Disturbingly Violent ‘Downton Abbey’ Episode Goes Too Far

Twisted 9

nigel harman downton abbeyFor those of us Downton Abbey fans who can't/won't watch season 4, now airing in the UK, there's been some grim news. First I heard that the new season was blahsville: Recycled plots, no chemistry between the characters. And do we really want to watch Mary skulking around in quiet mourning? Eh, probably not. Just as we were starting to think Julien Fellows had lost it, we caught wind of a shockingly violent storyline in the latest Downton episode. Great news? I don't know ... wait until you hear what that storyline is.


Of all the twisted plot twists. Episode 3 begins with a warning that there is a scene of violence, viewer discretion, etc. So that probably set everyone to speculating that Fellows was going to kill off another character yet again, I'm sure. What follows isn't a death, to our relief. But it's potentially just as emotionally manipulative.

It all starts when we're introduced to a visiting valet, Mr. Green, who engages in a bit of seemingly harmless flirting with Anna. Then he tries to kiss Anna. Our Mrs. Bates refuses him, of course. She probably would have refused him even if she hadn't been married, and she would have been perfectly reasonable to do so. But Mr. Green is offended or aroused, or apparently both. He hits her and then hauls her into another room and rapes her.

Nigel Harman, who plays Green, says about the scene, "It was a shocking and bold storyline, and something that when I was sent the script and read it was amazed and excited by ... because for a show like 'Downton' it really leaped out as a bold and risky idea." Risky? Sure, I guess. Bold? Hmm.

We don't actually see the rape itself -- thank God. But from what I hear, he's violent about the way he drags her into the room. You can hear him roughing her up, and you can hear her screaming. Then you see Anna emerge, looking traumatized emotionally and physically.

Many fans were outraged. Using violence against women to stir up drama on the series -- it just comes off as exploitative and unnecessary. In the US we have a phrase for this sort of desperate move: Jumping the shark. In an otherwise lackluster season, to throw in this sensationalist bit of sexual violence sounds lazy, the kind of idea you get when you're out of ideas.

On the other hand, the scene probably isn't unrealistic. I'm sure this could very well have happened in any great house -- and if Fellows has any sense of responsibility to his character and his audience, he'll treat this shocking event with the gravity and dignity it deserves. Downton is notorious for tidily tying up conflicts within an episode or two. But I'll reserve judgment until I actually see the series for myself.

Still, just knowing that Fellows went there is disappointing. I think most of us watch Downton for the escapism. That doesn't mean the show can't take on meaty issues and tragedy, but you can push the drama only so far with this kind of show. Death? Yeah, okay. But rape is complicated in ways that I'm not sure the series can handle. I guess we'll see.

How do you feel about a rape scene in Downton Abbey?


Image via ITV



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nekoy... nekoyukidoll

as as writer who has written some graphic rape scenes, I see things like this as necessary evil, if you will.  As much as we hate the idea and wish no one is ever hurt like that, women or men, it does happen.  I also see this a way to able us to have open discussions about this type of things and hopefully change how we look at them in terms of victim blaming and such

adamat34 adamat34

Its tv show.....calm down...no one "actually" got raped.......Ive seen far worse in movies...

nonmember avatar Robbie Knight

Horrifying and beastly. Plus, the chemistry was gone from these characters this season. Probably to set up the "drama". I'm repulsed and will never watch it again.

nonmember avatar Marie

I just saw it. You can find these episodes online if you try. I'm sure things like this happened all the time and after a war, you're horrified by this? Why not show something like this and how it was handled 90 years ago? The actress who plays Anna was probably thrilled to have some real drama to play and I'm sure the story arc will show her and Bates having issues now and end up all happy by the end of the season. One in 4 U.S. women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Its a story that should be told.

nonmember avatar Beth Murphy

Anna and Bates are the reason I watch Downton Abbey. I hope this issue will be dealt with sensitively. Since Bates went to jail when he didn't commit murder, I hope when he does "dispose" of the rapist - they don't find the body!

nonmember avatar Mary

It disappoints me to think that you believe Downton viewers can't "handle" such a storyline. Downton handles many social issues with devastating consequences, why should a rape plotline be any different? If anything, it'll just go to show how much you are proving that reactions to this issue haven't changed as much as they should have from 1922.

I applaud Downton Abbey for taking this on. As a woman, I'm proud to watch this show and I'm proud of the issues it is bringing it up.

nonmember avatar Laura

I'm very sorry to learn that poor Anna has to be raped. It isn't that viewers like me "can't handle" a rape scene so much as the fact that a series that has been a source of great pleasure becomes a source of pain. If one in four American women are sexually assaulted, that's one in four women who can't find a rape scene "entertaining"--the scene becomes a source of horror and anxiety. Yes, many women of the servant class were sexually assaulted or exploited--but one could make that point and have Anna save herself, or be saved, before she is forced to be physically and emotionally traumatized.

nonmember avatar Katie

This show has jumped the shark. While we all know that violence against women happened (and happens) throughout history this particular scenario was badly written. It wold have been more likely the case where someone of higher stature forces without violence a maid, etc to have sex with them (under threat of dismissing them). To rape someone so violently during a house visit where there is always a chance that the victim would tell (with the abuse showing on her beaten face, etc) is great and the penalty for rape in the UK was death until the late 1800s and was life imprisonment at hard labor in the 1920s. This wasn't a Lord or someone of "stature" doing the crime here but his servant (i.e. disposable to these guys). Anna is a beloved member of the staff- it is certain that Cora and Robert would "do something" on her behalf, whether through the legal system or not.
Watch...this is so predictable- Anna will have a pregnancy scare.
No thanks. Won't be watching on a regular basis now.

nonmember avatar Shelaigh Stone

I cannot believe the number of blogs recycling the same pre-release, contrived damage control about this:



Re-Choreographed Evil (yes, with a capital E),


Social media is just as manipulated as the news media, and they already boosted pablum to the major blogs I see.

this horrific twist does nothing but harm and is an intentional glorification and reorchestration of the heinous act of rape.

It allowed the perpetrator to destroy a storyline I was already accepting as realistic and engrossing until this excrement was portrayed.

I will not finish the series, I will never support the idiots at PBS again, and the writer who brainwashed the actors into pursuing this are self-serving opportunists.

When someone you love is destroyed by rape you do not want it "dramatized", "handled appropriately", or "artistically portrayed" -- you just do not want it.

I would say I am as disappointed as I am angry but I would be expecting too much from the writers who obviously have no respect for an audience member such as myself. To try to speak with a degree of civility after their orchestration of this act would be giving them a way out of their culpability and essentially minimize their responsibility.

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