Spoilers for series four, last week’s episode (4.2? 4.3?).
So, Downton Abbey has sparked national outrage again. Not only did they manage to rid the house of Sybil and Matthew last series, but this series started with O’Brien leaving, and as a replacement, the woman who was sacked for inappropriately cosying up to Branson in the Christmas special. Not thrilled about the character – not seeing as how Thomas is taking such a liking to her. Him taking a liking to anyone is generally a bad sign.
Last week’s episode meant a lot of pain, mental and physical, for Anna. It made for some really uncomfortable viewing, and a lot of people have complained about the episode, and rightly so, in my opinion.
Most of us watch Downton as a form of escapism, and having one of the loveliest people on there being raped is simply not cricket. It would not have been better if New Girl, as mentioned above, had been the victim. Not at all.
Joanne Froggatt has had to come out in media in defence of the plot – which is strange because she’s not the one writing the script and thereby making plot decisions. She’s said that she’s done research and all to make sure she portrayed it properly, and that’s great. Julian Fellowes, who DOES write the script and make plot decisions, has also defended it and saying that they don’t do things gratuitously on the show. It may be portrayed in a very sensitive manner, but it doesn’t undo the fact that Anna was raped.
My issues with this plotline go on, however. First, I think it was about time she and Mr Bates were given a bloody break, what with all they’ve had to go through already.
Second, I think it’s a desperate measure to ensure there’s enough drama in the show. Why? Once upon a time, when I showed my Swedish teacher a short and very Austen-inspired story I had written, his feedback was that it needed some doubt in there. If the would-be couple meet and fall in love and get married and live happily ever after, the story isn’t very interesting. Something needs to happen to keep the reader/viewer guessing: will they get married in the end and live happily ever after? For the most part, of course we know they will, but we want to know how they get there and through what hoops they need to jump before the bride can be kissed. Jane Eyre has the revelation of the wife now living, Pride & Prejudice and North & South have Elizabeth/Margaret stubbornly refusing to realise Darcy/Thornton is Mr Right until he helps her out of a sticky situation, and so on. Stumbling blocks for dramatic purposes.
To link all this back to the Bateses, they’re finally husband and wife, he’s out of jail and cleared of murder and they can live happily ever after. You would have thought the stumbling blocks would be over by now, but no. This apparently had to happen. We can’t just have those two lovebirds walking around and be all kinds of HAPPY now, do we? No, that doesn’t pull in the viewers, and with it, the money, so MOAR DRAMA PLZ. Bah.
Basically, I don’t buy the “we just wanted to explore this new angle” excuse for one second. I think it’s a thinly veiled attempt to create drama for the sake of it, just to keep us interested in the Bateses. If they wanted to explore the issue of rape in a historical context, there isn’t a shortage of characters with which to achieve this. That it happened specifically to Anna, of all people, is why I’m calling shenanigans on this.
I wonder what other crap they’re going to shove at us for the remainder of this series. It’s already looking like Disappointment Abbey, and I haven’t even mentioned that Rose is now a regular cast member (ugh) or that Edith’s own Mr Rochester is wanting to become German in order to divorce his mad wife, because that’s not going to come back and bite them both in the butt … oh well.