Sybil died in childbirth. I didn’t see it coming. She was 24, eloped with the chauffeur, and had her whole life ahead. Of the three Grantham sisters, she was the sweetest, dedicated to nursing and noble causes. And then that smug, pompous doctor, Sir Phillip says to ignore her swollen ankles and delirium. Still, I thought she’d make it. Julian Fellowes, you played me like a fiddle.
Okay, so Downton Abbey is General Hospital with better rugs. I don’t care. There’s intrigue, drop-dead costumes, dogs, scullery maids, Maggie Smith, 1920’s England, the very rich, the very poor, butlers, nightly dinners for twelve, lady’s maids, and of course… that house.
When even Rolling Stone Magazine weighs in every week, you know this series is hot. If you haven’t seen the first two seasons, do so before dropping in on the third. There are more plot lines here than forks on a formal dinner table. Then again, if you’re feeling brave, just jump in.
Let’s face it, most of us don’t live like the people in Downton Abbey. Maybe that’s the show’s magic. Like the other hit, “Upstairs, Downstairs” in the seventies, it’s a peek into another age when people had valets to help them get dressed, there was more servants than residents in a house, and everyone upstairs is called M’lord and M’lady.
And yet there are moments too big for class lines and Sybil’s death was one. I’ll never forget hard-boiled matriarch Maggie Smith reaching out to touch Carson the butler’s hand in mutual sorrow. “Oh Carson,” she said. “We’ve seen troubles, you and I, but nothing worse than this.” Carson touched her hand back, something normally unheard of. “Nothing could be worse than this, my lady,” he replied. It goes to show, under the titles, we’re all human. And maybe that’s the real magic of Downton Abbey.