Downton Abbey Season 4: Which Characters Aren’t Coming Back?
Credit: ITV    

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Season 4: Which Characters Aren’t Coming Back?

We’re starting to suspect that Kleenex sponsored Season 3 of Downton Abbey because there sure were a ton of tear-jerking moments. The absolute worst were the deaths of not one but TWO major characters. So many people came and went last season that we’re having trouble keeping track of who’s actually still on the show. We hope this quick roll call helps … and doesn’t leave us sobbing:

Downton Abbey Season 4: Which Characters Aren’t Coming Back?
Credit: Giles Keyte/Carnival Film & Television    

Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens)

Oh say it ain’t so! We still can’t believe Cousin Matthew bit the dust (literally) during last season’s unexpectedly dramatic Christmas special. The show didn’t even leave room for “he’s not dead” conspiracies. We’re still trying to forget those wide-eyed, blood-dripping-from-his-mouth images. If only he’d kept his eyes on the road and/or not been so fascinated by the magic of his son’s birth!

Why’d he leave? Downton creator Julian Fellowes says actor Dan Stevens was “determined to go” and wouldn’t even stick around so “we could give Matthew and Mary a happy ending.” That blonde heartbreaker has had a good run of it since he left Downton, starring on Broadway alongside leading lady Jessica Chastain and signing up for his own three-movie deal. He’s hinted at a potential return to Downton but after last season’s abrupt end we’re just not sure what to believe anymore.

Downton Abbey Season 4: Which Characters Aren’t Coming Back?
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Lady Sybil Branson (Jessica Brown Findlay)

Almost as shocking as Matthew’s auto accident was Lady Sybil’s death in childbirth. At first, the new mother seemed just fine. Then, all of a sudden, she’s seizing and gasping for breath while her whole family looks on. Honestly, it was one of the more horrific deaths we’ve seen outside the Saw series. We’re happy she at least got to briefly hold her daughter, whom husband Tom names after his dearly departed wife. A tad morbid, but we’re glad they’ll still be a Sybil at Downton.

Why’d she leave? Like with Dan, Jessica has her eyes set on the silver screen. She’s slated to appear in the movie adaptation of Labyrinth as well as in Winter's Tale alongside Hollywood legends Russell Crowe and Eva Marie Saint. Even with such great projects ahead, it’s hard to say goodbye to Downton’s feisty little sister. Even Jessica’s own mom and dad couldn’t believe it! “My parents knew I was dying, but they didn't know how, so my mum was in bits. My dad had to tell her, 'you can call her on the phone,’” she told HuffPostUK.

Downton Abbey Season 4: Which Characters Aren’t Coming Back?
Credit: Carnival Film & Television    

Sarah O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran)

We’ve got mixed feelings about this departure. On one hand, Mrs. O’Brien leaving Downton would mean a lot less drama downstairs. On the other, the Grantham family would be a whole lot safer without this “loyal” maid lurking in the shadows. Unlike with Matthew and Sybil, it’s unlikely death will do O’Brien in. Not only is she far too scary but the Season 3 finale alluded to a possible exit: O’Brien does India. Leaving Lady Grantham for the family's Scottish cousins keeps the door open for a potential return to Downton, a storyline the creators haven’t completely ruled out.

Why’d she leave? Siobhan Finneran — whom we barely recognized outside her costume — told the Daily Mail that three series was enough. “That was all I wanted to do,” she added. “I had great fun doing it but I just didn’t want to do it any more...When I stop loving something, I stop doing it.” But who will Thomas (Rob James-Collier) spar with now?

05.31.2013 / 12:00 AM EDT by Elisabeth Kramer
Related: Downton Abbey

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