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Downton drama hits right spot

By Jane Graham

Published 20/10/2012

I spoke too soon, and flounced off like a sulking child. But like most tantrummy kids, it wasn't long (well, seven days) before I sneaked my head back round the door to see what was going on.

Last week heralded the return of Ethel, the maid whose out-of-wedlock pregnancy saw her banished from the house and forced into prostitution. Handing her beloved baby over to the aristocratic parents of its dead father, the desperate, ethereal Ethel cut a tragic figure. Her story - one of cruel, rage-making injustice - was movingly told.

Then, this week - a killer blow! Fantastic writing, both funny (to Matthew, fretting he has not produced an heir; "Don't, whatever you do, feel anxious!") and profound.

And an end to Lady Sybil's story that I did not see coming and had me sobbing like a sacked Dan Stevens. The scene when Maggie Smith's Countess began her usual proud walk, then broke down into a fragile, sobbing old woman - we watched as her hunched, suddenly insubstantial frame hobbled like a crippled little bird through the hall - was as powerful as anything I've seen this year. Which goes to show, never listen to critics. Especially me.

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