The cast member leaving Downton Abbey next season is…

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Only two weeks ago, Downton Abbey executive producer Rebecca Eaton teased that season three of the wildly popular period drama would feature a character death, and we're not talking about an obvious red shirt like [spoiler warning, Eaton!] Lavinia. This time it would be "somebody pretty key." And it looks like we may have learned who'll be stiffening their upper lip for the last time:

"Fellowes has yet to complete the plot-line — but sources say he is preparing to write out the formidable Dowager Countess.

‘Maggie has asked Julian to write her character out,’ says  a source. ‘She is filming until August and then wants to leave, going out on a high. She thinks that three series is enough and she wants to get back to the stage and big screen.’"



Ahem. Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I should note that reports say Smith will stay all the way through the Christmas special, which means we'll get a full season of the Dowager Countess and her utterly perfect one-liners. This also means, however, that her death might not be the one Eaton was talking about — hey, maybe they could kill off O'Brien or Thomas as well! But, if we're being honest, it probably is the Dowager, and not just because Smith wants to leave. The Dowager's like, what, two hundred? And as we've seen, doctors back then let any random person get their hands on the sick and injured without even running their hands under the tap. Or maybe she'll just see the length of the hemlines in the roaring '20s and decide to drink hemlock.

That doesn't mean I won't be completely devastated when she leaves, though, because I will. I propose an internet-wide day of mourning when that dreadful moment comes. But let's not leave on that unhappy note. Let's leave remembering the Dowager Countess how she'd want to be remembered — as a totally amazing bitch:

UPDATE: Carnival Films has since commented on the story, calling the original report "complete nonsense" and noting that "We never comment on future story lines but it's not true that she's leaving." 

However, a press representative for Masterpiece only noted that they did comment on future stories, and Maggie Smith's reps also declined to comment, sooooo… scandal?