'Downton Abbey:' Dark days
Life and death come to Downton
This shocking episode revolved around the sudden death of Sybil Crawley's, the family's youngest and nicest daughter
The episode opened with Dr. Clarkson at Sybil's bedside during false labor, reassuring the family that everything was fine. When her labor began in earnest the following night, Dr. Clarkson was concerned because Sybil showed symptoms of eclampsia. Sir Philip Tapsell, the fancy-schmancy gentleman obstetrician that Lord Grantham had invited to Downton ahead of Sybil's delivery, disagreed.
Dr. Clarkson wanted to take Sybil to the hospital for an immediate Caesarean section, but Sir Philip was against it. Cora was firmly on Dr. Clarkson's side, while Robert took Sir Philip's. The decision about whether or not to take Sybil to the hospital was left to Tom, but he was saved by the bell when Sybil was able to deliver normally. Unfortunately, she did indeed develop eclampsia several hours later, and died with the entire family at her bedside. It was a gruesome – though mercifully brief – death scene. As in Season 2, the show isn't shying away from death.
Mary and Edith were devastated by their sister's death, but Cora was even more brokenhearted. It's clear that she blames her husband for Sybil's death, but it's hard to say whether it's a lasting anger or something that will be forgotten by the next episode.
Matthew seemed worried that his wartime accident had affected his fertility. Early on in the episode he consulted Sir Philip, who suggested that Matthew's anxiety could be the reason that he and Mary have failed to conceive a child thus far. Matthew also took a minute to speak to the lawyer visiting Downton to consult with Anna – and it was rather unfortunately timed. Mary walked into the library to find her husband discussing the future of Downton just as the undertaker was due to arrive. She lost her temper, and though she apologized to the lawyer she stayed angry with Matthew. It's clear that Mary thinks her father, not her husband, ought to make the tough calls at the abbey.
It was a dark episode, but there were some lighter moments. Edith was offered a newspaper column on the heels of her feisty letter to the newspaper. Daisy seemed awfully jealous of Ivy, the new kitchenmaid, and spent most of the episode snapping at her. This might have something to do with the affections of young Alfred. Remember, just because he's O'Brien's nephew doesn't mean he's not a good footman. Unfortunately, Alfred only has eyes for Ivy. He even helped her reconstitute a separated souffle batter to get into Daisy's good graces.
The other new member of staff, Jimmy (James to the gentry), got his own trial by fire when O'Brien involved him in her revenge on Thomas. O'Brien engineered things so that James would realize Thomas is gay. It's not hard to see where the rest of the plan is going.
Anna and Bates finally had a bit of good luck – Bates, in going over Anna' account of her meeting with Vera Bates' friend and neighbor Mrs. Bartlett, read that Vera had had bits of pastry under her fingers the last time the two women had met. This could only mean that Vera Bates had eaten the supper pie she had been preparing when Bates went to see her, eaten it long after he had boarded a train back to the countryside. The pair has now proven, to themselves at least, that Vera committed suicide and framed Bates as revenge.
Isobel Crawley offered disgraced former housemaid Ethel a job at the cottage only to run up against her cook's resistance – Mrs. Bird didn't want to work with a former prostitute. Mrs. Crawley promptly fired her. Let's hear it for the middle class. Unfortunately, this left Ethel in the position of cook, and she wasn't much of one.
And as for Lady Violet? When Cora announced that Lady Violet would be staying at Downton until after the birth we got a tart, perfectly timed "I hate to get news secondhand." How terribly right she turned out to be. She has her moments, though. She put her hand over Carson's, and told him how they had seen some dark days at the abbey but nothing as bad as that one. Cora brought up Dr. Clarkson and Sir Philip's disagreement then left the room in a huff, and it was the dowager who comforted the family with some wise words on life, death, and Sybil's special loveliness.
Next week we can expect some action on Bates' case and a possible battle over whether Sybil's daughter will be baptized a Catholic or a Protestant.
Downton Abbey airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on local PBS affiliates.
This was the most heart wrenching episode of them all. The dangers of childbirth are still real today. The dangers of having no income and selling your body are still real today. And we have only advanced a few small steps toward childbirth safety and income security.
I also think that Mary is the biggest bitch ever. She humiliates Matthew when ever she can, she thinks Robert is the last word on all things family and she won't even end her grudge against Edith. She assumes that she is always right. Will the burned and rejected "Patrick" come back into the picture and expose her meanness?