'Downton Abbey' Season 3 episode 4: Lady Sybil's baby arrives, get out the hankies

lady-sybil-dies-baby-branson.jpgThis might just be the finest episode "Downton Abbey" has ever done. It is certainly a masterclass in acting from everyone involved. Be warned: Don't keep reading if you haven't watched yet.

Lady Sybil has died in childbirth. What an absolutely gut-wrenching hour of television. When Sybil goes into labor, there are some issues and Dr. Clarkson wants to move her to the hospital. But Lord Grantham's stuffy specialist Sir Phillip says everything is perfectly normal.

And a healthy baby girl arrives. But Sybil goes into seizures in the middle of the night and dies, with her family surrounding her, begging the doctors to do something. By that point it's too late.

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Kudos to Elizabeth McGovern and Allen Leech as Cora and Tom. Their acting in Sybil's death scene was rip-your-heart-out good. This episode could really be anyone's Emmy reel, though -- from the Crawleys to the staff to Lady Violet. Maggie Smith's small moment at the end with Carson and then the hitch in her walk said more than 1000 words could express.

It was also a nice showing for Anna and Thomas, both of whom were closer to Lady Sybil than the other staff. Really just stellar work all around.

Also big props to the show for keeping this under wraps. It may have leaked after it aired in the U.K., but before we saw the episode back in October, we had heard nothing about Lady Sybil dying. It was quite shocking.

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In other news, there may be new evidence in Bates' case (get on with it, seriously). Ethel has been hired as Cousin Isobel's new cook, so that ought to go well. And Matthew has decided to jump into the handling of the estate, though he maybe could've not brought it up to Lady Mary the day after her sister died.

What did you think of tonight's "Downton"? We say -- pass the tissues, please.
Photo/Video credit: PBS