I feel a little sheepish blogging about tv, but it appears to be what I want to write about today, so I'll go with it for the few minutes I have.
I'm irritated by the decision to kill off Sybil. Not, surprisingly enough, because of the way the birth process was handled in the drama. I actually thought it was a much more normal and extended (at least in terms of time, though much of it was off screen) depiction of birth than you usually see in entertainment. And I appreciated (as I always appreciate from Downton) the strong support for evidence-based medicine.
But a few things seriously bugged me:
1. The baby is clearly being treated as a useful plot point, not as a reality. Which is a shame from my perspective, given how well Downton has explored so many other realities of the time period. Except for seeing the baby some time after the birth, you only hear a small coo from off stage right after Sybil dies. You could imagine that servants must be tending to the baby, but we always see the servants dealing with things that need to be dealt with, normally. In this case, all we see is every last one of them gathered in the kitchen to hear the terrible news, no baby in sight. Maybe baby was sleeping? (Now that I think about it, the Ethel storyline also contained a hardly-real baby, but it was a realer baby than this one and belonging to a more minor character. I know there's issues with babies and time on set from a legal perspective, but lots of the point could have been gotten across without a real baby.)
2. Similar to (1), why no exploration of the wetnurse-finding process? Who is this person? Where did they find her? How will she fit in with the servants, not to mention the family? We can't get a new kitchen maid on this show without a scene or several and some drama. How do we get a frigging wetnurse with nothing more than a "By the way, you'll be relieved to know they've found a nurse for the baby," from Lord Grantham? Wetnursing would be a very interesting historical and class issue to explore, darn it. (Now, I'm not a sociologist. It's possible this baby will be fed some kind of between-the-wars formula. Maybe the nurse is just a nurse, I don't know. Seems likely to me, though, traditional family like that... Whatever. Maybe we'll find out.)
3. In the end think the show will lose entertainment value. I was intrigued after the second season to see what would become of Lady Sybil and the Irish revolutionary chouffeur. Were they truly madly in love? How much of their attraction came out of her desire to kick off the golden handcuffs of her privileged birth and live a "normal" life? His thrill at breaking through the class barriers? Her desire to rebel against her parents? I was thinking we'd start to see some interesting developments in the new couple's relationship this season based on those potential conflicts. And the baby. I was looking forward to seeing Sybill deal with being middle class and having a baby (of course, the living middle class idea evaporated earlier this season, anyway). Instead, Sybil and Tom been presented fairly blandly as just super sweetly in love... and now she's dead, so — punkt — the end of that potential plot avenue. Meanwhile, her death gives Tom (her husband) little reason to stay much in the picture (yes, the baby, I know, and maybe they'll make it work out that way, but...), depriving us of the interesting juxtaposition of the estate-bound British family and their uncomfortable low-born Irish in-law.
Hmph. Out of time, so I guess I'll stop there.