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Posts tagged ‘Childbirth’

Downton Abbey, Season 3, Episode 5 – Things begin to calm down

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT!

“Downton Abbey” Season 3, finds in Episode 5, things have kind of calmed down after the traumatic experience (for the viewers as well as for the characters) after Lady Sybil Crawley’s untimely death in childbirth The suddenness and the shock value of the death scenes superbly played by all involved is something I don’t think I’ll ever get over. It was one of the greatest episodes in series television history. The impact of the death of  the beautiful, young, titled, rich woman, only 24, hit me more like the death of someone I knew IRL(in real life) than a character on a TV series.

Many people feel that the best work being done today is on series television and not in film, and when you consider Downton Abbey, it certainly seems to right.

And what happened this week?
Well, grief was being played out on every level in the house, upstairs and downstairs and in the Ladies Chamber. The Lady in Question is the brilliant Maureen McGovern, as the beautiful American Lady Grantham. She is utterly devastated by her “baby”s death. And has decided that it is all Lord Grantham(the magnificent Hugh Bonneville)’s fault for listening to Sir Phillip Tapsil’s advice as to how to handle Lady Sybil’s childbirth.

Lady Grantham, Cora, had brought in the local doctor, Dr. Clarkson and he had advised an immediate hospitalization and a Caesarian section last week at the height of Sybil’s birthing debacle and when Lord Grantham and Sir Phillip Tapsil, a fancy London doctor with a title(Tim Piggot), disagreed and didn’t move her, and Sybil tortuously died, we now find Cora blaming Lord Grantham, Robert, for her death.

Cora has banished him from her bedroom and bed, and the scenes between the two of them are excruciatingly painful. Also, grief-stricken is the Irish former chauffeur husband, Tom Branson. Allen Leech is incredibly strong and moving in all of his scenes. And your heart is just with him the entire time as he tries to piece together his shattered life.

Of course, he has his new-born daughter, who survived her mother, whom he now chooses to name Sybil, and he announces this over the dining room table to Lord Grantham, who doesn’t approve. He also forcibly states that he wants his daughter to be baptized a Catholic, like he is. And NOT in any way to be an Anglican.

There is much amusing action downstairs as the focus this episode shifts, surprisingly to Daisy, the former kitchen maid who has no been promoted to assistant Cook.

And everyone has conflicting reactions to Ethel’s continuing to be Isobel Crawley(Penelope Wilton)’s cook and housekeeper.

 

“Downton Abbey” Ep.4 ~ A Masterpiece of Shock and Awe

Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!

If you haven’t seen Ep.4 of Season 3 of “Downton Abbey”, the season that is blowing minds right now, don’t read any further.

It’s a masterpiece, I feel, of dramatic series television. I’m in shock at what happened and in awe of the stupendous, brilliant performances of the entire cast, in this, what had to be their most challenging episode. Fresh off their SAG award win on Sunday for Best Drama Series, Downton Abbey in this horrifying episode more than lived up to its’ accolades.

What happens in Episode 4 that is so shattering, so shocking, I feel like I can only talk about it in a whisper as if I were one of Downton Abbey’s loyal but distraught servants…

Lady Sybil Crawley dies in childbirth.

Yes. They’ve killed off one of the hit series major characters, the youngest and most beautiful of the three Crawley sisters, who are at the center of Downton’s great story.

SUCH a shock. I couldn’t believe I was seeing it happen, but it was.

Lady Sybil was giving birth at home, Downton, of course, even though she’s the one who had run off with the studly chauffeur, Irish rebel Tom Branson(the excellent Allen Leech)and there are TWO doctors attending her. One the local doc,Played by David Robb, who’s been on the show since the beginning, and one, a knight, played by Tim Piggott who Lord Grantham has brought in from London.

They fight, as Sybil is struggling in birth bangs and their heated dialogue is a summation of sorts of the thoughts about birth-ing in the days before modern medicine. The family doctor diagnoses eclampsia(sp?) and possibly fatal situation that requires Sybil to be taken immediately to a hospital and a Caesarian section be performed and Sir Whatever is saying “It’s all right. It’s perfectly normal.”

And unfortunately the family doctor is right. And the beautiful 24-year-old comely heroine passes away in scene after horrifying scene where the actress Jessica Brown Findlay gives the best performance she’s ever given thus far.

I kept thinking of my red-headed Scottish great-grandmother, whom I never knew, of course, who also died in childbirth, leaving her surviving daughter, my beloved grandmother traumatized forever.Women often died in childbirth in those days and writer Fellowes obviously wanted to depict this tragic situation, and he did so in a profoundly compelling way. The horror of Sybil’s death seems worse than the horrors we saw in Season 2 of World War I.

In Downton’s stellar cast of twenty+plus leads, I always felt she was the weakest link, acting-wise. She was merely pretty and not up to the nuance of “Downton”s complex, brilliant script by Jullian Fellowes, just barely skating through on her sensational dark good looks and voluptuous figure.

I hope they didn’t kill her off for bad acting. But possibly they did. In any case, she, young, beautiful, rebellious, is dead, and looking realistically like hell in the process. Poor thing.Death did not become her.

But this really shocked me. To kill off a leading character in a sensationally successful hit series is just never done. And one didn’t expect this to happen to arguably the most beautiful young woman on the show. One didn’t see this coming. And the impact on the remaining two Crawley sisters, the superb Lady Mary(Michelle Dockery) and the marvelous Lady Edith(Laura Carmichael), their parents Lord and Lady Grantham(Hugh Bonneville and Maureen McGovern) is shattering. And of course, affords Dame Maggie Smith as the grieving grandmother a chance to show off her legendary dramatic chops as her heart breaks with the rest of her family’s at the grim injustice of this tragedy. As we see her walk away from the strong-arm of the butler, leaning on her cane for strength, she seems barely able to make it to the doorway.

And of course the emotion and drama run high throughout this entire episode the most powerful of the entire series. So far. Most moving of all I found was the surviving husband’s, Irish Tom Branson’s, helpless grief. His baby girl survives, but he has lost his beautiful, young wife, whom he desperately loved.

I was devastated. Truly. As if someone I had known had died. I feel like I’ve been mourning poor Lady Sybil
all week. I’ve watched Ep.4 three times already as it kept coming up on different PBS stations.

For those of you who MUST know, after its initial airing on Sunday night at 9pm EST on Ch.13 here in New York and rebroadcast on WLIW at 8pm on Monday night and then again at 1AM Monday night.

It’s probably coming on again right now somewhere, and of course, you can watch it IMMEDIATELY online at pbs.org.

The last image is of the sobbing father, Tom, holding his new-born baby daughter in his arms, staring out an upstairs window of the vast estate, almost as if he and his little child are prisoners there now.

I wasn’t expecting this. There are three more episodes to go, and they’ve GOT to top this one. It was a killer. I can’t imagine how.But I can’t wait to tune in again.

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