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Gentleman Jack - Let's Have Another Look at Your Past Perfect - Review: Love Of The Fairer Sex



SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THOSE WATCHING THE SHOW FROM THE UK.

Gentleman Jack took the characters and the audience on an emotionally draining rollercoaster ride as Anne Lister and Ann Walker were forced to confront the external and internal stressors on their relationship. This episode had a very clear divide. The first half was typical to the episodes that preceded it then took a rapid and intense turn midway as the fractures in their relationship came under immense pressure before a full-on break at the end of the hour. The transition from lightheartedness to heartbreaking felt abrupt, but that is real life and that is something that this series is very good at capturing. Relationships can change in an instant and lives can be upended with no warning. This episode did a very good job of capturing that aspect especially of those moments where other people are poking their noses in where they don't belong.


The episode began with a tender moment, the calm before the proverbial storm, in Ann's bedroom at Crow Nest. She woke to Anne sitting by her having paid an early morning call only to find Ann not yet awake. That left Anne to have, off-screen, a bit of a squabble with Ann's house guest, Miss Harriet Parkhill (Elle McAlpine), regarding which of them would go and check on Ann. It is adorable that Miss Parkhill ever thought she had a chance against Anne, but props to her for trying. Anne discovered that her young lover was suffering from a clear case of psychosomatic illness likely caused by the Thomas Ainsworth (Brendan Patricks) predicament. The stress manifested itself into physical pain, and while Anne seemed to understand the source of her pain, she chose to not make a big deal of it and instead chose to be supportive and loving to Ann. The show must be applauded for handling mental illness as carefully and realistically as it does especially in an era where mental ailments like depression really weren't understood. The rest of the world sees Ann Walker as an invalid, but Anne sees the strong parts of her that the rest of the world chooses to ignore. For just a bit of a side rant, if one more person calls Ann an invalid, either Anne is going to have to go off on them or some member of the audience is going to figure out how to transport through space and time to give a beat down to Ann's disrespectful relations. It is just so disrespectful and cruel, but it is good that the show highlights it as it shows what Ann was up against to be open and honest about her love for Anne.

Even though these two women clearly love one another, their love was very complex and complicated especially early on. Anne had been heartbroken so many times that she came into this relationship convinced that she was only pursuing the younger woman for her immense wealth. Which, to be honest, was her initial motivator both on the show and in real life, prior to love creeping in and surprising them both. It also seems that Anne may have seriously underestimated Ann as she did seem surprised when the younger woman reciprocated her advances. For someone who so fiercely fights to always be in control, Ann seems to have surprised her. The fact Anne demanded God not take another love from her in the prior episode showed how much she has allowed her heart to be invested in Ann. Still, there is a financial aspect to their relationship and that came up in this episode. Near the end of the opening scene, after they shared a couple tender kisses and Anne persuaded Ann to get up and tackle the day before them, she finally decided to ask Ann for a loan to sink her own coal pit. It was adorable the way Sophie Rundle had Ann accept Anne's request. There was not a single indication of surprise, and Rundle instead played Ann being proud of her lady's capabilities. Even though the request was handled adorably, that whole exchange wound up being a vicious weapon that each woman would use in their final scene of the hour.


Leading up to the big implosion of their relationship, both women faced multiple internal and external stressors. The biggest external force was easily Mrs. Eliza Priestley (Amelia Bullmore) who proved herself to be perhaps the biggest antagonist on the show even giving Ainsworth and the Rawson brothers a run for their money. At least the Rawson brothers are upfront in their dislike of Anne, so with them, it's easy to know what comes along with them. Ainsworth is a temporary problem that Anne very neatly tends to later in the episode. While he’ll likely stick around a little longer for the sake of drama, he is clearly a temporary issue. Mrs. Priestley, on the other hand, is the worst kind of antagonist, one that protagonists don't necessarily see coming because they are someone they thought they could trust. She is someone willing to help a disabled child get an education then on a dime turns around and sabotages the love her husband's cousin, Ann, has with another person simply out of spite.

She claims that she only has Ann's best interest in mind, but she most certainly doesn't. One must give Mrs. Priestley some credit, however, because she went about everything very smartly. Instead of directly confronting Ann, she went after her inner circle, in this case, Miss Parkhill. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Mrs. Priestly managed to manipulate Miss Parkhill who did have Ann's ear at the time. She sold the worst-case scenario to Miss Parkhill regarding Ann going to hell and potentially being hanged because of being with Anne. Despite the fact that at the time it was not illegal for two women to be together because the idea was so unfathomable no lawmakers bothered making it a law. It was, however, illegal for two men to be together. The damage was already done, and the moment Ann was alone with Miss Parkhill it all came pouring out seeping into Ann's brain to further conflict her.


She was already dealing with a lot of mental turmoil surrounding Ainsworth, and this was enough to cause conflict with Anne. Earlier in the episode, they had shared a tender moment in bed where Anne had proposed more than them just living together after their trip abroad. She proposed a full-on marriage, ring, ceremony, and all that comes with the sanctity of marriage. It was probably not the best timing for Anne to make this proposal, but Ann did accept, if a bit reluctantly, which inspired Anne to send off to a shop in York to purchase an engagement ring. Anne was probably inspired by the fact Ainsworth was in town and clearly trying to manipulate time alone with Ann again. She even went so far as to dispose of the Bible and ring he had previously given Ann, that Ann asked her to deal with, and replace them with a specially purchased and personally inscribed Bible of her own giving. Anne was so proud of herself for that gift as she couldn’t stop smiling the entire time Ann opened it and read the inscription. The look on her face was of pure joy, admiration, and love for the younger woman. For all of Anne's strength and bravado, she is easily and often heartbroken when the women she loves are taken from her by men. She was fighting with every tool she had at her disposal to not let Ann join the list of lost lovers. But it may have been too much too fast and between the proposal and the gift they only combined to add to the turmoil between them and after Miss Parkhill got to Ann things changed.

Suddenly Ann was questioning her decision to accept the proposal. She did a major backpedal to the point she was seemingly prepared to accept a proposal from Ainsworth and didn't even want Anne's ring. The scene in the dining room between the two women was a powerful scene. Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle are unbelievable scene partners and they really captured the emotional intensity each woman was experiencing. Jones brilliantly portrayed Anne desperately grasping at any straw she could to pull Ann back to her. This time she did manage to talk Ann off the proverbial ledge by convincing her that it was not illegal for them to be together. Also, a second must be taken to commend both Sally Wainwright and Jones for the part of the scene when Anne declared that she could only be with those of "the fairer sex" and she'd sooner die than deny that part of herself. The message was powerful and the delivery of it even more powerful. That bit was from the diaries, but the way it was brought into the story gave it even more of an impact. For her part, Rundle did a brilliant job of showing how torn Ann was about everything. She showed that Ann was almost desperate to find an excuse to stay with Anne, but at the same time, she was plagued by the biblical and legal facts that were being used as a weapon against her by her family. For a moment, Anne managed to save their relationship, but Ann was only hanging on by the tiniest of threads and it was rapidly shredding.


Unfortunately, all of this was transpiring while Anne was dealing with a lot of other business situations which kept her from Ann's side just enough for Miss Parkhill to become a powerful influence over her. However, Anne's time away from her young love did allow for one good thing, a much-needed confrontation between her and Ainsworth. The prior episode made him out to be this big bad man with evil intentions. Ann really oversold him, because he wasn't all that impressive. He was a hell of an operator as he worked, very effectively, to get Ann's relatives on his side. It is clear how he was able to get Ann into the situations that he did, he is a master manipulator, but he seriously underestimated Anne Lister. All he knew of her prior to their first encounter was that Ann had ordered all of his correspondence with her to go through Anne, so he knew she was important to the woman he hoped to make his new wife. He likely thought he could get her on his side as well, but Anne was having none of it. The scene was brilliantly crafted, and Anne showed great restraint to not beat him down with her cane when he began trying to blame the sexual assault on Ann. Ainsworth may be a horrible excuse of a man, but his portrayer, Brendan Patricks, was quite brilliant in this role. He was great at showing how Ainsworth was so innocent with everyone else and then how he was with Anne when confronted by the facts of his indiscretion. It was a powerful scene and hopefully, at least now he'll get the message to leave Ann alone.

Even if he did get the message, however, he had already done a terrific job getting everyone else on his side. Suddenly Anne was on the verge of being the odd woman out, the only one fighting to be with Ann. Well, there is also James (Saul Marron), who truthfully, seems to have high respect for Anne. He is always so cordial and respectful to her, and not just because it is due to her status. He sees, perhaps better than anyone else, how Ann changes when she is with Anne. He didn't hesitate for a second to remove Ainsworth from the property when Ann asked him to decline Ainsworth's request to visit with her. Yet he frequently allows Anne in without even bothering to escort her to Ann. If James was ever asked his opinion, and he sadly won't be because of his status as a servant, there is a good chance he would pick Anne to be with Ann. So, for all intents and purposes, by this point, Anne is fully on her own fighting a losing battle to keep the miscreants away from Ann. To be fair, she does have the support of her own family, but at this point, she has no external support from any of Ann's inner circle.


All of this built up to the big confrontation at the end of the hour. It was teased in the promo for this episode, so everyone knew it was coming, but that didn't make it any easier to watch. The confrontation was visceral and difficult to watch. When Ann called what they were doing "repugnant" it was a powerful blow to Anne. Almost as soon as it left her mouth, Ann seemed to realize she had crossed a line, but it was too late to undo anything. The sad thing here is that Ann's stress-fueled rant was seemingly directed more inward at herself than at Anne, but it came out as a direct attack. But Anne was right to point out that she too has feelings. Ann calling off their verbalized engagement to accept an offer of marriage from Ainsworth, that hadn't even yet occurred, was something Anne couldn't overlook. She has given Ann a lot of leeway to process their relationship and she has been very understanding, but that would be a hard blow for anyone. Then Ann offered to still fund the coal pit, perhaps a mercy offer to soften the blow, and what she ended up doing was throwing an insulting dagger right into Anne's heart. Not only was Ann essentially ending their relationship, but then throwing pity money at Anne was one blow too many for a single confrontation. It left Anne storming out leaving Ann speechless and seemingly even more torn than ever before. Through Rundle's expressive acting it is so clear how badly Ann wants to be with Anne, but it is a real mental struggle for her. When Anne stormed out, Ann looked thoroughly gutted as if Anne had been the one to end their relationship and not her. Thanks to the preview and, well, history, the outcome of this breakup is well known, but thanks to the brilliant acting of these two talented actresses it did not take away from the impact of this scene. It felt quite final the way they left things, so it'll be interesting to see how the series maneuvers them back together in the wake of this whole mess.

It seems that Ann's continued mental deterioration will force Anne back to her side because she is to noble to abandon the woman she does indeed still love in a time of crisis. It is also likely that in the wake of Anne's own assault it'll only drive her to want to be with Ann more. After all, Anne isn't the kind of women to allow a guy to beat on her then to take to heart his threat. He tried to take away some of her pride by physically assaulting her and then insulted her by calling her a "Jack" which back then was a derogatory title. He likely thought that would be enough, but he and whoever sent him seriously underestimated Anne's drive and determination. This will only fuel her on with even more ferocity than before. So, the question is who sent the attacker? The Rawson brothers? They would want to keep her away from Ann to avoid the younger woman from further financing Anne's coal aspirations. Mrs. Priestley? Seems unlikely since she did plenty of damage already without needing to spend money to hire a hitman, but at this point, nothing would be all that surprising coming from her. Reverend Ainsworth? He was put in his place by Anne earlier and clearly doesn't have the gumption to take her on himself, so he is another strong possibility. They are also both vying for the heart of the same woman, so people fighting for love have done crazier things. This whole attack seems more like something the Rawson brothers would do, but Ainsworth certainly isn't out of the running as a possibility. It'll be interesting to find out if the truth is ever revealed of who was behind that attack. But the attacker may request more money next time if he is ever sent after her again because she did not take his beating without getting in a few good blows of her own. It is safe to say by this point Anne was having a pretty miserable day, so the attack certainly didn't help, but it was brilliant how she fought back. Even bloody and beaten Anne still looked fierce as the episode drew to a subdued end.


Elsewhere in the episode, Marian also finally got to introduce Mr. Abbott (John Hollingworth) to her father and Aunt. She is clearly smitten by him, but it was obvious that he did not make a great first impression. Anne may have been right to skip out on that awkward tea, though it may have been better for her to be around to steer the conversation than to leave it up to Abbott. He butchered that encounter and likely ended any hope of courting Marian. It is safe to say that Lister women do not have it easy when it comes to matters of their hearts.

Also, Thomas Sowden (Tom Lewis) was confronted by his mom, Mary (Lucy Black), regarding what happened to his father. She found her husband's metal belt buckle in the pig pen and pieced together what likely happened, mainly because her husband had basically threatened to do to her what Thomas ultimately did to him. Her reaction was quite tame compared to what it could have been. She didn't seem heartbroken at all, which isn't at all surprising given how awful her husband had been. But it does seem to be weighing heavily on Thomas, so it'll be interesting to see what comes of that storyline and if Thomas will confess about what he did.


This was a powerful episode that left everything on uncertain footing. As long as Ann is plagued by seeing herself as "weak" and "invalid," as she is so often told by others, it will be an uphill battle for her and Anne to get back to stable ground in their relationship. Ann herself has admitted that she is at her strongest with Anne, so the sooner Anne can get her away from Crow Nest the better. But can she please bring James with her to Shibden when she eventually moves? He is too good of a character and too loyal to Ann to lose. History has already dictated what is on the horizon for the characters, but it'll be interesting to see what aspect the show chooses to focus on and how they bring those moments to life. First up will be to have Anne and Ann reunite and resume their relationship that this episode tore apart.

Don't miss the next episode when it airs at 10/9c on HBO on Monday.

Hit the comments with your thoughts about this episode. What will ultimately bring Anne and Ann back together? Who hired the hitman that went after Anne? Will Ainsworth get the hint and leave town? Will Marian ever find love?

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