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'Downton Abbey': About that twist... (+video)

'Downton Abbey''s newest episode featured a wallop of a twist, one that left some viewers in tears. What popular character is (presumably) gone for good?

By Staff Writer / January 28, 2013

'Downton Abbey' is currently airing its third season in the US.

Nick Briggs/PBS/AP

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Downton Abbey” fans were shocked by the death of a main character in the newest installment of the British show, which aired its fifth episode on Jan. 27.

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Staff writer

Molly Driscoll is a Books and the Culture staff writer.

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SPOILERS FOLLOW…. 

Youngest daughter Sybil Crawley Branson (Jessica Brown Findlay) suffered complications from childbirth, and died after giving birth to her daughter. The family had been paralyzed by indecision over what to do about suspicious symptoms that Sybil exhibited during her labor, with the family doctor, Dr. Clarkson, recommending that she be moved to a hospital. However, Sybil’s father Robert, who had lost faith in Clarkson, brought in another expert. The new physician, obstetrician Sir Philip Tapsell, said a public hospital wouldn’t be a safe area to perform an operation and that Sybil shouldn’t be moved.

After lots of blustering, Robert agreed to let Sybil’s husband Tom make the decision. Eventually, Tom chose to keep her at home, even though Dr. Clarkson warned that he may not be able to save her life. Clarkson was proven right when Sybil woke in the middle of the night, suffering from seizures, and died.

“Downton” creator Julian Fellowes mentioned Brown Findlay’s departure from the show while discussing the exit of another character (we won’t spoil it for you).

“We would have loved to keep Jessica [Brown Findlay] too,” he told the Daily Telegraph. (Spoilers in the linked story.)

Brown Findlay is scheduled to appear in the movie “Winter’s Tale” with Russell Crowe as well as the film “Lullaby,” which also stars Garrett Hedlund and Amy Adams.

“Downton” fans took to Twitter to express their sadness over the twist.

“Last night had me in tears!” Twitter user Ruth Kaiser tweeted.

Twitter user Kelly Murphy was similarly bereft.

“I'm 100% still not over what happened on Downton Abbey last night,” she wrote. “Not at all.”

Others had similarly strong reactions, with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer titling its recap of the episode "How Downton Abbey Broke Our Hearts." Meanwhile, Hollywood Life writer Bonnie Fuller had some harsh words for Sybil's father Robert.

"Cora Crawley is beyond right to blame her dolt of a husband, Robert, for the unnecessary death of Downton’s most beloved character," Fuller wrote. 

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