APA Meta Monday - There Isn’t A Better Man
In order to rush us along to that fateful day in August 1914, we have a time skip of almost a full year from S1E5 to S1E6. The longer skips in time were common in the earlier series of Downton, and did sometimes have some characters in a sort of stasis. I feel this is true for Anna and Bates here (and honestly in most time skips). It’s kinda hard to imagine a whole year between that walk to the flower to the almost kiss! I know that I would have not managed myself, so props to Anna, but at the same time, I don’t think Fellowes wanted us to dwell on it.
At this point, I think that Anna does know that he loves her, but that he refuses to act on it. She has accepted this, at least for the moment. And of course, she continues to fight Bates’ corner against O’Brien and Thomas.
But also in this episode, Anna learns more about Bates’ past. To him, these are all things that prove he does not deserve her nor her love. She learns that he was a drunkard (which yes, I do think that means he’s an alcoholic by today’s definition), but she knows that he has fought hard to change his life and that is what matters to her.
He tells her to go and ‘dream of a better man’ but she knows that ‘there isn’t one.’ He cannot see what she sees in him, this good moral man, who has picked himself up, and that of course is what she admires him for.
The almost kiss was originally scripted as an actual kiss, and with more dialogue (Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Series 1, pg. 336). That version was changed as they filmed, but I think it’s proper to have it as an almost kiss here. In fact, it’s in line with that, Bates doesn’t think it’s right by Anna to lead her on (I’ll get more into this with S2E1 and first kisses and all). Of course he does attempt to give in a bit here - the purpose of the scene, per the script book, is to show her that he does indeed love her. Which is indeed there ever without an actual lip lock or it spelled out. We do have a lovely slow build up - much like their relationship - as they take each other’s hands and lean in. But alas, interrupted again.