(L-R) Actors Phyllis Logan, Michelle Dockery, Allen Leech, Amy Nuttall and Sophie McShera, winners of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for 'Downton Abbey,' pose in the press room during the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Fans of Downton Abbey may not be happy that the season ended with the death of a major character, but they tuned in to Sunday night's Season 3 finale in record numbers.
PBS and WGBH announced Tuesday that an average 8.2 million fans watched the two-hour episode, which ended with the bloody demise of romantic young Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) in a car accident as he was leaving Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) at the hospital after the birth of their son and Downton heir. The episode topped the Season 2 finale (5.4 million viewers), which aired last February.
Downton Abbey's third season "consistently drew an audience more than quadruple the PBS prime-time average. It exceeded the average rating of the second season of Downton Abbey by 66%," according to Tuesday's announcement.
Earlier this season, Lady Mary's younger sister Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay) died in childbirth. The Masterpiece Classic production returns to U.S. screens early next year.
Carol Memmott, USA TODAY