Don't tell the Dowager Countess about the obscene language, but as the world prepares for a Downton Abbey movie, it’s hard not to say WTF at some of the moments that shocked viewers during the show’s run on PBS. For anyone who doesn’t have time to binge the whole thing before the film's release on Friday, September 20, here are the TV show’s top 10 most shocking moments (spoilers ahead).
10. Mary Takes a Lover … Who Immediately DiesSo, this is actually a huge moment for the show but since it happens in the third episode, it became the litmus test for all other crazy things to come. When a handsome gentleman from Turkey comes to stay, he convinces Lady Mary to allow him into her bed, where he has a heart attack and dies. The ensuing cover-up will haunt Mary and the family for years to come.
9. Edith’s BetrayalThe sister drama on Downton is second to none, but even bigger than the petty squabbling is Edith’s decision to completely screw Mary over. Instead of covering for her sister after Turkey-gate, Edith writes to the Turkish ambassador to snitch on her older sister, ruining her prospects forever. Or at least until after the war.
8. Lord Grantham Spews Blood at the Dinner TableThis is a truly gross WTF moment. Despite the heavy-handed hints that something was amiss with Lord Grantham’s health, no one could have seen this coming. While sitting at a typically fancy Downton dinner, Robert stood and suddenly, graphically suffered a burst ulcer. PBS pulled a page from the Quentin Tarantino playbook, leaving poor Cora covered in blood.
7. The Dowager Countess Has a PastMaggie Smith has played a slew of memorable roles over the last few decades. It's hard for people to picture what she might have looked like as a young woman. In season five, we get the bombshell news that her character nearly ran away with a handsome Russian prince, but ultimately decided to stay to be near her children. It’s mild by today’s standards, but there’s something jaw-dropping in hearing it from Violet Crawley.
6. Patrick Crawley Returns … or Does He?In a faux-Anastasia plotline, a wounded soldier shows up at Downton saying he’s the rightful heir. Edith falls for it, but the real Patrick did actually die on the Titanic. The whole storyline is downright weird and borderline annoying, especially because the actor playing the fake Patrick has possibly the worst speaking voice ever heard on television.
5. Edith BetrayedOverlooked Edith finally gets the wedding day she’s always dreamed of, but is left at the altar by her much-older fiancé. Everything turns out okay for the much-maligned middle Crawley sister, but it’s heartbreaking to see her crushed by the man she truly did love.
4. Sybil Has a Baby … Then DiesThere are many sad deaths on Downton Abbey, but none more tragic than losing the fiery, beautiful Sybil in childbirth. The fact that it could have been prevented had her father not been so stubborn is salt in a very deep wound. Dr. Clarkson eventually lies and says that a C-section might not have saved her, but viewers knew the truth.
Re-watching the show makes you wonder: Did the writers just spin a wheel of horrible things every season to see what they should put poor Bates through? From being bullied for being a cripple (O’Brien literally knocks him to the ground) to his wrongful murder conviction, the poor dude suffered. All. The. Time. Thank goodness he had Anna.
Literally Everything That Ever Happens to John Bates
2. Anna’s RapeOh, wait. Anna’s constant suffering because of her love for poor, tortured John Bates wasn’t enough. Nope — in season four, the kindest character on the show is brutally raped. It’s not only shocking in the moment, but it casts a pall over the show for the rest of the season.
1. Matthew DiesLoyal viewers still haven’t forgiven Dan Stevens for leaving the show, nor should they. Just when it seemed like Matthew and Mary were headed for Happily Ever After, there was a WTF heard ‘round the world when season three ended on a shot of Matthew dead on the side of the road, hours after becoming a father. At least he left a male heir behind.
Downton Abbey is scheduled to open in movie theaters nationwide on September 20, 2019.