'Downton Abbey' Insufferability Index: What Was THAT?

Our weekly look at which Downton-ites are trying our patience. Last night's heavy-handed episode left us decidedly less cheerful, but at least Jimmy fell right on his butt.

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Before we get to the sufferability and insufferability of the denizens of Downton  this week, we have to address the elephant in the room. We confess we were not prepared for what ended up happening to Anna, as she was attacked (onscreen) and raped (offscreen) by the valet of Lord Gillingham. This happened after an episode in which Anna was daring to have some fun outside the sour purview of her husband, the increasingly fuddy-duddy-ish Bates. Maybe it's the weird upstairs/downstairs sense of outdated propriety hammered home by the Carsons and Lord Granthams of this world, but it was more than a little uncomfortable to deal with the implication that Anna was attacked in part because she was heedless in her participation in card games and innocent flirting with Mr. Green.

Surely, Downton Abbey doesn't view Anna's rape as anything other than horrible, but there's a context of "Oh, if only she'd have been upstairs, watching that Australian opera singer with her husband" about the whole thing. It's the danger that comes with using rape as a plot-goosing element. Just last week, we were lamenting how dull Bates and Anna had gotten. Not anymore! Terribly, horribly so.

As for the rest of the show ...


Mrs. Hughes Mrs. Hughes is probably the best person at Downton Abbey. She's constantly dealing with everyone else's problems, attempting to both adhere to their wishes and make sure everything run smoothly. In all honesty, she probably should have made Anna go to the doctor, but that's a 21st Century mindset talking, and lord knows Downton is not on the cutting edge of medical know-how. For now, Mrs. Hughes has proven herself once again to be the person you want on your side when things go horribly wrong.

Lord Gillingham Lord Gillingham brought Mr. Green into the house, so he's not all good, but considering Anthony was completely unaware of what a horrible person his valet was, he lands safely in the sufferable category. Look, part of the reason Lord Gillingham is so "sufferable" is just the fact that he's played by Tom Cullen, and, let's face it, have you seen Tom Cullen? Yeah. But aside from his many physical delights, we suspect that Lord Gillingham is actually a good match for Mary. He brings her out of her shell of grief and encourages her participation in the running of the estate.

Mr. Gregson: Edith's new beau was not off to the greatest start this week. He didn't want to go ride horses. He said that he doesn't dance. He did that thing where he didn't want to engage with anyone at the party, so he locked himself to Edith's side all night. We were, frankly, ready to slot him in with the insufferables just because we're so sick of Edith ending up with stiffs. But Gregson really turned it around! Using what appears to be an intriguing past as a poker player (grifter?). Gregson was able to win back everybody's money from the shady Sampson, thus bailing out Lord Grantham from his ill-advised gambling the night before. Way to make a good impression, Gregson.


Bates: That this episode ended with Anna beaten and bloodied really draws attention to how heavy-handed Bates' behavior was earlier in the hour. Seeing the narrative strings getting pulled so clearly makes it a bit less fun to jab at Bates for being such a stick-in-the-mud. But honestly! It's a card game, not a cockfight, man. Quit being THAT husband.

Edna Braithwaite: Oh, Edna. Honestly, we'd love to see the storyline where Tom Branson passionately falls in love with someone from downstairs, but that's not this storyline. Braithwaite is so clearly a schemer—she's O'Brien 2.0 but younger and with better hair—that it's hard to feel anything about her relationship with Tom other than "oy." She's plying him with alcohol and making him feel generally shitty about his place at Downton. Their ultimate affair is of course as much his fault as it is hers, but the show is so certain that she's an evil bitch that it's just, well, insufferable.

Jimmy: Oh, how satisfying was it to watch this supremely cocky jerk of a valet fall flat on his bum after showing off his jar-opening skills. No sympathy at all from Mrs. Patmore, either, which was about what Jimmy deserved.

Most Insufferable

Mr. Green Of course this terrible terrible human being is the most insufferable. He flirts with Anna, and then rapes her when she refuses to reciprocate his romantic interest. Yes, he's undeniably terrible. But this is also the case of the show being insufferable, using an out of nowhere rape to drive drama. The show is best this season when it gets in touch with its soapier side—notably we found a lot to love in Lady Mary's romantic travails—but the rape plot line is just further evidence that Julian Fellowes and crew don't really know what to do about certain downstairs characters. Anna deserves better.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.