Photo Credit: PBS
Even if you're not a Downton Abbey watcher, you probably heard the howl of despair across the internet after Sunday night's devastating episode. If you were watching -- well, you might have been too busy howling in despair to hear everybody else. So, why the heartbreaking plot twist? Read on to find out what the producers were thinking, but be warned: major spoilers.
On last night's Season 3 episode, Lady Sybil Crawley, the compassionate, socially progressive aristocrat played by Jessica Brown Findlay, died from eclampsia after giving birth to a daughter. The character's death occurred after she seemed to be out of the woods, making it all the more gut-wrenching for viewers who'd fallen in love with Lady Sybil.
If you're like us, you probably felt a little something like this after they broke the news.
Why would the producers do this to their loyal fans? People spoke to series creator Julian Fellowes and executive producer Gareth Neame, who revealed that Lady Sybil's fate wasn't entirely in their control.
"When Sybil dies or when [another character, whose identity is being concealed] dies, it is because the actor wanted to leave [the series]," Fellowes told the magazine. "So, however sad it is, and we're all sad, it isn't a question of anybody being killed off [for sake of the plot]. They would both be in the series till the end of it, if it was up to us. "
Neame added that he felt Lady Sybil's tragedy would ultimately be good for the show.
"These exits can be good opportunities for the drama, because they allow you to take the story in a different direction and change things in a way you hadn't quite thought of," said the producer.
If you're a Downton Abbey fan, you're probably working your way through the five stages of grief today. Just keep in mind that we've weathered the loss of beloved characters before. Below, a few of the TV deaths that stunned in the past six months. (Spoiler alert!)
Dr. Mark Sloan on Grey's Anatomy
A few years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine Grey's Anatomy without McSteamy. But when actor Eric Dane decided it was time to go, his character didn't wake up from his plane-crash coma.
Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad
It says something about Breaking Bad that the show's most beloved minor character was a contract killer. The pitch-black drama got even darker when its hero turned on Jonathan Banks's character, leading to his tragic but inevitable death.
Owen Sleater on Boardwalk Empire
Owen (Charlie Cox) was a handsome Irishman with sketchy morals, and he was Margaret Schroeder's best shot at escaping her life with Nucky. Did we mention he was handsome? His particularly gruesome ending was nearly as hard on the audience as it was on Margaret.
Lane Pryce on Mad Men
Anybody watching Mad Men's fifth season closely knew that death was right around the corner, but it was still a shock when Lane decided to take his own life. Luckily, British actor Jared Harris hasn't disappeared; he played Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows movie and Ulysses S. Grant in Lincoln.