Dammit, Julian Fellowes. :-/
I've adored Downton Abbey in all of its soap opera glory since the first season...and I realize I'm admitting to something of a double standard here when I say that I can deal with shenanigans of all stripes, from romantic flings to murders (or accusations thereof), but personal, physical attacks like rape...well, there's a reason I don't watch crime shows of Law & Order: SVU's ilk. And that doesn't even touch on STUPID EDNA getting Branson drunk and doing God knows what behind closed doors. Whether or not she actually succeeds in sleeping with him in his state is left to question, but if she did -- well, as other bloggers have pointed out, whether female OR male, the inability to give consent does not imply its presence.
This new storyline for Anna feels out of step with the history of the show -- without spoilers, I would've expected there to be some conflict over a mistaken flirtation with Green, not an outright attack. But maybe that's just me. I will say this -- Joanne Froggatt, you broke my heart -- and you're an even better actress than I ever dreamed. It KILLED me to see a character defined by her unflagging positive outlook and constancy suffer this. I can only hope that the aftermath and recovery is handled in a sensitive manner that respects the seriousness of this plot "twist."
So, rather than my usual gushing, which feels particularly inappropriate given the gravitas of the subject matter introduced here, I'm just going to quickly highlight a few points relevant to the other characters' storylines going forward:
- The first of Lady Mary's (Michelle Dockery) new suitors arrives for Downton's house party -- childhood friend Lord Gillingham, Anthony Foyle (Tom Cullen). He is adorbs, and also apparently "nearly engaged," whatever that means, but oh-so-into Mary (of course). (The Masterpiece geek in me can't get over that there is an Anthony Foyle character here, when later in the season Suitor Option #2 shows up -- Charles Blake, played by Julian Ovenden, who played Andrew Foyle in Foyle's War.)
- Fellowes masterfully finds reasons to keep Molesley (Kevin Doyle) on this show by having him substitute as a footman when Jimmy's (Ed Speleers) penchant for showing off lands him with a sprained wrist. Poor Molesley isn't dealing well with his come-down in the world...
- Carson (Jim Carter) has no understanding of the celebrity culture boom destined blossom during the twentieth-century's ensuing decades as the thought of a world-famous singer, Dame Nellie Melba (Kiri Te Kanawa), conversing with the family leaves him absolutely scandalized. This would be hilarious enough on its own except Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) makes her frustration with this view known by proclaiming that she's the most progressive, modern resident of Downton. HA.
- Robert (Hugh Bonneville) has gambling issues, losing a substantial sum that he can ill afford to Sampson (Patrick Kennedy), some random frenemy from his club. Anyone recognize Kennedy from Bleak House, where he played Richard Carstone?
- Robert's aforementioned gambling issues are resolved when Gregson (Charles Edwards) OF ALL PEOPLE finally manages to ingratiate himself with his dream father-in-law by revealing Sampson to be a card shark in need of a come-down, winning back everyone's I.O.U.'s. This makes Edith (Laura Carmichael) stupid happy, furthering the train wreck I feel sure is coming. I mean separating Gregson from his crazy wife for the moment, I really do think he and Edith share some nice chemistry...but they are so hilariously awkward sometimes it just cracks me up.
- Robert's big objection to Gregson is that he's essentially "in trade" as a newspaperman, right? Neither parent knows of his marriage? And who exactly does he think is supposed to be a better option, especially if he's ignorant of point #2? I mean NO ONE IS AROUND, Robert. Yeesh.
- Violet (Maggie Smith) is overflowing with her requisite wit, but pauses in her non-stop sarcasm to once again reveal her compassionate side, reaching out to Isobel (Penelope Wilton) and encouraging her to start giving herself permission to enjoy life post-Matthew.
- Branson (Allen Leech) needs a hug. It was SO hard seeing him bumble through the house party while trying SO HARD and get progressively more and more depressed. Obviously it was beyond stupid to talk to Edna (MyAnna Buring), but he certainly wasn't reaching out to her for the kind of comfort she so obviously wants to give. :P I cannot WAIT for her to disappear, preferably forever. (Side note: I loved seeing Joanna David as the Duchess of Yeovil that manages to corner Branson at every opportunity -- if she seems familiar, that's because she played Mrs. Gardiner in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice.)
- Bates's (Brendan Coyle) look at Anna's obvious distress at the end of this installment BROKE MY HEART.
I'm definitely curious to hear your thoughts on this episode, so please share! And if you've seen season four in its entirety please try to keep comments relatively spoiler-free, thanks. :)
EDIT: A friend shared this link on Facebook, where a survivor of rape talks about her reaction to this installment of Downton Abbey. It is a heartbreaking and thought-provoking read. http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/january/lets-talk-about-what-happened-on-downton-abbey.html