Downton Abbey, ITV1: Death of Lady Sybil | TV reviews, news & interviews
Downton Abbey, ITV1: Death of Lady Sybil
A Crawley is killed off by Julian Fellowes to jolly things along. Who's next for the chop?
You suspected she was a goner the moment the doctors started to front up like King Kong and Godzilla. Having given birth to a girl, the rebellious bluestocking Lady Sybil got her marching orders last night on Downton Abbey and Jessica Brown Findlay’s husky larynx will be heard no more pouring oil on troubled waters. The rest of the cast can rely on a berth in Julian Fellowes’ gilded prison for all eternity. Ms Brown Findlay is available for work.
Seasoned Downtonians should have known something of this order was on the cards. The second series was absolutely rife with death and doom and characters dropping like flies, what with the war and that. The third series has been a bit, if we are honest, wanting. Slightly staid, m'lud. The estate was in trouble but has been rescued by a deus ex machina waving a cheque. The oven blew up necessitating a fork dinner in the drawing room. Or was it the library? There's naff-all fire in the marriage of square peg Matthew and his bride Lady Mary. Lady Sybil and her Fenian husband got into a bit of a fix in Dublin, but offstage. Meanwhile, Bates’ extended stay at His Majesty’s pleasure rumbles on, and you can set your watch by his release in the Christmas episode. And then in a storyline which landed out of nowhere from the real world, the other week poor old Lady Edith was left high and dry at the altar.
If Lady Sibyl’s violent passing has an antecedent it is the death of Little Nell
She was back to normal in a jiffy, as is the Downton way: the plots allow characters to recover from trauma with indecent haste in order to make ready for the next hourlong portion. To quote Beyond the Fringe, the gods of soap needed a stupid gesture at this point in the third series. It was Lady Sibyl who was anointed for the task of going over the top with a fatal dose of post-partum eclampsia. The symptoms were missed by Sir Thingy Nabob (Tim Pigott-Smith), the obstetrician to the nobs summoned up from Harley Street to oversee the delivery, while the advice of family medic Dr Clarkson, he being not quite posh enough, was quietly ignored by his Lordship. Oops. Here was an important indication that in the 1920s the aristocracy cannot rely on The Old Certainties. Why, in one short scene Maggie Smith in black weeds even stopped sending her eyebrows into orbit. And next week they’re all going to be in a bit of strop.
If Lady Sibyl’s violent passing has an antecedent it is the death of Little Nell, an event which found an entire nation stricken with grief, with the honourable exception of Oscar Wilde who said you’d need a heart of stone not to laugh. Who’s next for Fellowes' guillotine? Thomas to swing for indecency? Ethel, back from the moral brink, spontaneously to combust in the kitchen? Lady Cora to die of fright when she finds her backbone?
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Entertaining enough, but this three-parter is about as vapid as its subject
At last: the cult 1960s science fiction series finally comes to DVD
Ask a policeman?
Entertaining but two-dimensional, Alan Yentob's account glosses over the artist's flaws
Gripping documentary series outstrips crime drama
Classic Sixties horror story about spawning the Antichrist fails to deliver
Len Goodman and Lucy Worsley trot gently through dance history
New sitcom about dogs and their owners
Dark and chilling return of the Belfast killer thriller
For all the holes in its hull, the Julian Fellowes juggernaut stays afloat
Colourful talking heads bring to life a music both familiar and exotic
How creatures great and small cope with their own housing crises