Showing posts with label Sybil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sybil. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What's the Message of Downton Abbey's Third Season Deaths? SPOILERS


Please note the giveaway for IMMORTAL EVER AFTER by Lynsay Sands has been postponed until tomorrow.

Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What did we learn from the two deaths in Downton Abbey's third season; or what was the show's creative team trying to convey?

First,  the youngest daughter, Lady Sybil's died from Pre-Eclampsia post-childbirth, and last night Matthew Crawley, the heir to the estate and husband of the eldest daughter, Lady Mary, died driving home. I had heard about this before the start of the season here in the US so I kept expecting it.  Then after Lady Sybil died I thought perhaps I had been fooled.

Lady Sybil's  death, according to the Washington Post:

Nobody knows what caused preeclampsia in the early 1920s or causes it now. It appears to be an out-of-control state of inflammation. There is some evidence it may be a reaction against “paternal factors.” That, in turn, has led to the idea of the “dangerous father” as the cause of the condition. Sybil’s husband and the father of their daughter is Tom Branson, the former Grantham chauffeur and Irish revolutionary who can’t go home. For purposes of drama, it was a fitting way for her to die.

There was another message, too. Beware the “VIP syndrome.” Among Sir Philip’s mistakes was his apparent desire not to discomfit the Grantham family by sending Sybil to the hospital. However, doctors who treat you differently because you are a very important person can be dangerous to your health.
This death was unexpected except with the realization that the youngest daughter had moved away and was suddenly back under difficult circumstances. In TV Land this is the equivalent of a red shirt on Star Trek Away Team.  Or at least it is a sign that contract negotiations did not go well, the actor had a better offer  or was difficult. I can not say anything about whether the actress who played Lady Sybil no longer wanted the role.

The LA Times' Meredith Blake points to  it being a message about changes to the role of the aristocracy and that of women in the early years of the last century:  "Yet it’s undeniable that the plight of women has taken center stage this season, and it’s difficult to look at Sybil’s death as anything but an indictment of Lord Grantham’s worldview." (,0,5324711.story)  This makes sense, especially considering the young married couple's politics. And, certainly, it brings up the dangers, even in the 20th century, of childbirth.

My mother has a saying, "Don't laugh before midnight, you'll cry after." And, thinking that way it shouts, "Don't get too happy!" When you get too happy, you tempt fate and the gods will not forgive humans being too happy in the moment. Or, I guess you could say it feels Calvinist; the pride that goeth before the proverbial fall.

Well, unless the gods in question are studio executives.  Happiness doesn't garner high ratings. Strife pulls in the audience and usually brings them back for more. You can couch it in some sort of message, but the truth is happy is boring in TV drama.  If Matthew hadn't died he would have returned to the abbey and things would be going smoothly.  Yawn.

However, in the Huffington Post's article (below) says further on, it implies that the actor playing Matthew, Dan Stevens,  was planning to leave; he'd been taking stock and the show was too all monopolizing on his me.  Right.  It must be terrible to have to film 12 episodes a year, leaving, I imagine, at least half the year open. I don't buy that "monopolising" statement.

And, again, I hear, don't be so happy. You will be struck down for your happiness. Oh, no you should never get any of that in your  life.  Seriously, what does a character have to do to get some happy time?  After all, Matthew has been through:

  • Being uprooted to become heir,
  • Going to the front lines in WWI and coming back from being presumed dead, gravely wounded,
  • Miraculously recovers from paralysis,
  • Loses one fiance to the flu epidemic,
  • Thinks he's sterile,
  • Saves the abbey using his late fiance's late father's bequest feeling guilty about it,
  • Fights to make the abbey self-sufficient.
No, he doesn't deserve happiness.  Nor does that snotty lady Mary (who's become quite nice really).  They committed the ultimate sin of happiness and being in love.  Add to that the lack of need for a male heir  since he just fathered one and and already having provided the money to the Grathams to save the place. the character, as the English say, "Made himself redundant."

In a post on the Huffington Post online magazine, Jullian Fellowes discusses how Matthew had to die but he didn't really want it to happen in Season Three

Deutsch: Dan Stevens bei der Vorstellung des S...
Dan Stevens
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthew's death in the final minute of the "Downton Abbey" Season 3 finale has most fans up in arms. In a poll from The Huffington Post, 73 percent of "Downton Abbey" viewers didn't see any good from Matthew's death, while 27 percent did. Fellowes told The New York Times, however, that he originally didn't want to see Matthew go at that time either....

Fellowes previously spoke to The Telegraph late in 2012 and said there was no choice but to kill off Matthew because of when Stevens decided to depart. “If he had been prepared to come back for maybe two or three episodes in a series, that would be different. Then we could have had a foreign posting or invented a career that would have made it possible for him to be away," Fellowes said. "Otherwise we would have had to make this tremendously successful love affair between Mary and Matthew unhappy, which I didn’t feel would be believable ... So we didn’t really have any option. By him dying, their love can remain intact."

Stevens spoke of his decision to leave "Downton Abbey" late in 2012. "It felt like a good time to take stock, to take a moment. From a personal point of view, I wanted a chance to do other things," he told The Telegraph. "It is a very monopolising job. So there is a strange sense of liberation at the same time as great sadness because I am very, very fond of the show and always will be.”

What do you think about these too deaths?  Calvinist, contract, ratings or something else?

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