(Series 4, ep.3) ITV didn’t send out any preview DVDs to the press for this episode, prompting speculation that Something Big was going to happen. On the previous occasions when they apparently didn’t send out previews, we lost Lady Sybil and Matthew Crawley in shock episodes.
My money was on Mrs Patmore shuffling off the mortal coil mid-dinner service. It’s true that she did take a bit of a funny turn, but it turned out to be a red herring of a panic attack and she will live to bake pie another day.
In a house full of new people, frankly anything could have happened. Even Dame Kiri Te Kanawa turned up, as Dame Nellie Melba. Having an opera singer in the house was almost too much for His Lordship, who didn’t think it was quite seemly to have the world famous chanteuse eating at his dinner table and ordered a tray to be sent up. Her Ladyship is made of more modern stock (she’s American), so she overturned his tray plan and insisted that Dame Nellie would sit next to him at dinner and they darn well would make small talk, so there.
Also at the dinner party was Lord Gillingham, a potential new love interest for Mary. Edith brought her married boyfriend, who proceeded to ingratiate himself with Lord G by winning all his money back from a card shark. And there was a nasty visiting servant Green, played by Nigel Harman.
And he was the source of the expected shock. He didn’t die – there weren’t any deaths apart from a further nail in the coffin of Molesley’s self respect when he went from road mender to delivery boy to footman in the space of one episode. What Green did was actually worse – he raped The Sainted Anna.
The actual rape wasn’t shown, though we saw him hit her and drag her into a room. What was most distressing was her reaction afterwards, as she begged Mrs Hughes not to tell anybody, in case Bates tried to take revenge and ended up in prison with a death sentence over him. Joanne Froggatt was excellent, showing Anna trying to put on her usual calm facade as if nothing had happened, but letting us see how traumatised she was.
It really was a shocking incident and I find myself completely unable to decide whether I thought it was gratuitous and a bit exploitative. I think I’ll have to wait and see how the aftermath unfolds in coming episodes. What I do know is that this is one episode that didn’t leave me with a happy, satisfied smile on my face.