Despite Downton Abbey's refinement and pretty costumes, the British period drama has always flirted with the idea of being just a big-budget soap opera with plot lines involving incest, a murder trial, and an intentional miscarriage. But there's really no trope as quintessentially soap-y as that of rape. And last night's episode had two.
This particular episode was rated TV-14 as opposed to the series regular PG and PBS aired a disclaimer in the beginning advising viewer discretion. Set at the Crawley family's glittery house party (that was drastically different from how Kid 'n Play defined the term for a later generation), the "obvious" rape happened while a famed opera singer performed for the guests and servants, leaving the downstairs desolate. Anna went to the kitchen to take something to relieve a headache when she was attacked by the servant of one of the Crawley's guests. Discovered by Mrs. Hughes, she begged her not to tell anyone, even her husband Bates.
The "less obvious" rape happened later, when the festivities had died down. Branson had been getting drunker and drunker all night with the help of a new lady's maid who served him a drink (that maybe had something in it?). She then slinked into his room after he was presumably passed out. It wasn't as graphic or demonstrative as Anna's rape, but the implication remained that the maid planned to take advantage of Branson.
It should be interesting to see how the repercussions of the rapes play out through the rest of the season, and if they're used merely as scandalous storylines or a comment on gender differences during that time.