MANY television viewers were dismayed when one of Downton Abbey's most popular characters died in the Christmas Day episode.
But Julian Fellowes, the show's creator, has defended his decision to kill off Matthew Crawley at a time when everything seemed to be going right for him.
The new series of the drama will see new mother Lady Mary Crawley as a widow after the shock death of her husband Matthew during the Christmas special.
The character, played by Dan Stevens, was married to Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery, and had just celebrated the birth of his first child when he was killed in a car crash.
Some fans complained that it was not necessary for the character to be killed off.
"I was very, very sorry Dan left," Julian said. "I thought he did a terrific job for us, I think he's a terrific actor.
"But actually, nothing is harder to dramatise than happiness. When two people are happy, that's it. That's why in the old movies, they don't kiss and marry in the middle, they kiss and marry at the end. Because in a way that's it.
"So now we've got Mary widowed, trying to control the estate, feuding with various other people about what the right way forward is, looking for a new life dare one say it. All of that is really more interesting than two people sitting by the fire having a cup of tea."
The death of Matthew Crawley was the second twist involving a death in the last series of Downton, with Lady Sybil earlier passing away following childbirth. The actress who had played her, Jessica Brown-Findlay, had also decided to leave the programme. Fellows had previously admitted that he would have "loved" to have kept both characters.
Downton Abbey creator Fellowes is hoping Shirley MacLaine will return to the show at some point.
The US actress played Cora, Countess of Grantham's (Elizabeth McGovern) outspoken mother Martha Levinson in the last series of the hit ITV1 period drama.
Asked if the Oscar-winner would make another appearance on the show, Fellowes said: "She will come back, I'm sure."
The writer said he was now "under the cosh" completing the scripts for the new series -- which starts filming next month.