There was a shock for Downton Abbey fans in the fifth episode of the current series on Sunday night when Lady Sybil died shortly after delivering her baby daughter. The character, played by Jessica Brown Findlay, suffered an untimely death from eclampsia following a tense episode in which she began displaying symptoms of serious illness after going into labour. However her life was left hanging in the balance after a disagreement between family medic Dr Clarkson and the Harley Street obstetrician Sir Philip Tapsell - with the former insisting she be taken to hospital and the latter insisting such a move would prove fatal. Sybil eventually gave birth to a healthy baby girl, but despite initially appearing well, her condition rapidly deteriorated and she died in the arms of her husband Branson (Allen Leech). The scene is now set for even more potential drama, with Lady Cora blaming Lord Grantham for refusing to take the doctor's advice - while the preview for next week's episode suggested that the new arrival could cause even further tensions between Branson and Lady Sybil's family. It is not the first time that Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes has surprised viewers with an unexpected death. The finale of the second series saw the demise of Lavinia Swire, played by actress Zoe Boyle, after she fell victim to the Spanish flu epidemic. However there had been prior speculation that she would be killed off after a press release announcing the cast list for the third series of her show, published just before the series finale, made no mention of her name.
Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.
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