Viewers of Series 5’s big finale last saw Mr Bates in shock as his wife Anna was arrested for the murder of Mr Green, muttering that she would definitely get off. But, how? Will the stoic Mr Bates step up and take the rap which will mean, after his previous conviction, the rope?
Brendan Coyle is saying very little, just twinkling away with the quiet smile that has made him housewives’ downstairs choice since the show started in 2010, and being equally slippery about his future with the show.
“I can’t go there with that”… stirs tea…. “Everything’s finite”… stirs tea again… “We can’t go on until the 1960s, that would be weird.”
But surely a few of the characters we know and love wouldn’t be around by then, anyway? Another chink of the spoon in the cup. “I’m not sure.”
Ok, then. Better enjoy those scenes with Mr Bates while we can, then, that’s all I can tell you.
He’s far more forthcoming about the controversial storyline covering the rape of Anna, and her keeping it a secret from her husband. Because Brendan Coyle was in a play when the episode was aired, the actor says he missed “much of the brouhaha”, nevertheless, he’s obviously given it some thought.
“I have to choose my words carefully, as it’s such a dark and tormenting, personal subject,” he begins. “When I first read it, I was shocked.
“But we’re a post-watershed drama, and I don’t question the legitimacy of such a storyline as these things happened. We can embrace all aspects of the human existence. It’s not as though there’s no precedent for dark material in the show.
“And we didn’t just do it and move on, like some other plotlines that have not been explored. There are consequences, there’s been a fallout and not just the obvious murder of this guy, and whodunit.
“When we come to Anna and Bates, they’re trying to heal in a really interesting way. It’s a marriage of equals. Smug married is not very interesting dramatically but, instead, there’s all this unspoken stuff. She’s been concealing the truth, because she knows what he’s capable of.
“Any man would be primal in that situation, they would have those feelings, they would want revenge.”
Which leads us back to Mr Bates’ fate, and Brendan Coyle’s possible life after ‘Downton Abbey’?
The tea is drunk up now. “There may be life after 'Downton Abbey', it won’t be as big as this, but that won’t bother me, that’s not how I quantify success,” he finishes. Another conspiratorial smile, and he’s gone.
'Downton Abbey' Series 5 is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD, courtesy of Universal Pictures (UK).