"Downton Abbey" viewers across the pond were stunned at a major storyline twist in the latest episode. The show's newest season has not yet aired in the United States, so readers should beware that a major spoiler will be covered in this article.
Viewers of the period drama written by Julian Fellowes were shocked and horrified as they watched character Anna Bates' brutal rape during the most recent episode. After Mrs. Bates rebuffs another character's advances, he drags her into a room, beats her, and then rapes her. Audiences did not see the actual rape but heard Bates' screams and the beating she took… then saw the bruises afterward.
Before the show aired, producers broadcast a warning saying that the episode contained "violent scenes that some viewers may find upsetting." Yet many had no idea what they were in for.
"Was this a desperate bid to bring younger, peppier, more demanding, female viewers back into the fold?" Telegraph writer Katy Rink posted in her critique of the show. "Fellowes was clearly aiming for something akin to Sybil-shock; that formidable moment when he killed off Downton's beloved daughter, right before our eyes. Last night we writhed in our sofas, disbelieving and uncomfortable."
While there are many that were horrified by the scene and are outraged at Fellowes, there are just as many who note that rape occurred during that time period and anyone who believes differently was not properly educated.
"Unfortunately this is still a reality and not only outside marriage. If people don't want to see they have the freedom and control to turn it off," wrote Daily Mail reader Mehere.
"For a gentle type of family orientated drama, it was out of place. An sensationalist scene to drum up ratings I'm sure. Which is a shame," added g2g.
According to the Daily Mail, "Downton Abbey" is one of the most popular series on British TV and brought in 10.5 million viewers when its fourth season premiered last month. It will premiere in the U.S. in January.