Darkness has struck “Downton Abbey” in the second episode of the fourth season. Though we knew something was coming through ominous rumblings on the Internet, we were wholly unprepared for what happened — and to one of our favorite characters. Such things have never had a place on the show, and it’s no wonder viewers were left in a state of shock. But we’ll get to that…
The storyline begins upbeat enough: Downton is to host a dinner party, complete with strapping young noblemen to help entertain the single ladies of the household — especially Mary, who finds herself smiling in the company of the handsome Lord Gillingham for the first time since Matthew’s untimely death (potential suitor alert?). The highlight of the evening is a performance by the Australian opera singer Dame Nelli Melba — though Lord Grantham and Mr. Carson both prove to be insufferable snobs about her presence, not even extending an initial invitation to her to dine with the party guests, as a world-renowned opera star who has been honored by the king isn’t nearly worthy enough to have a place at their dinner table. Once again, Lord Grantham embarrasses everyone with his bumbling resistance to move into the 20th century — a reoccurring theme we’re all annoyed with by now.
Meanwhile, down in the servants hall, Lord Gillingham’s valet, Mr. Green, has taken a keen interest in Anna, who returns the flirtation — to an extent — as her husband, Mr. Bates, looks on in suspicion and does his best to shut it down. At one point, he even tells Anna there is something about that Green that just rubs him the wrong way, after he sees her childlike excitement during a game of cards that Green taught her. Mr. Bates, wise to the ways of human nature from all that time he spent in prison, turns out to be quite right about Green, as what happens next left us all in a state of disbelief….
During the opera performance, Anna gets a headache and goes downstairs to fetch some medicine. Green, seeing his window of opportunity, follows here down. At first, it starts off nice — a bit of peer pressure to take a swig from a flask. But when Anna resists, he gets nasty, saying, “Don’t tell me that old cripple keeps you happy.” Anna, visibly alarmed, does her best to hold it together, responding, “If you must know, yes — he keeps me very happy. Now let me pass. Please.” As you can likely guess, he didn’t let her pass. Green attacks Anna, punching her in the face — as all of America lets out a collective gasp of horror. That was the end of the scene, though Anna’s screams as she is raped echo through the servant’s hall, inaudible to those upstairs (including her husband) who are watching the performance.
Later, Mrs. Hughes finds Anna sobbing and beaten in the corner of her office. Anna begs her to fetch a change of clothes and swears her to secrecy, knowing her husband would surely attack Mr. Green, likely sending him back to prison once and for all. It was a different era for the victims of sexual assault — and this scene sadly reminds us of a scenario that was likely quite common back then — women too terrified to come forward, hesitant to be at the center of scandal.
At the end of the night, Mr. Bates, obviously aware something has happened, tries to get Anna to explain her cuts and bruises and change of clothes. She tells him she fainted and hurt herself, and flinches when he tries to touch her. Mr. Green, passing by, scathingly bids them both goodnight — and Anna responds, desperate not to let on to her husband. Barely able to keep it together, she tells Mr. Bates she wishes to walk home alone and hustles off as he calls after her.
Meanwhile, Lady Edith brings her older male suitor and editor to the party, hoping Michael Gregson can finally have a proper chat with her father. But Lord Grantham makes it quite obvious he doesn’t approve by avoiding one-on-one time with Gregson at all costs. Gregson, earnestly trying to win his approval, has a trick up his sleeve when he realizes one of the party guests has cheated in a game of poker, which cost Lord Grantham quite a sum. Gregson, wise to the cheat, manages to find his own sneaky way to win in the next game, reclaiming the winnings and redistributing them to the other gentleman — a classy move that did manage to impress Lord Grantham.
Still though, we find ourselves suspicious of this older man, so willing to move to Germany and gain citizenship in order to divorce his mentally ill wife. Is this finally Edith’s happy ending — or is she once again in store for a humiliating let-down? Time will tell…
Also meanwhile, young Rose brings an old gramophone down from the attic and invites the guests to dance. Oh, that Rose — always wanting to dance! Mary gets upset when she sees the gramophone, which belonged to Matthew, and runs off. That doesn’t deter Gillingham, who later asks her to dinner in London. She declines, but we have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of him.
Downstairs, Mrs. Patmore has a panic attic over the stress of the dinner (don’t worry, she’s okay), and Mr. Mosley, down on his luck, has accepted a substitute footman position for the evening.
Sybill’s widower Tom has come quite a long way during his stay at Downton, but after he’s finally forced into a tuxedo, it’s evident to him during the party that he really is out of place among the upper class and begins to feel he doesn’t belong after all. His former love interest, lady’s maid Edna Braithwaite is quick to comfort him — as we knew she wouldn’t be able to keep her trifiling paws (sorry, there is just something about her that doesn’t sit well) off of Tom. She hands him a glass of whiskey and sends him to bed — where she is seen visiting him later. Oh, no you didn’t, Edna…. No, you didn’t.
Next week’s episode will likely answer plenty of questions and touch on some dark topics. We have a feeling it’s only a matter of time before Anna’s secret comes out. Mr. Green will probably be long gone by then, but something tells us he will soon have another meeting with Mr. Bates.