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Downton Abbey Review: Goodbye to a Lady

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It's difficult to appreciate the smaller stories that appeared in episode 304 of Downton Abbey, when the life of a beloved character was hanging in the hands of an arrogant interloper and ultimately lost to that very man. That's right. Tonight we lost Lady Sybil in childbirth. The worst part was that her death was in vain.

Whoever the hell Sir Phillip was, Doctor Clarkson had known the girls since birth and his experience and knowledge of Sybil could have saved her life. As he laid very plausible medical questions on the table, Sir Phillip tossed back quips such as "Well, maybe she has thick ankles. Many women do." Guess what, Phil, DR. CLARKSON HAD SEEN SYBIL'S ANKLES ALL HER LIFE!.

And Lord Grantham? What on earth has become of him during this season? He's unreasonable and subject to fits of insolence.

Lady Sybil

When his wife and the husband of his daughter were begging for her to be taken to the hospital and looked after properly, he had no right to stomp his feet like a child and demand his word be heeded just because he was the man of the house.

The false alarm of happiness at the birth of a healthy baby girl for new parents Sybil and Tom was ominous, as Sybil talked to Cora about Tom's future, trying to ensure she would do what was best for him and not allow him to take matters into his own hands. She was still not in her right mind, and the description was apt as she pounded at the pain in her head later that evening. Once it was too late, as they all watched Sybil succumb to ecalmpsia, it was difficult to feel anything but anger toward the Earl of Grantham.

There were tears at Sybil's death, of course. But it was the reaction around Downton that brought the buckets. Thomas Barrow bawling, without thought for himself, was surely a scene to behold. It brought out a side of him we've never seen, and allowed me to open my heart to him just a little bit.

Cora, oh Cora. A part of her had to look back upon that conversation she had with Sybil before she went to sleep, so happy at the birth of her granddaughter, and realize it was her last. She knowingly spoke to Sybil one last time, after her death, calling her her baby, assuring her she would look after her husband and daughter as she promised just hours earlier. It was the last time she would ever be alone with her baby girl, and she was infused with pain, wanting to cherish the last moments. It was both beautiful and heartbreaking.

What could possibly mend the rift between Cora and Robert after what happened on that fateful evening? Even though nobody seemed to understand what Cora was talking about when she said Sir Phillip and Robert were the cause of Sybil's death, Robert himself understood. No doubt he'll spend the rest of his life regretting the things he did wrong. I don't envy the uphill battle he will have to fight to win back Cora's affections and trust, nor the replaying of that night over and over throughout the remainder of his life.

Even in the wake of losing their sister, Mary still couldn't promise to like Edith in the future. It was rather upsetting, as she appears unwilling to budge even slightly, but without reason. Yes, they're different, but there is hardly a gulf between them. We've seen Edith hold out the olive branch more than once and in return she gets exchanges as you can see in one of the Downton Abbey quotes that follows. I wonder what cataclysmic event, if not the death of a beloved sister, could possibly move Mary to reach out to Edith.

Mary: She was the only person living who always thought you and I were such nice people.
Edith: Oh Mary. Do you think we might get along a little better in the future?
Mary: I doubt it. But since this is the last time we three will all be together in this life, let's love each other now, as sisters should. | permalink

Other things around Downton:

They seem so petty in comparison to the loss of Lady Sybil, but there were some other items of note. Here we go!

  • Can you even imagine living in a world when the winding of a clock came down to a certain member of the staff? So certain that it would be wrong for a valet to do it, and it would be the absolute marking of the first footman? Keep in mind, this was occurring less than 100 years ago. We might complain about the lives we live now, but contrast to how things were our opportunities are boundless.
  • Edith was asked to write a column in a local Yorkshire paper, but even then Robert and Violet made her feel foolish. Something big has to be coming her way. Yes, Sybil died, but Edith is left to suffer the indignities of being the unfavored Lady of Downton.
  • After Isobel offered Ethel a job, it gave me great joy to watch her gently shuffle Mrs. Bird out the door, even giving her a backhanded insult by assuring her nobody who looked at her would ever assume she was making her living as a lady of ill repute.
  • Poor Daisy was still watching Alfred and Jimmy prance around Ivy in the kitchen. Mrs. Patmore rightly pointed out that Alfred wasn't going to like her more for being mean to Ivy, so it was kind of pointless to take it out on her. It would be nice to see Daisy and Ivy become friends instead of the kitchen girls always fighting each other for the newest men on the canvas. It's a dog eat dog world in there!
  • Poor Matthew. He was worried about his fertility because he and Mary aren't starting a family after just a couple months. Geez, dude, give yourself a break! It takes about a month to find out so two months in isn't really the time to start worrying!
  • Bates finally realized the key to his freedom with the information he received from Anna's detective work. The poison Vera ingested was in the very crust she was using to bake a pie while Bates was on a train! He couldn't have put the poison in there, because the pie had already been baked. Or something. Okay, I didn't really follow the logic, but for them it was an aha moment. I can't even remember what Bates did when he was free. Will Carson be out of a job when he's out of prison?
  • Matthew wants to start running Downton like a business. Renting out land for farming and such. Something tells me that will be a sticking point between he and the family, but they have to get their financial situation in order, and nobody seems to have come up with a better idea. He doesn't want to put anybody out, just start using the land. Aristocracy must give way to the middle class.
  • Was Thomas snuggling up to Jimmy when he was helping him with the clock? Are we about to be introduced to the first homosexual story line on Downton? I surely got that feeling, as did Jimmy, from what I could ascertain. It would explain a lot about why Thomas is such a pain if he's been hiding a part of himself and was afraid to open up.

Despite the fact Downton Abbey aired in the fall in the United Kingdom, I did my best to avoid spoilers, and I was utterly surprised at the death of Lady Sybil. I truly had no idea she was going to die and that made this episode very powerful.

However, I know some of you LOVE to be spoiled. You lucky dogs, there is some major Downton Abbey Season 4 scoop revealed about Series 4 and 5, so read at your own risk! In the meantime, would you blame Robert if you were Cora? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (60 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

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Unrelieved gloom and doom in this episode made me give it a lower star rating. There was not a single storyline that wasn't fraught with heartache. Yes, there is a possibility of Bates being cleared, but the guard and inmate are clearly cooking something up. Yes there was a certain satisfaction in the sanctimonious cook being given her notice but the reaction of the Downton staff bodes ill for what is to follow. I confess I felt more anxious than entertained at the end of the hour.

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So sad to see Sybil die. The whole episode while the doctors were fussing and Robert I kept screaming at the screen saying don't kill her off. Sybil was my fave out the daughters and hated that she had to die. I too blame Robert. He needed to put his daughter health first and not side with Sir Phillip. I couldn't believe Mary wouldn't mend fences with Edith. Your sister just died and you couldn't even find it in your heart to get along with the only living sister you have. I despise Mary character. I don't believe she deserves Matthew or any happiness. I hate to see how every week Edith gets the short end of the stick in this family.

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Ummmmmm one of Thomas' fist scenes was a gay affair with some aristocrat who then dissed him
Hardly an unknown fact !!

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@MrWriteSF - Midwives, nurses and nuns trained in medicine have cared for pregnant women for centuries, usually taking the place of expensive doctors. Just because someone couldn't afford a doctor or a hospital visit doesn't mean they didn't have access to healthcare while pregnant. Even if Sybil had no claim to an inheritance, IMO she was still the daughter of an Earl, and her parents would have ensured she could afford minimal healthcare for their grandchild.

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To be fair to Julian Fellows, the actress, Jessica Findlay-Brown asked to be written off the show to pursue other interests. He could have had her go quietly and ineffectually, board a train never to be seen again until the part was recast, etc. Or, he could do this. If Sybil's death results in characters changing or growing as a result, then I probably won't mind as much. But, if her death has zero result in how her family interacts with the world at large, it will have been a waste.

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I am so disappointed that Juiien Fellowes had Sybil die. She And Tom and baby could have brought some joy to this season 3.
We have watched one disaster after another this year. Stupid writing! I would be surprised if Mary ever conceives, she is such a cold fish. She is so imperial and haughty with her comments to Mathew and Edith. Poor Edith, she deserves better. maybe she and baby and Tom should run away from this disfunctional family and take the silver and jewelry with them. Dear Mr Fellowes, could we please go back to the interesting stories of Season 1, less gra

Tvgarth

Heartbreaking episode that was painful to watch, but of course...mesmerizing! I believe Tom will take Lady Sybil's death hardest of all and the shot through the window with him holding the baby was nearly too much to take. Lord Grantham is an all too real example of how insensitive and "out of touch" many of the English upper-crust could be at that time. He's put off Matthew who has nothing but the estate's best interests at heart and now he's largely responsible for his youngest daughter's death because he put too much stake in the rank of a title than the family doctor. Mary, too, is a chip off the old block for her annoying attitude towards Matthew's interest in revitalizing Downton, and though his timing may not have been the best, it was simply a good use of the attorney's time when an additional visit to the estate was not as easy as it might be today. Lighten up Mary, though I did find a great deal of comic relief in her reply to her sister. Rather honest, too! Mrs. Crawley's backhanded compliment and quick dismissal of Mrs. Bird were both highlights of an episode filled with "upper and lower" drama. It is important to note that being "in service" was not only highly regarded but servants also had their own strict moral code to be sure. However, it truly was rather silly to imagine a prostitute on staff might sully the reputation of another servant? Just goes to show that the new world order has not yet come to Downton, save for Isobel who is to be commended for her Kindness and charity. Finally, dear Thomas was definitely hitting on the new, good-looking clock maker. Guess we've had him pegged wrong all along, as witnessed by his emotional outburst over Lady Sybil's death. I don't know how Downton Abbey could be more interesting, nor have more fully developed characters to pique our interest, but I'm more than happy to find out one week at a time..only! Spoilers go away! It's all too, too delicious and only Homeland has captivated me so. I'm just sayin'...

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I was thoroughly disgusted by Lord Grantham's unreasoning support for the posh London doctor and rejection of the family doctor's pleas on Sybil's behalf. I agree with KansasGuest's comment about Tom. I also half expected him to bundle her into the car too, since he was the chauffeur in the past. Thomas, the valet, did show at least some leaning toward a homosexual affinity when the Duke visited Downton in the past, implying a previous homosexual relationship with the Duke, so it didn't surprise me that he would make a pass at the new footman. He's done that a couple of times already with the poor guy. I admit I was touched by Thomas' tears for Sybil's death, since she had been kind to him, but I still detest how he kept after Bates all that first season. I was also cheering for Isobel at how she sent her snooty cook packing to give Ethel a chance. I don't know how long that will last though if Ethel can't learn to take care of her responsibilities capably soon.

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Any time Tim Piggott-Smith (Sir Phillip) shows up, you know nothing good is going to happen. That goes all the way back to "A Jewel in the Crown." Interesting to see the women trying to assert themselves in this episode, though they didn't get their way to get Sybil to the hospital in time, you can see that times are changing.

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If my husband got sick and died, I don't imagine I'd be in good enough shape to make any decisions either. I'd be a basket case, which is *very* unusual for me. Didn't Thomas also hit on that beautiful Turkish gentleman in season 1, the one found dead in Mary's room? I remember he almost got the cr*p smacked out of him, which IMO was long overdue.

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 4 Quotes

I think he harks business with being mean, or worse; middle class, like me.

Matthew

You better ask Mr. Barrow. He's the clock expert. He's the clock expert, but of course, it's quite wrong for a valet to do it.

Miss O'Brien
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