“There’s nothing more tiring than waiting for something to happen,” said Cora in complete summation of what it’s like to live and love Downton Abbey. Nothing quite so tiring, of course, except when something does happen and that something turns out to be more devastating than ever we thought possible in the soupy, schmaltzy world Mr. Fellowes has built.


Let us have a moment of silence for dear Lady Sybill, whose passing marks one of the most emotionally wrenching plot twists/game changers in recent serialized drama memory. Her death is the result of equal parts obscure British ailment (Eclampsia, in the same family as consumption and hysteria) and the ill advice of the patriarchy. Lady Sybill, with her smoky chanteuse voice and the beat of her own drum scoring her independent minded moves for all her life, is felled by the simple incompetence of a bunch of men who nearly pass out at the mere mention of the word “womb.” A high-born woman capable of ushering in the era of Pants, finding herself a job as a war nurse, and marrying a terrorist all while essentially maintaining a decent-ish relationship with her curmudgeonly father deserves better.

As Lady Sybill’s premature labor pains set in, and her ankles began to swell, and the hallucinations clouded her vision, a cadre of nervous men in dinner jackets paced the drawing room, dithering over her fate. The fact that Lord Grantham couldn’t keep his dinner down long enough to endure a competent explanation of the risks of this particular childbirth from a trusted family doctor, and instead insisted on a home birth with a touch of prestige (the Royal Doctor presides) makes Sybill’s death all the more tragic. We watched as she drifted away, wracked with seizures, her family helpless at her bedside. The moment of her death, the beat of that drum finally silenced and replaced with the syncopated cries of her husband and newborn baby, ushers in a new darkness never before seen at Downton. Sure there was Cousin Matthew’s unfortunate below-the-belt war wound, and Cora’s brush with death, and of course Lavinia’s (not unwelcome) departure. But no one was so quietly and universally well liked as Lady Sybill.

Her death cast a pall upstairs and down. The latter was punctuated by the caterwauls of newly emotional Thomas, who for once in his life seemed sincere about an expression of feeling. He joined the remaining Crawley sisters in lamenting the loss of perhaps the only person to truly value those she left behind. Lady Sybill was too good for this bitchy, lacy, Olde Englishe world.

And now for something completely different: Let’s lighten the mood.

– This week’s Downton Abbey was laden with so many moments in which we discuss the penis without ever mentioning the penis. Exhibit A: Matthew’s indelicate conversation about the working order of his delicates following the D-Day endured by his D. Exhibit B: Thomas and the Hot New Footman in a period-piece retooling of the Ceramics Scene from Ghost. On clock-winding (yes, clock): just push it until there’s a slight increase in resistance. The entendres are tripled at least.

– Maybe it’s the hormones in the air, but the ladies seem to be pitching a bit of a bitch-fit this week. Between Daisy making Ivy’s life a living hell, and all over a footman who doesn’t even like her back, and Mrs. Bird resigning over the (highly unlikely) possibility that someone might mistake her for a prostitute if she works with Ethel, the environment’s getting hostile.

– And of course, there’s the trials and travails of newly empowered Lady Edith, who- try as she might- will now never secure the approval of her father she so desperately seeks. Lady Edith, you write your newspaper column, and hold out a few more years. Eleanor Roosevelt is about to come on the scene and open up a whole lot of doors for talented, intelligent, mediocre-looking women who have better things to do than desperately try to get married.