Just a few short months ago, I learned something disturbing about season 4 of Downton Abbey. The series would take on an especially dark theme -- for one character in particular. Lady's maid Anna is violently attacked. I'll get into the nature of that attack below. SPOILER ALERT, readers. But when I first heard about it, I was both horrified that the producers would go there and curious to see how they would treat such a difficult topic.
Once more, SPOILER ALERT!
So, it happened. Everyone, including the Downton staff, are upstairs that evening hearing opera. Anna comes down with a headache and decides to go downstairs -- where she is met by visiting Lord Gillingham's valet, Mr. Green. He's been trying to flirt with Anna while sneering at Bates. Now that he's got Anna alone, he first tries to seduce her, and then when she rebuffs him, he rapes her.
Mercifully we're spared watching the actual act. But we do see him hit her, hard. He drags her off and throws her into another room like a rag doll. Then we hear her screams.
The scene actually reminds me of something Penelope Cruz recently said about acting in childbirth scenes. Before becoming a mother, she would scream her head off. Now that she knows what childbirth is actually like, she'd do it differently: "More pain, less screaming." I wonder if the same is true of rape. At any rate, I suppose they have to give us some clue of how horrible Anna's ordeal is.
Fans of the show know Anna very well at this point. We know she is strong, kind, ethical, intelligent, sweet, and generous. I think that makes this plot twist all the harder, because she is absolutely the last person on the show you'd want something like this to happen to.
And she's in all the more of a bind. She won't tell Bates what happened because she's afraid he'll attack Green, and as a convicted felon, he'll go to prison and she'll never see him again. But she can't even let him touch her now. Surely he knows something has happened, but he may never find out what. And there will always be that rift between them.
Green hasn't just injured Anna. He's marred her relationship with Bates. So go the many invisible wounds of rape.
Honestly, I could do without this plot twist. I'm not convinced it was necessary or that it serves the show in any way. But we'll see ... we'll see how Anna's rape affects the other characters, especially Bates. While I do think Anna and Bates were cozy and content to the point of being boring, I don't think this was the best way to alter their relationship. It looks like there will be serious and somewhat realistic repercussions, at least. And with Lord Gillingham making progress with Mary upstairs, it doesn't look as if we've seen the last of Green, either.
What did you think of the rape scene in this week's episode?
Image via PBS