If you do not wish to read any spoilers from this week’s episode, then please stop reading now!!!
I knew this was coming. You see, Downton Abbey finished filming early last summer, and premiered in Great Britain in the fall of 2012. So the content of the episodes is out there, as is what’s going on with the cast behind the scenes.
I had read that Jessica Brown Findlay, the actress that plays Lady Sybil Crawley was leaving the series. I just didn’t know how she was going to be written off. I found out Sunday: she died in childbirth of eclampsia. It was horrid to watch the episode unfold, and what I took away from number four was the patriarchal mismanagement of a female condition that could have been averted. No matter that the actress was leaving the series, devoted fans felt the pain of her death and wonder why the pleas of her mother, another woman who went through childbirth, a woman intuitive of her daughter’s condition, an established physician who knew Lady Sybil since birth were discredited by the male hierarchy. Her father, and a stranger, Sir Philip made the decisions and ultimately made a bad call that cost Lady Sybil her life. Interesting how the parallel morphs into present day politics, for example Louisiana’s morass of political soup in Baton Rouge, where people with no qualifications are making decisions on other people’s lives and fates without expert input…
But I digress. Lady Sybil’s presence will be missed. She was the only truly purest of heart character on the series. Her death even provoked Thomas to tears. It will be interesting to see how Lady Cora plays out the drama with her husband, and if or when they are able to reconcile. This episode continues to show the struggle for women to achieve their voice, their rightful place that maybe, just maybe, they know what’s up. The one person who’s voice was conspicuously absent in all the events surrounding poor Sybil was her husband Branson. My heart ached for him as he held his baby looking out the window. Not just women, but men not of the aristocracy suffered from this pecking order.
Aside from the major event of the hour, there were multiple subplots swirling around. Lady Edith’s letter to the editor on women’s right to vote was published and she received a solicitation to write a weekly column, much to her father’s chagrin. The Crawley’s attorney made a visit, and he was dispatched to visit Bates in prison to help him develop his defense. It will be interesting to see if Bates’ cellmate throws a monkey wrench into his proceedings. The new cook is stirring up the footmen, and Thomas is stirring one on his end, with the evil O’Brien plotting to expose Thomas for what he is. And poor Edith couldn’t cook a kidney souffle if her life depended on it: I wonder how long Lady Isobel will tolerate her, despite her noble intention to save her from ruin.
There are 3 episodes left, and hopefully PBS will air the Christmas special, which would mean there are 4 more to savor. Until next week…
post-script – last weekend’s Times Picayune published an article in the travel section on what to know if you want to visit Downton Abbey in England. Good read for anyone headed across the pond anytime soon.