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Gentleman Jack - Do Ladies Do That - Review: So Close

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If you are watching on the UK schedule please be aware of spoilers. If you are watching in the US, but aren’t aware of how things played out in real life also be warned of potential spoilers.

The prior episode of Gentleman Jack delivered some painful blows to the romance between Anne and Ann. They parted the hour unequivocally broken up yet still very much so in love with each other. To add insult to injury Anne was also attacked just after having her heart broken. Because of all that, this was always going to be an emotionally draining episode. There was also the historical fact that there was a ten-month separation looming. Everything was racing towards that break which would see each woman challenged like never before. Thankfully the universe saw fit to give them some precious time to spend together before the separation. This episode covered the time frame leading up to their forced separation.

The hour started with a heavy focus on Anne as she stumbled back to Shibden beaten, bloody, and bruised in the wake of the attack. She snuck in not wanting to deal with her family or Mr. Abbott (John Hollingworth) who was paying a very poorly timed visit to Marian. Then to add further insult to injury, the engagement ring she had ordered for Ann arrived. The performance Suranne Jones delivered throughout the first section of the episode was just heartbreaking. Anne was not only injured but heartbroken and Jones made Anne's pain palpable. This pain was just as emotional as it was physical, even thinking of, or speaking of Ann made her ill, and it showed, not only in the grimaces on her face but in the small pained noises that slipped through.

The spark of life that usually shines bright in Anne's eyes was dulled and her movements less deliberate. She was suffering and yet trying so hard to be strong, yet, her vulnerability did show through. That vulnerability wasn't lost on her Aunt, her father, or her sister, but they were all incredibly sensitive and supportive. They let her deal with her heartbreak and physical pain in her own due time. It really is astounding how supportive Anne's family is in the series, and how they were in real life. Anne gets a lot of credit for being so groundbreaking and bold. She was only able to mature into the person she was because of the family she was blessed to be born into, a family who allowed her the freedom to be who she was born to be. They deserve to be applauded for that.

Anne's time in the early part of the episode focused on her recovering from her injuries. That and dealing with the continued coal struggle with the Rawson's. She was kept busy, then James (Saul Marron) arrived and the moment she saw him she knew something had happened with Ann. Because while Anne was busy trying to mend her own broken heart, Ann's mental health was growing worse by the day. The young woman was in a full psychotic break and no one could reach her. Despite her broken heart and busy life, she dropped everything to go with him to be by Ann's side in her great moment of need. This is where Catherine Rawson (Emma Paetz) returns to the story because after Ann had kicked Harriet Parkhill (Elle McAlpine) out of Crow Nest it is Catherine who came to stay with her. That was a fortuitous choice since it was Catherine who finally sent for Anne. The smart young woman knew what Anne meant to her cousin and took a gamble to try to save Ann from her own mental spiral.

Catherine Rawson is an interesting character. It was easy to not like her when she first appeared in the story. She was throwing around rumors about Anne and trying to dissuade her cousin from being close with her. Then this episode happened, and Catherine left the realm of Ann's other annoying relations and became a fully realized, good-hearted person who truly did seem to put Ann's well-being over everything else. She was scared and could have easily run off to tattle to their family about Ann's mental break. Instead, she held firm, not abandoning her cousin and sent for the one person who she knew would truly fight to help her at all cost, Anne Lister. Just goes to show that much like in real life, one can't judge a person just by first impressions. Catherine Rawson is one of Ann's actual few kindhearted relations who also isn't afraid to admit when she was wrong.

After Anne got the update from Catherine regarding Ann's mental deterioration, she went up to her room. After Anne entered the room it was clear that for a moment she was torn as to what to do. She still so clearly loves the younger woman, but just spent several weeks convincing herself that they would not work out. Then here she was staring down at the sleeping form of the young woman who still so clearly held her heart and through Jones the audience can see Anne's carefully pieced back together heart shatter once again. As Anne would later confess, Ann clearly "unhinged" her just simply by existing. She can pretend to be strong and try to write Ann off, but the moment she sets her eyes on her she gets sucked right back in. For someone as impressive as Anne Lister, it is clear that she does have one profound weakness, Ann Walker.

What followed for the rest of the hour was a tour de force from both Jones and Sophie Rundle. When Anne woke her sleeping ex there was this brief sleepy moment of recognition from Ann. As she realized that Anne was really standing at her bed's edge, she shot out of the bed and wrapped herself around Anne. Rundle portrayed a flood of desperation as Ann clung onto the one person who she knew would help her without hesitation. She was desperate to not lose Anne again and said all the things she thought Anne wanted to hear. Fortunately, Anne knew what was happening and saw through it all and realized Ann was so desperate to not be alone she was saying what she thought needed to be said. She knew that at that moment Ann needed her, but it didn't make her forget what had transpired during their last encounter. These two women love each other, but it is refreshing to see that Anne wasn't written to forget what had happened and instantly forgive. Yet, even with that pain still in her heart, she can't help but be there for Ann in her time of need. Despite everything that has transpired she truly loves Ann with all her broken heart.

On the other side of this dynamic, however, it does need to be noted that even in her fragile mental state Ann is truly apologetic. She knows she hurt Anne and while she says things off the cuff to try to avoid losing her again, her sincerity is very true. It should also be noted that despite her own terrible situation, Ann isn't so oblivious as to not see Anne's healing wounds. She stops and takes a second to take in the bruises and her worry for Anne is genuine. It really is heart-wrenching to see how these two women who have been apart for at least a couple weeks still so deeply and passionately love one another despite not being able to be together.

Despite not being able to promise to never leave her again, Anne does agree to stay the night. She sends James, almost as if he were her own servant at this point, back to Shibden to get her things. That does lead to one of the lighter moments of this emotionally complex episode as Ms. Cordingley (Rosie Cavaliero) delivers the message that James brought. She had to wake Aunt Lister (Gemma Jones) and Jeremy Lister (Timothy West) in a rather funny moment. Aunt Lister read the message and despite all the heartache Anne had conveyed to her and even to Jeremy, her father, neither is at all surprised by the news that Anne is at Crow Nest with Ann. They both shrug it off and go back to their naps further adding to the reasons why it is impossible to not adore Anne's family.

Meanwhile, also at Shibden, a bit of a love triangle is set up between Eugenie (Albane Courtois), James, and John Booth (Thomas Howes). It is clear from their brief greetings that these two men may already have some rivalry in their past. John certainly wasn't pleased to see Eugenie, his former fiancé, cozying up to James. He normally sticks around to chat up the ladies, but he made a very quick exit.

It was nice to see James interact with the servants at Shibden. Hopefully, that'll mean that when the time comes for Ann to move to Shibden she will bring James with her. They have set things up for him to have an interesting story of his own at Shibden. The series could certainly afford to spend a tiny bit more time with this group of servants. They are a great relief from the heavier more intense parts of the series.

Back at Crow Nest, even with Anne by her side, Ann's mental health continued to deteriorate. The auditory hallucinations continued to plague her at night. This show can't be praised enough for its care in depicting Ann's mental health struggles and the way Anne tries to help her. Anne doesn't try to make her feel crazy; she tries with every ounce of her being to understand what Ann is experiencing. She tries to comfort her and just let her know that she is understood and not alone. She tries to problem solve to find ways to help lessen the burden on Ann's mind. She even goes so far as to remove the weights from the clock in Ann's landing to try to limit the stimuli causing the hallucinations. When she and Catherine meet in the dark hallway, she sees how scared the younger woman is and immediately becomes a pillar of strength for her as well. Together, Anne and Catherine, embrace the terrified Ann and do their best to get her to calm down even as she recites a prayer repeatedly.

Up until this point Rundle has done exceptional work showing Ann's mental health struggles. She has figured out how to walk the emotional tightrope upon which Ann had to live her life. But none of those powerful performances even come close to what she delivered in this episode. Ann was in a full mental break and Rundle poignantly captured the real struggle that comes with mental illness. Ann was grasping onto Anne and Catherine as if they were the only things in the world keeping her grounded in reality. Rundle has built up a powerful rapport with Jones, so it was no surprise at how easily she was able to have Ann find solace in Anne's arms. Jones has proven time and time again how protective she is of Rundle when she must take Ann to these emotionally dark places. What was surprising was how protective Paetz was over Rundle as she portrayed Catherine trying to overcome her own fears to be there for her cousin. They say actors have relatively easy jobs, yet those that say that have no concept of how physically hard these scenes are on a performer who put themselves out there with nothing more than their director and scene partners to look out for them. In the case of this episode Jones and Paetz were amazing in their protectiveness over Rundle during this scene and the one later where both Anne and Catherine kept vigil over Ann, trying to comfort her during another hard night. Paetz was a bit of a surprise, a very good one at that, in this episode. Normally it's never a good thing for anyone from Ann's extended family to appear on screen, but Catherine has proven herself the exception. Catherine and therefore Paetz are welcome back at any time.

During the daytime scenes, Ann was much more lucid, but her breaks at night led Anne and Catherine to jointly decide that they had no choice but to write to Ann's sister, Elizabeth Sutherland (Katherine Kelly). Anne ended up writing to her husband, Captain Sutherland (Derek Riddell), as she was aware that Elizabeth was busy dealing with a newborn. That set off the chain of events that would ultimately lead Ann to have to depart Halifax for a long stay in Scotland. It was a nice touch, however, that Catherine and Anne worked together in the best interest of Ann. Catherine agreed to keep secret how bad Ann really was and even went so far as to formally apologize to Anne for any ill thoughts she had ever had of her. In Catherine, Anne did find a real partner in the fight to save Ann.

Then news came from Captain Sutherland that he was coming with his mother, Mrs. Sutherland (Veronica Clifford), to retrieve Ann. It could have been so easy for Anne to insist that Ann stay with her in Halifax. But, instead, she and Catherine put forth a unified front and urged Ann to go to Scotland. When Ann hesitated, and only then, did Anne try one final time to get Ann to be her wife so that she could sweep her away from the demons of Crow Nest. The one undeniable fact to them both was that being at Crow Nest, with her family nearby, was a major root of Ann's mental troubles. If she couldn't get Ann to go to Scotland, she was going to try to convince her to marry her.

So, in a bold moment, Anne dropped to one knee and formally proposed to Ann with a ring. It was so beautiful and so heartbreaking all at the same time because it was a historical fact that Ann could not accept the proposal at that point. She was still too mentally troubled and though it was clear she desperately wanted to accept the proposal she was unable to accept. She clung to Anne's hand and one can only imagine that cacophony of thoughts rushing through her head at that moment, all in conflict with each other. Rundle really captured the turmoil of the moment just as Jones perfectly encapsulated the point at which Anne resolved to accept she was going to lose Ann presumably, in her mind, for good.

In any story of normal fictional characters, this would have been their parting moment. But sometimes reality is truly stranger than fiction, and despite multiple failed proposals, Anne, both the real one and the fictional one, still couldn't abandon Ann. After Captain Sutherland arrived to take Ann away to Scotland, Anne caved into Ann's final plea to spend one final night with her. It was during their final night together, that one can only presume the real women thought would be their last, where Anne finally allowed the emotions of everything to catch up to her. While having sex Anne became overwhelmed by everything. Ann knows her lover well and knew Anne's mind was troubled. Even when Anne tried to brush it off Ann pushed her back and made her older lover confess what was bothering her.

In a profoundly powerful, and incredibly important, speech Anne confesses to understanding why Ann has been unable to commit to her. She had learned to overcome the snide comments and sideways looks, but she understood why her lovers, such as Ann, had never been able to do the same. It was always going to be a hard ask of them and she understood that, but it didn't stop her from hoping and praying for the one that would be able to overcome all the societal issues to stand at her side and love her as her wife. It was impossible as a viewer to not feel an aching pang of loss in the heart when Anne uttered the words, "but you came so close" as tears streamed down her face.

This was one of the rare times that Rundle got to be the strong protective partner in a scene. Jones was left to deliver a profoundly vulnerable scene and Rundle couldn't have been a better acting partner. Together they showed the very fundamental reason why these two women have such an epic love story; they truly did complement one another. When Jones buried her face in Rundle's neck with that tiny pained noise one could feel Ann's own heart shatter knowing that she played a part in the emotional pain plaguing the woman she loves. It was a hard scene to watch because it was so raw, real and true to life, but it was incredibly important for that scene to be portrayed exactly as it was. This might be a story being told in the 1830s, but its message and core heart are still incredibly relevant even in 2019.

The hard night ended and it came time for Ann to leave with her brother-in-law. In parting, Ann gave Anne an inscribed Bible. She read the inscription with her arms wrapped around Anne's waist. The emotion in her voice palpable as tears slipped down Anne's face. This would be their real official goodbye as they clung to one another in a way that only parting lovers could. Their real final parting was resolved to just be an emotional hug though it was clear they would have kissed had they not been surrounded by others.

This is hard to watch because, even though the outcome is known, in reality, this started a long ten-month stretch where they were separated. That means that it is basically a guarantee that the next episode will preclude them from sharing a single scene. Luckily, Rundle and Jones are just as brilliant apart as they are together, but it will be hard to go a whole episode without them together. With only two more episodes to go, it seems like the next episode will cover an extremely long time frame in order for them to conclude the season where most expect them to. It would be cruel to end the season any other way.

This time apart, however, does give Marianna Lawton (Lydia Leonard), whom Anne has spent much of the season corresponding with, a chance to creep her way back into Anne's life. In reality, these two shared a nearly twenty-year affair even after Marianna was married. Ann Walker was the final woman to hold Anne's heart, but Marianna was Anne's other great love. Had circumstances been different perhaps it would have been Marianna who would have finally been able to work up the courage to marry Anne. But that isn't how history went. While the outcome is known, it will be hard to watch Anne likely be intimate with Marianna while Ann is all alone in Scotland. Mrs. Sutherland made it clear that the family would love to marry off Ann and that fact will likely continue to plague Anne who will try her best to move on. They both needed this time apart to become the women they needed to be to partake in the next phase of their lives together. It will be interesting to watch everything unfold and see how the show portrays this time, but it is guaranteed to be another emotionally draining episode.

Elsewhere in the episode, Thomas Sowden (Tom Lewis) continued building his relationship with Mr. Washington's (Joe Armstrong) daughter, Suzannah (Amy James-Kelly). They have an easy connection and while Suzannah is clearly the more confident of the two, Thomas is obviously smitten. If he can overcome his concerns over asking her father to be with her then they could have a cute relationship. However, there is a lot looming over Thomas as the audience knows what he did to his own father. Should that get out he'll have a lot worse concerns than his lowly societal status versus hers preventing her father from granting them permission to be together.

Also, in the episode, Marian continued to take visits from Mr. Abbott. She really wants him to be interested in her even if her family is not, rightfully so, fond of him. He is quite self-absorbed and inconsiderate. Marian is a smart, beautiful, sassy young woman who is better than Mr. Abbott. It is the one time where she really should stop and listen to her sister and family. She really can do so much better than him. Gemma Whelan continues to be the unsung comedic hero of the series. Whelan just has such impeccable timing in her line deliveries that it adds a little lightness to these emotionally intense episodes.

And, of course, the subplot surrounding the coal continued on. Honestly, while a big part of the life of the real Anne Lister, this aspect of the series is perhaps the only part that is a bit on the boring side. It gives Anne something else to do when she's not with Ann. It proves to be a great distraction for her which likely explains why the real Anne leaned into it so heavily, but the series could use a tiny bit less of it. But, as noted above, it did serve a purpose this episode as Anne needed the distraction and admittedly it was fun to watch her storm to the top of that mine and put a whole lot of men in their places.

With another emotionally intense episode in the books, it's time to look ahead. The ten-month separation begins. As noted in the descriptions for the final two episodes of the season, Anne will travel abroad only to be drawn back due to a tragedy. Ann will spend time in Scotland only to make a fateful choice that will eventually lead her home as well. They are each going to spend time on their own journeys and each journey should be enthralling to watch unfold.

Don't miss the next all-new episode on Monday at 10/9c on HBO in the US and every Sunday in the UK on BBC One.

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