Downtown Series 3, Episode 4 : What Really Happened
WHAT WE SAW
Lord Grantham brings in a high-end doctor, Sir Philip Tapsell, to deliver Sybil's baby. This guy wants the family's normal doctor out of the picture entirely, not even just to be present. Lord Grantham agrees to this, but Cora disagrees, saying she's already told Dr. Clarkson she'll let him know when things start happening, and that it would be rude to exclude him. So he's there too. While Sybil is in labor she starts having problems, and Dr. Clarkson becomes convinced she's in serious danger. A terrible disagreement follows. Dr. Clarkson urges them to move Sybil to the hospital, and Sir Philip insists there is no problem. Lord Grantham takes Sir Philip's side, but Cora and the girls are not so sure. Sir Philip's point of view prevails, and Sybil stays there. She goes on to deliver a healthy baby and appears to be fine. But then, she dies. From the problem Dr. Clarkson was afraid was happening.
WHY IT DIDN'T HAPPEN THAT WAY
Lord Grantham is portrayed as needing to keep Sir Philip's approval no matter what. He refuses to even entertain another opinion. But what we've seen of him over two seasons conflicts with this. He's not this insecure, he's not this "we're all important men deciding these things," he's not this big of a snob. Okay, maybe he is, almost! But not with these stakes -- when his most lovable daughter's life could be at risk.
Why does he look for another doctor in the first place? Wasn't Dr. Clarkson the one who was to have brought Cora's new baby into the world? He's an experienced doctor: he's the Crawley family's physician, he runs Downton's local hospital, and he was the doctor in charge of the hospital in wartime. And also -- how does it even occur to the hyper-squeamish Grantham to think about bringing in another doctor?
If Sybil had to die in childbirth, it would have been the main focus. It would not have been accompanied, and even upstaged, by a dreadful and unbelievable cconflict that also destroys Lord Grantham's character.
WHAT REALLY MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED
But she didn't die.
Okay, in the world outside the story, Jessica Brown Findlay did not renew her contract. So something needed to happen. But there are many alternatives to Sybil dying, and all of them leave the door open for her to come back, briefly or permanently, or at the least, to remain in the story. Some of them are:
Sybil "You're my ticket out of here" Branson does not just make that one comment about her life in Ireland, "I'm known as Mrs. Branson." She commits herself completely to her new life. She gets involved, whether politically or socially. Maybe she works part-time as a nurse.; maybe she visits political prisoners; maybe she even goes to prison herself.
Or Sybil meets W. B. Yeats, begins learning Gaelic, and joins the Abbey Theatre. She is the toast of Dublin. She comes to Downton infrequently if at all, but in one episode Yeats himself pops in for a visit.
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