Kirsty Capes reviews the fourth episode of Downton Abbey season 3…
The Crawley girls aren’t having a good time of it at the moment. This episode Mary and Matthew are still worrying about the fact they haven’t conceived yet, and Matthew starts to wonder if it’s down to him. When Sybil goes into labour and the doctors (Sir Philip Tapsell and local Dr Clarkson) are called, Matthew has to have an awkward very un-English conversation with Tapsell about whether his parts are all in working order.
Downstairs the plot thickens with the love quadrangle as Daisy takes out the fact that Alfred likes Ivy on Ivy herself by bossing her about in the kitchen, taking full advantage of her new authority as second in command. Ivy likes James and no one knows who James likes (apparently everyone). Mrs O’Brien notices that Thomas has taken a shining to James and decides to play it to her advantage so she can get Alfred ahead. She suggests James and Thomas spend some time together (learning how to wind clocks) so Thomas can develop his attraction. I sense a bomb is getting ready to drop? One can’t help but feel a little sympathy for Thomas in this episode.
Ethel is still around and Isobel is desperate to help her by giving her a job in her own household. Mrs Bird is so outraged that an ex-prostitute is working in her kitchen that she quits! It seems Isobel is doing more harm than good here, although she’s completely blind to it. The Upstairs ladies visit Isobel and are waited on by Ethel despite protestations from the likes of Robert, but they stand up to him. About time somebody did. Meanwhile Matthew is also standing up to him over the bookkeeping kerfuffle, where it turns out Robert hasn’t managing the estate (again) properly, and he’s resistant to Matthew’s suggested changes. He’s also resistant to Dr Clarkson recommending a quick delivery of Sybil’s baby because he suspects she has developed toxemia, a life-threatening condition associated with pregnancy. Tapsell disagrees and Robert stands with him against the rest of the family. To be fair, Clarkson did misdiagnose Matthew and make a few other blunders, but ultimately his defiance against the family’s wishes costs Sybil her life. Sybil dies shortly after giving birth to a daughter in what is probably the most heartbreaking moment of Downton yet, and as a result the grieving family, particularly Cora turn against and blame Robert. The death of Sybil causes even greater tension between Lord Grantham and the rest of the characters. If I were Cora and this were present day, I would’ve left Robert by episode two.
So that’s the big bombshell this week as the Downton audience says goodbye to a beloved character. But trust me, the worst is yet to come with the rest of this so-far depressing series of our favourite British period drama.