Downton Abbey – S04.03 “The opera episode” (Controversy and spoilers)

Miz finally got around to watching this controversial episode which was shown in early October 2013 – the one that prompted 244 complaints to the UK’s media regulator (Ofcom) and many debates in the media. Nine million viewers tuned in to see this Sunday night drama and Ofcom subsequently ruled that it would take no further action as the complaint event in question was broadcast at 9.45pm, there was a clear warning at the beginning of the episode, and the action happened off screen and there were no graphic scenes of the event itself.* She has THOUGHTS on this episode.

OMG What happened? Well if you don’t want to find out, stop reading. Now. like yesterday.

It was incredibly distressing  to see one of their favourite characters, Mrs Anna Bates, attacked and presumably raped off-screen. This plot twist was completely out of left field and threw loyal viewers into a tissy of epic proportions. For once the anger of viewers wasn’t directed at Thomas and his manipulative ways.

*The fact that the action happened “behind closed doors” was a compelling portrayal of a vicious attack. Anna’s screams intermingled with opera notes pulled at Miz’s heart strings in a way that only Downton can seem to do. yes the dialogue was a bit pantomimey but it was an effective storytelling device as Miz was drawn in. In much the same way as hating on GOT characters, Miz dislikes Thomas. This twist took things to the next level.

The offending scene showed Anna feeling dizzy so going to the empty kitchen to get a glass of water while all other house members were in the front room getting entertained by Dame Nelly Melba, Anna was approached by Mr Gillingham’s valet (Green) – someone who was seemingly flirting with her throughout the whole episode, much to the ill-feeling of Mr Bates – Green then grabbed her, Anna try to fight back, and she was dragged to a room kicking and screaming. Afterwards Anna was found by Mrs Hughes in only her underdress and battered and bruised, begging the mother of the house not to tell anyone (let alone Mr Bates who’s temper is short and has already served prison time). This scene was almost as distressing at the implied rape scene for Miz – the thought that no-one would believe her, that the attacker was a guest in the house, or the retribution for the attacker would harm someone’s “good” name (=hanging by a thread), was awful.

Yes we watch Downton Abbey for the costumes, the parties, the historical events, Maggie’s one-liners, and Thomas’ evil plots. But these kinds of twists and social messages is good for a show, and a demographic, that doesn’t like to confront hard truths. From the get-go this series has dived into tough subjects: post-traumatic stress, suicide, prison time, death (in and out or war), child birth, prostitution, desolate poverty, divorce, and homosexuality. For Miz, this attack scene was no different – It prompts discussion of a real injustice in our society that sadly exists and effects people. There’s no such thing as “old-fashioned-rape” – you cannot just shelve this event in with the notions that medicine is better these days for those in child birth, that our roads are safer, that homosexuality is( seemingly) more accepted, that we now have a welfare state. This is perhaps what got people’s noses up, but for the exact same reason why Miz appreciated it.

Miz watches with anticipation as to where the writers will take this show now… Yes, she’s behind UK audiences, sorry about that, there’s just too many shows to catch up on (especially when the sun is shining)! In the meantime, know that Miz is thinking about this episode way past watching it, which is more than she can say for many other staples of her tv diet.



One thought on “Downton Abbey – S04.03 “The opera episode” (Controversy and spoilers)

  1. Pingback: Downton Abbey – S04.03 (other thoughts) | Miz Rantypants

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