Downton Abbey 4.2 Review: Another “Special” Episode

Denisa and I caught up with Downton last night. The trouble with seeing it a day late is that I already had some inkling something bad was going to happen. No one spoiled it (thank you!), but I approached the episode with no small amount of dread. That disclaimer at the beginning didn’t help any, either. So the whole episode, I kept waiting for the awful to happen. (After Matthew’s death at the end of last season, it’s clear the awful can happen at any time).

Caution–SPOILERS and Trigger Warning

That said, my knee-jerk reaction, when hearing that something bad would happen in the episode, was to think, “I really hope they don’t rape Anna.” Why did I think that? It’s the easy thing to do, from a writer’s perspective. You’ve got a beloved couple that is all ooey gooey happy. You’ve already had a string of deaths, so you feel like you can’t play that card again. What’s the next worst thing you can do them (after already subjecting them to a random murder trial and imprisonment)?

You have the girl get raped, of course.

It makes it so you don’t have to have your two characters do anything “wrong”–the relationship didn’t fail. The characters didn’t grow apart. One of them had something horrible happen to them.

And so of course that’s exactly what the writers had happen. Ugh. (Please, writers. Please–for the love of all that’s good in this world–don’t have her get pregnant because of this. Don’t string us along for the rest of the season with a big “is it Bates’ baby or the rapist’s” plot line. But what am I saying? You’ve already done what you’re going to do, and no amount of pleading is going to fix it.)

For me, this episode is where I finally decided that Downton isn’t a drama, it’s a soap opera. A fancy one, with great production values and acting, but a soap opera nonetheless. What’s the difference? For me, it comes down to plotting. Soap operas run on melodrama–putting their characters in tons of danger and tension in order to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. (Disclaimer: I don’t watch soap operas, so I could be slamming an entire genre unjustly.) What really sets soap operas apart in my mind is the need to keep that tension high. To keep that melodrama going. And let’s face it: most of us don’t live lives full of melodrama. We don’t have danger and tension nonstop. And so when we stick with a soap opera (or Downton Abbey) long enough, we begin to notice that the show just isn’t feeling “right” anymore. It’s not realistic. When the show just keeps jamming down on that melodrama button until it breaks off, it’s gone too far.

And Anna and Bates are the perfect example of this. They’ve had  a long lost wife, a disputed divorce, a murder trial, an incarceration, a novice murder investigation, a rape . . . Do their lives look like *anyone* you know outside of a television series?

The frustrating thing is that Downton doesn’t need to do this. It’s a better show than this. And yet they persist in it, and why not–it’s getting them ratings. It’s making people talk about the show. But I for one am losing interest. And yet here I am, blogging.


Enough of that. What did I think about the rest of the episode?

  • Chauffeur Boy and Maid Girl really are getting it on? Really, Downton? REALLY? Not pleased with this plot line at all, either.
  • As much as I disliked the rape, it presents some real opportunity for drama. They just didn’t need to go to rape to get there. The guy could have made a pass at her. Forced a kiss. She still would have been worried about Bates’ temper. And since Mary and the rapist’s boss seem to have a potential thing going on, there could still be the drawn out drama of the loser showing up at Downton and Anna forced to deal with him. Instead, they’re going to do that and add all the rape baggage.
  • Mary and Not-Matthew–What’s up with this show? Last episode, it took Mary forever to break the ice a smidge and decide not to be horrendously depressed all the time. This episode? She’s laughing and going on rides with Lord Gilligan. Tee hee. Isn’t this the Mary that took Matthew years to break down to the point that she’d admit she liked him? Seems very out of character for her to suddenly be friendly to a strange guy. Dislike.
  • Edith’s Reporter Husband and Lord Grantham–I liked this plot quite a bit. Amusing. Fun. I like the reporter dude. He shows initiative, something a lot of the Granthams do not.
  • Australian opera singer–another good plot line. True to the times. Loved seeing Carson have a conniption over the changes.
  • Molesley was a lot of fun, as well. I really enjoyed seeing what new thing he’d be upset about. Road work is one thing, but being forced to wear white gloves and *serving* at dinner? When will the injustice stop?

I don’t know about this one. Up to the rape scene, it was fairly solid stuff. But then it fell apart for me at the end. Did not like. Am I alone in this? Let me know what you thought.

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