less harsh? Well, no. The quick nature of Matthew’s eternal departure was necessary after the drawn-out ending Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) faced earlier in the season, Julian explained.

"We knew Jessica was leaving from quite a long time before, and so we completely decided calmly to kill her off in the fifth episode, so that would give people three episodes to recover and then we'd have [Matthew’s death in] the Christmas special … so we had a whole episode of her dying.”

Though Matthew’s death was heartbreaking, Dan says he actually preferred that exit over other potential exit options. He told The Radio Times, "It was right that he didn't run off and have an affair with somebody. I don't think that would have been right for Matthew as a character."

You know what we don’t think is right for Matthew as a character? Death.

SourcesThe TelegraphThe Radio Times

Elisabeth Kramer is an Assistant Editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident Downton Abbey expert. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!