Spoiler alert! Twist awaits U.S. fans of 'Downton Abbey'

NEW YORK (AP) — British fans of "Downton Abbey" are feeling blue after Tuesday's conclusion of Season 3, even as the U.S. audience eagerly anticipates this third cycle on PBS' "Masterpiece" beginning Jan. 6.

(ANY "ABBEY" DEVOTEES WHO PREFER NOT TO LEARN WHAT AWAITS THEM ARE URGED TO STOP READING RIGHT NOW.)

One of the stars of this wildly popular British costume drama is leaving the series after its third season. Dan Stevens had opted not to continue beyond his initial commitment, the British network ITV confirmed Wednesday.

His character, Matthew Crawley, has been written out with what ITV called an "untimely and tragic death" in the season finale. That episode will air in the U.S. in February.

Michelle Dockery will be returning in Season 4 as Matthew's soon-to-be widow, Lady Mary.

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