If way back in Season 1 of Downton Abbey we could have looked into the crystal ball Julian Fellowes keeps on his desk and seen what Anna Smith (now Bates) would endure in the seasons to come, we’re not sure we could have faced the truth.
Anna’s had a rocky road nearly since the start of the show. Even when she fell for the admirable valet John Bates (Brendan Coyle), their sweet romance was rife with conflict. If he wasn’t being hounded by a diabolical ex-wife, he was being falsely imprisoned for the suspicious death of said diabolical ex-wife with Anna sticking it out for the man she loves.
Finally, after many a trail, Season 3 closed with things finally looking up for Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) trusty maid and her recently ex-convict hubby. The two were seen blithely sprucing up their cozy cottage and, if we strained hard enough, we thought we made out the pitter-patter of tiny feet. But sadly, Anna’s life never does stay happy for long.
Things were going along well enough until Episode 3 of the most reason season. During that now notorious installment of Downton, Anna is brutally raped by a visitor to the Abbey, Mr. Green (Nigel Harman).
The trauma inflicted on Anna both emotionally and physically shapes the course of her life throughout the following episodes. She hides the attack from everyone until her one confidante, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), is forced to tell Mr. Bates what happened. Eventually, even Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) finds out and Anna must deal with the consequences.
Thankfully, she does not become pregnant by her attacker and Mr. Bates stays by his wife’s side, even forgoing an exciting trip to America with his employer, Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), to make sure his wife gets the love and care she needs.
Once again, things seem to be shaping up when a twist in the season finale may mean more trouble ahead for the already troubled Anna. Mr. Green dies under mysterious circumstances while Mr. Bates is noticeably absent from the Abbey. Although freed from the looming shadow of Mr. Green, Anna may lose her husband once again and this time it’s doubtful he’d avoid the gallows.
But here’s where Anna’s close relationship with Mary comes through. During the Season 4 Christmas Special, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) comes across a ticket stub hidden away in Mr. Bates’s old jacket that proves he was indeed in London on the day of Green’s death. When the head housekeeper goes to Mary with the news, the eldest Crawley daughter is torn between whether or not she should reveal the development to Anna and, potentially, to the authorities.
Then Bates proves his loyalty and steadfastness by helping the Crawleys out of a jam (using skills he picked up in prison nonetheless) and Mary realizes that whatever he may or may not have done, Bates always has Anna’s best intentions in mind. After that revelation, Mary tosses the incriminating ticket stub into the fire and, we hope, so ends this particularly dark chapter in Anna’s life.