(Series 3, ep.5) Well I didn’t expect that. In Game of Thrones, yes – major characters fall by the wayside fairly regularly. But not in lovely, cosy, prettily-dressed Downton Abbey. But it’s true – the pretty dresses have been carefully folded away now and the mourning clothes are well and truly on.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading now, because I’m about to go spoilering.
When heavily pregnant Lady Sybil started exhibiting symptoms that would routinely be spotted now as pre-eclampsia, there was a heated debate between the dear old faithful doctor who’d looked after the Crawley girls since they were bairns and the posh consultant type brought in by Lord Grantham. The trouble was, dear old faithful doc knew what was what and that the baby would have to be delivered by Caesarean, but posh consultant (and Lord Grantham) disagreed. If anyone had harboured any thoughts that life was nicer in those days, you only had to be faced with the realities of just how dangerous childbirth was and you’d reconsider.
The baby was delivered safely and we could relax. Only we couldn’t, because Sybil deteriorated and started fitting. It was a truly gut-wrenching scene, with the entire family assembled round the bed, Tom distraught, Sybil not breathing and the doctors admitting there was nothing they could do. Excellent work all round by the actors, particularly Jessica Brown-Findlay, who made sure we knew that dying wasn’t easy, and the makeup department who turned her a convincing shade of blue.
Sybil was always the sunniest and kindest of the Crawley sisters, without Mary’s haughtiness and Edith’s bitchiness, so her death hit everyone hard. Even Thomas had a little sob. Sybil was just about the only person who’d ever been nice to him, he told Anna, who was being nice to him. Mary and Edith agreed that they’d probably still never be bezzie mates, but they had a sisterly hug anyway because it’s what Sybil would have wanted. Cora blames her husband for siding with the posh doctor and is making him sleep in his dressing room for the foreseeable. And in an absolute acting masterclass, Maggie Smith managed to convey just by the way she walked across a room that Violet was completely broken by grief. And she was filmed from behind as well. Genius.
In other news, before Thomas’s hair was rendered floppy by grief his step had quite a spring in it because of the new boy, Jimmy Kent. O’Brien is being brilliantly manipulative with this situation, telling Jimmy he has to be nice to Thomas so he’ll put in a good word for him with His Lordship. O’Brien and Thomas were a bit “Mwah-ha-ha-ha!” when they were sidekicks and I’m enjoying them a lot more as enemies.
Posted by PLA (other Downton-related blog posts here)