What Downton Abbey Fans Missed About Mr. Bates And Anna's Relationship

"I always wanted Anna and Bates to be in love with each other and for it to be a slow burn romance," Julian Fellowes, the creator of "Downton Abbey," once said in a special feature. He probably didn't initially realize that the touching bond between Anna and Bates would become one of the most popular aspects of the show as the seasons went on.

Anna, played by Joanne Froggatt, was the dependable housemaid with a heart of gold. Mr. Bates, played by Brendan Coyle, was the valet with a fiery temper. At first glance, there was nothing about the couple that suggested they would make a good match. Bates was gruff, quiet, and withholding, not to mention at least a decade older than Anna. Anna, on the other hand, was a dedicated servant who kept herself out of trouble. However, love blossomed in the servants' quarters between the unlikely pair, and by the end of the series — after numerous challenges and setbacks — the two were happily married with a son.

Of course, a lot happened along the way — and there may have been some key details about this fan-favorite couple that you missed.

Anna is kind to Mr. Bates from the very beginning, even though he's an outsider

It's hard to imagine a time when Anna and Bates weren't a happy couple. But, of course, at the start of the show, they were strangers. Because the relationship was famously a "slow burn," fans of "Downton Abbey" may not remember just how quickly their connection developed.

However, if you look back at their first encounter, there were already signs of something brewing. And it all began with a friendly smile from Anna. "It's just a little smile, isn't it, being kind," Liz Trubridge, one of the show's producers, said in a featurette.

Brendan Coyle also thought the small moment of kindness was actually extremely important in establishing their dynamic from the outset. "They just look at each other and she just smiles at him," he recalled in an interview. "And it's not a smile of pity — it's a smile of two humans who connect very gently."

Anna always respected Mr. Bates' dignity

The first season of "Downton Abbey" was set in 1912. It was a time when men were expected to be strong and stoic. And for many men, showing emotion was seen as a sign of weakness. As a modern audience viewing the first episode of "Downton Abbey," it's easy to miss an adorable moment between Anna and Bates when she tries to respect his dignity.

After Bates is asked to leave Downton, Anna brings a tray of food to his room out of kindness. She sees him crying through the door, and carefully calls out to him so that he has time to compose himself. She never mentions that she saw him crying to anyone. "There's that wonderful thing of a woman who loves a man respecting his dignity and knowing that a man has a certain, kind of — you know, that the idea of her seeing him cry would be too humiliating," Gareth Neame, an executive producer, said in an interview. "And he'd be diminished by it," creator Julian Fellowes added.

It's clear that Anna understood how to preserve Bates' sense of dignity from their very first meeting.

Mr. Bates didn't initially see Anna romantically

In some ways, Anna and Bates did experience love at first sight — we've already talked about that sweet little smile the pair shared upon their first meeting. However, looking back at their early days, it's clear that Anna and Bates really did begin as friends — there wasn't any kind of romantic connection. Or if there was, Mr. Bates certainly didn't acknowledge it.

"He doesn't think he's worthy of her," actor Brendan Coyle said in an interview. "He certainly doesn't think this beautiful young woman is going to be a potential partner."

So, when did Bates first begin to see the potential for more than friendship? It might have been in that one scene when Anna and Bates were making a bed and she said, "It's always sad when you love someone who doesn't love you back." Of course, there's a whole lot of subtext going on — and you can see a glimmer of understanding in Bates' eyes when he hears those words. Maybe that was the first time he could see them becoming something more.

Anna feels tenderness rather than lust for Mr. Bates

As producer Gareth Neame explained in a special feature, the love affairs on "Downton Abbey" aren't about sex — instead, they're examples of "old-fashioned romance." And Anna and Bates really are the epitome of old-fashioned romance. Their love is built on kindness, friendship, and respect. They exchange a few longing glances, but it takes years for them to even kiss, as their first kiss occurs in Season 2, which is set in 1916, four years after the first season of the series.

As Neame went onto explain, Anna's attraction for Mr. Bates goes beyond the physical attraction. "It's not like it's about lust or anything," he said. "She sees this person and it's her own ..." he trailed off. "Oh, it's tenderness," chimed in Julian Fellowes.

No wonder Anna is always trying to take care of Mr. Bates throughout the first season of the show. Her deep feelings of tenderness for him are the entire foundation of their relationship.

The pair's love language is acts of service

The five love language theory was created by marriage counsellor Dr. Gary Chapman as a way of explaining how different people show and receive love. According to Chapman, we all find ourselves giving love through words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch.

For both Anna and Bates, it's all about acts of service. And by noticing all of the little things they do for each other, we can begin to see just how much they care for one another. It all begins when Anna brings Bates a tray of food in the first episode. Then, Bates returns the favor a few episodes later.

The pair continue to do adorable little things for each other as the show goes on. Plus, they also do some pretty big things, too. When Mrs. Bates threatens to ruin Anna in Season 2, Bates agrees to leave Downton Abbey to protect her. Then, when Bates is wrongfully accused of murder, Anna goes on a quest to uncover the truth and free him.

It was actually pretty bold of Anna to tell Mr. Bates she loved him

Towards the end of the first season, Anna comes right out and bluntly tells Mr. Bates how she feels. "I love you, Mr. Bates," she says. "I know it's not ladylike to say it, but I'm not a lady and I don't pretend to be."

Anna is right: Her proclamation of love certainly isn't "ladylike." Anna and Bates' love story is set over 100 years ago. So, dating and courtship were pretty different from what we are used to now. One major difference was how much more careful and reserved couples were. Usually, women were expected to wait for a man to propose — and she certainly wouldn't be encouraged to tell him that she loved him before they were engaged. While Anna's statement may seem pretty tame to a modern audience, in the context of the time, it was actually incredibly brave, bold, and even empowered. Who knew that the demure, quiet Anna was actually something of a radical feminist?

Anna has to be incredibly brave to stand by Mr. Bates when he's in prison

Things take a dramatic turn in "Downton Abbey" when Mr. Bates is sentenced to life in prison after being wrongfully accused of murdering his wife, Vera. He and Anna were married just days before his arrest. Most of us probably remember how upsetting this storyline was when it first aired. However, we may not have realized at the time just how brave Anna had to be for her new husband — and how much her bravery meant in terms of the strength of their relationship.

The truth is, she could have easily given up on him, and many women might have. "She's a real trooper to stick by him," actress Joanne Froggatt said in an interview. "But that's because they're so in love, you know." It's true — Anna's loyalty and constant belief in her husband during this time definitely shows just how deep her feelings go!

Their relationship isn't exactly built on trust

Yes, we all love Anna and Bates — they're sweet, caring, and totally in love. However, there are a few aspects of their relationship that are more than a little problematic. For one thing, the pair don't always tell the whole truth to each other. In fact, from the very beginning, their relationship was based on lies.

First of all, Bates never revealed to Anna that he had a wife. As one Reddit user pointed out, "Bates just kept saying they couldn't be together but didn't say why." A little shady if you ask us. Then, after they were married, Anna lied for several episodes about being raped — "to protect him in her eyes," as the Daily Beast noted. As Brendan Coyle explained in an interview with What To Watch, "There is unspoken stuff that is troublesome." While their relationship is usually pretty healthy, these two certainly do have a tendency to lie!

When Anna was assaulted, Mr. Bates had a problematic reaction

In Season 4, Anna was brutally raped by a visiting valet, Mr. Green. The storyline quickly became one of the most controversial in the show's history — largely because of the way that Anna's husband reacted. First of all, he became a menacing bully when Anna refused to tell him about what had happened because she was afraid of his reaction and because she feared she had been "spoiled." It turns out, her fears were warranted.

When she finally revealed the truth, Mr. Bates reacted very, very poorly. First, he said, "You are made higher to me and holier because of the suffering you have been put through." As The Atlantic noted, this comment was downright "patronizing and gross." Then, he became desperate for revenge. As Time noted, this storyline became a prime example of "fridging," or "the practice of doing something horrific or tragic to a female character with the sole objective of causing an emotional reaction from the male lead of a storyline." It's true — this storyline was completely commandeered by Bates and his emotional reaction. It definitely wasn't one of the best moments on "Downton Abbey."

Anna is actually kind of afraid of Mr. Bates' anger

Bates' reaction to Anna's rape was certainly a little self-centered. But her reaction also tells us about the dynamic between her and Bates, too. Given the fact that Anna's first instinct was to lie to her husband, because, as Time put it, she wanted "to protect him from whatever calamities he'd cause seeking revenge," clearly she knows that Bates has a serious anger problem — and even though she never believed he killed his first wife, it doesn't mean she didn't think he was capable of murder. Yikes.

In an interview, Brendan Coyle explained, "We knew if he was aware of the full facts, anything was possible. Would Bates have killed this man? Yes, he would." It's hard to accept that one half of our favorite TV couple has such a lack of control — but looking back, it's clear that Bates was a pretty dangerous man. And by the looks of things, Anna was a little afraid of his anger.

The miscarriage storyline wasn't very realistic

After Anna and Bates move on from the rape plotline, everything initially appears to be going well for them. That is, until Anna begins to have some trouble conceiving a baby. It turns out, she's had several miscarriages. This was a devestating storyline, especially as Anna was convinced that she'd never be able to have children. As she told Mary, "I can't have children, m'Lady. I can't hold on to them." Eventually, Mary convinces Anna to visit a gynecologist in London, who is able to help, telling her she has an issue with cervical incompetence.

As Dr. Morton's explained, however, this medical explanation isn't exactly realistic considering the plot of the show. "Cervical incompetence is one cause of late miscarriage or premature delivery," Dr. Morton's wrote. Anna, on the other hand, was experiencing miscarriages before 14 weeks into her pregnancy. In other words, this medical explanation wasn't accurate. Plus, the doctor's solution in the show probably wouldn't have worked either. We can hardly complain, though. As Dr. Morton's wrote, "Reality doesn't make for such a good storyline."

By the end of the series, the actors had built unbelievable chemistry

One thing about Anna and Bates that is undeniable is their amazing chemistry. However, if you rewatch the show, it becomes clear that their connection only gets better and better as the show goes on. In fact, out of all of the cast, these two are possibly the best scene partners by the final season.

And by the sounds of things, the actors have become exceptionally close over the course of filming. "It's lovely being in an ensemble and doing scenes as a big group, but there's nothing nicer than being in more focused scenes with just you and the other actor," Joanne Froggatt told What To Watch, "and Brendan and I really have a shorthand." Apparently, she even started finishing his sentences. "Brendan complains, 'You're not actually my wife!'" Brendan Coyle chimed in, "She's always picking things off me too, she grooms me like a spider monkey, and tells me how to behave." Could these two be any cuter?

The Downton Abbey movie contained a revealing deleted scene

Sadly, we didn't really get to see much of Anna and Bates in the "Downton Abbey" movie. However, we did see that they were happily married with a seriously adorable little toddler. However, it turns out, one deleted scene from the movie contained some important details about their future plans.

The scene showed the pair chatting about their plans to run a B&B. "I've been thinking ... our bed and breakfast hotel, could it be in Downton village?" Anna asks Bates. "That way, we'll never lose touch." Bates ultimately agrees that it's a nice idea and leaves Anna with a contented smile. It sounds like this pair is planning on building a future near the house — so we can all rest assured that they'll always be part of the Grantham's lives. And we wouldn't want it any other way!

Anna and Bates will be back in Downton Abbey: A New Era

Luckily, we haven't seen the last of Anna and Bates or the rest of the "Downton Abbey" characters. In 2022, the second film, "Downton Abbey: A New Era," is set to be released. We don't know too much about the movie yet, but based on the trailer, the movie takes place in the 1930s and features a villa in the south of France, a wedding, and plenty of parties! We do get one glimpse of Anna and Bates in the trailer, smiling happily with their son in their arms. So cute!

It's hard to say to what the pair will be up to — maybe they'll already be running their B&B, or many they'll still be at Downton. Either way, we can't wait to see them back on our screens. And hopefully, there will be even more films to come. As Joanne Froggatt told Harper's Bazaar, "I think this story can be never ending when you've got that many different characters, personalities, relationships — whether they be romantic or friendships or feuds. Whatever those relationships are, you've got this melting pot of all these amazing stories that can come up from there. I don't think you'd ever say it's the end of the story."