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Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) in Sunday's 'Downton Abbey' finale. / Giles Keyte, Carnival Film & Television Ltd. for Masterpiece

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.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Record viewers for 'Downton' season finale

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