The suggestion that the delightful Anna and her forthright husband Mr. Bates are serial killers has been floating around the internet for a little while now. It comes from the two murder cases that the couple were suspects in and while they were both ultimately found innocent this has lead some to posit that the two of them are genius murderers who committed these crimes and several others. Of course I had dismissed this as something that was at best as idle pondering or at worst a stupid theory put forward by some dumb blogger desperate to have a post go viral like that guy who theorised that all of the Pixar films happened in the same shared universe. (Thank goodness that I’m above such things.)
Interestingly though one seemingly minor event in the new Downton movie throws all of this into a blinding new light. Whereas before the idea that sweet Anna Bates, née Smith would be involved in such things was so far from everything we had seen her do that to give it any credence was preposterous. Now though we have glimpsed another side to her. Now we know that Anna has no compunctions about drugging people to achieve her petty aims. What’s more the way she coyly shrugged as she admitted to slipping the palace chef a potentially fatal sleeping draught showed a callous coldness beneath that mousey smile.
I won’t deny that it’s got me thinking and I feel it necessary to rejudge all that we’ve previously seen. I now think she may well have pushed Mr. Green under that car and I have no doubt that she and her husband plotted to poison the first Mrs. Bates. Yeah, yeah we saw her professing total faith in her husband when she visited him in the slammer but this was all part of the scam. They knew walls have ears and prison walls have eyes and mouths too.
Is it possible then, could the internet nutters have a point? Is there more to this than first appears? Might Anna and Mr. Bates be responsible for all of the deaths in Downton Abbey? Let’s have a think about it.
The first character to bite the big one was Mr. Pamuk, the pushy Turkish diplomat who died in Lady Mary’s bed. The motive here is clear. Mary’s night time activities could so easily have lead to scandal and her ever loyal housemaid took action to silence the one witness. Why else would a perfectly healthy young man suddenly pass away while he slumbered? I think this is the first time Anna had used that sleeping draught and on this first occasion she deliberately served a very large dose. Little wonder she then unquestioningly carried the body out in a manner most women of her apparent nature would balk at.
Maybe the next person to fall prey to Anna’s penchant for fatally medicating people was Lavinia Squire. No suspicion arose here because the Abbey was in the grip of Spanish Flu and Lavinia barely survived it anyway. Just as it looked like she was past it though, Mary’s love rival suddenly succumbed and was gone. Hmmm, that’s convenient. To add insult to injury for the Squires, once Mr. Bates got wind that Matthew stood to inherit the family fortune he probably popped Lavinia’s father too.
Why then did they bump off Matthew having gone to such efforts to position him as Mary’s husband? It’s simple really. He’d given Mary what she needed as far as they were concerned. She had born his son thus insuring that she and her child would go on to rule the county and keep the mansion. Matthew had served his purpose and so the whiny, indecisive outsider who unfairly held the keys to the kingdom had to go. A severed brake cable and a well positioned tractor took him out within hours of the baby arriving.
Of course the war almost messed everything up but fortunately William sacrificed himself by getting in between Matthew and that bomb. Not such a surprise when you consider that Mr. Bates had told the impressionable young man that if he didn’t return to Downton with Matthew then he better not return at all. As if this isn’t calculating enough Anna had encouraged William in his affections for Daisy so that he’d have something to come back for and they manipulated Mrs. Patmore into encouraging Daisy to go along with it by giving the old cook a heightened sense of obligation and duty toward men who were off to war. This was done by using officers Bates knew from the Boer War to give her nephew a hard time at the front, his travails being sure to get back to his favourite aunt. (Tragically it was all too much for him. Not being able to take any more, he deserted and was shot for cowardice.)
The final of the Bates’ murders done to advance the fortunes of Anna’s beloved mistress was that of Charlie Rogers. Following the death of Matthew, Mary had found love again with racing driver Henry Talbot. Socially inferior to Mary, Henry presented no threat in Anna and Bates’ eyes but Mary couldn’t love a man with a love of fast cars after what had happened to the father of her child. Charlie was Henry’s racing buddy and using the dodgy break cable trick that had served them so well previously they staged a fiery crash at Brooklands. Sure enough, shocked by what had happened to his friend Henry quit the dangerous sport and, by the grace of Anna and Mr. Bates, he and Mary lived happily ever after.
There were others that got caught up in Anna and Bates’ self righteous massacre though. It wasn’t all about Mary. Like her older sister before her Lady Edith had also lost her virtue in a night of passion and so just like Pamuk, Michael Gregson had to be dispatched too. Once again Mr. Bates old army contacts came into play and Gregson was bumped off in Germany, supposedly beaten up by a gang of Nazi militia. On Bates’ command the same men shot Major Bryant at the battle of Vittorio Veneto in Italy because he’d been a downright cad to Ethel.
Most surprising is the role Anna and Mr. Bates took in the heartbreaking demise of Lady Sybil. It wasn’t that they had any issue with the youngest irrepressible Crawley daughter, it was just that to see such a vibrant life end was some kind of dark game to this twisted duo. No one slipped anything in her water this time, Sybil did die from spasms caused by eclampsia following the birth of her daughter. Crucially though she could have been saved if the family had taken the advice of Doctor Clarkson and the reason they didn’t was because of the meddling of Anna and Bates. At her request, Bates had sown doubt in the Earl of Grantham’s mind concerning the local physicians judgement and then they stood back to watch the tragedy unfold. There was no doubt in Mr. Bates mind as regard the correct diagnosis of Sybil’s ailments as he had seen a similar situation aboard a cruise ship he was on just before he joined the Abbey staff. That mother and child had both survived which is all the more surprising when you consider that the boat they were on was one R.M.S Titanic. Bates never mentioned that he was a Titanic survivor when he arrived at Downton Abbey because that family had just lost their cousin Patrick to the disaster and in actual fact Mr. Bates had thrown Patrick overboard after he caught him cheating at cards.
Remarkably Anna and Mr. Bates did all of this and no one suspected anything. No one except Cora’s maid O’Brien that is and she suddenly disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
Look at them, butter wouldn’t melt.