9/10. Tremendous episode. I’m truly impressed with the thematic elements and how they brought all this human drama together to craft a powerful, affecting episode.
Gentleman Jack Episode 5 not only has a long name (“Let’s Have Another Look at Your Past Perfect”), it also packs a punch – metaphorical AND literal.
As in Episode 4, we’re dealing with the fallout of Mrs. Ainsworth’s “carriage accident” (am I the only one who thinks it could be murder?) and the machinations of her widowed husband, the Right Reverend Ainsworth. At the same time, Mrs. Priestley is spreading (very true) gossip about Anne and Ann to anyone who’ll listen, which includes Miss Walker’s friend and houseguest, Miss Parkhill. Mrs. Priestley’s is destroying Ann’s reputation, while Reverend Ainsworth is destroying her romance with Miss Lister.
Mr. Ainsworth entreats Miss Walker to receive him, but Anne encourages her to give him the coldest of shoulders, refusing to receive him and returning a gift unopened. Once Anne and Ainsworth finally meet, we get some a masterful bit of conflict. Ainsworth admits his first letter to Ann may have been a bit forward. However, he says conspiratorially, I was under the influence of opium – *ahem* totally not something I do all the time. Anne tells the clergyman to stay far away from Anne & Ann if he wants to avoid being revealed as the adulterer he is.
Ainsworth says all the wrong things. He protests about there being “two sides” to every story, but Anne’s having none of it. Even worse, Ainsworth tells Anne that Ann “wanted it more than I did.” Anne is enraged. She tells the impudent man of the cloth that she’d like to horsewhip him, but he isn’t worth knocking down. Ann is an absolute terror in this marvelous scene, and Ainsworth seems to have received the message loud and clear.
An interesting undercurrent in this episode is Ann’s unexpected religiosity. Toward Reverend Ainsworth, she is fire and brimstone, condemning his sins – fornicating, adultery, chicanery, and expresses doubt that she’ll see him in the afterlife. To Miss Parkhill, she marvels at the wonder of the divine spark she believes underlies the myriad complex life forms on our planet. To Miss Walker, she proposes marriage by suggesting that she and Ann take the sacrament together, using rings and oaths on the Bible to bind them to each other, wife and wife in every way before God, if not the law. Anne even follows that up with a special trip to the bookstore to buy a handsome red-leather bound edition of the Book of Common Prayer.
Meanwhile, the harder Anne pushes for an exchange of holy vows with Ann, the more doubt creeps into Ann’s mind about the righteousness of such a union. This is especially true after Mrs. Priestley spills the beans about Anne and Ann to Miss Parkhill. Miss Parkhill understands that Ann is well on her way to spinsterhood, seemingly doomed to become an old maid. For that reason, Miss Parkhill pushes Ann to accept Reverend Ainsworth’s proposal, which might be the last she ever gets. Besides, Miss Parkhill just absolutely drools when she says “a clergyman!”
Miss Parkhill is horrified, even disgusted, by the revelation that Anne and Ann are an item. Ann learns about the two men hanged in York for homosexual conduct, in front of a jeering throng, just a few months past. Ann is horrified.
“I don’t think we should do this anymore.” She tries to call the whole thing off with Anne. She suddenly sees their union as “unnatural” and “repugnant.” At the very least, she reasons, I ought to marry Reverend Ainsworth for appearance’s sake. But Anne is having none of it. In that case, Ann exclaims, “I’d rather DIE than people know what we do.” Now it’s Anne’s turn to be horrified and heartbroken. She tries to explain that what happened to the men in York won’t happen to A&A, because they’re women and it’s not illegal. “Have some courage” she berates Ann, but it’s nothing doing. Ann even throws God right back in Anne’s face, saying their relationship is “against God – queer!” Ann now knows she’ll have no peace until she marries the good (bad) reverend.
As Anne leaves the house, breaking the Fourth Wall and discussing the breakdown in her relationship, things take a dramatic turn. I should mention that Anne hasn’t relented on charging the Rawsons for both the upper and lower coal beds on her estate. Christopher is done playing nice. So, when Anne is walking home from her fight with Ann, she’s accosted by a hired ruffian.
The attack is brutal, real, and heartbreaking. It really meant something to see this character, who walks and talks as much like a man as possible to be treated so roughly, a.k.a. “like a man.” The thing is, of course, she lacks a man’s physique, a man’s strength. She is, quite obviously, a woman, and here we see those two realities collide. Her attacker even calls her a “jack.”
Cinematically, I love physical attacks like this – more Daredevil than Into the Badlands. By that, I mean this ruffian delivered a very realistic beating, slow, ponderous, and thudding. The realism really made it more affecting. Anne does get a few licks in with her walking cane, but this thug has already clobbered her with a truncheon and punched her in the face. He definitely had the upper hand. I had a lot of feelings for Anne in that moment. After delivering a few blows, the brute leaves off. Anne has readied herself for another blow, but it doesn’t come. Instead, the blackguard just spits in her face. “Leave Miss Walker alone.” End Scene.
To address two subplots – Momma Sowden finds her late husband’s belt buckle in the pig pen and quickly realizes what’s happened. She’s about to confront her son when the estate agent, Mr. Washington, drops by. Asked about her husband, Momma Sowden covers, saying the family thinks he took off for Liverpool.
Meanwhile, Marian finally has the mysterious Mr. Abbott (John Hollingworth) over for tea. He seems like a nice guy, a genuine character. But he’s also a genuine boor. Absolutely common. Very definitely a trade-(yuck!)-sman. Marian obviously likes him, but she can only watch helplessly as he insults the imperious Aunt Anne, matriarch of the ancient Shibden Hall, telling her she’s old and that the drafty old house ought to be torn down and something new built. Frankly, I feel sorry for Marian, and I hope we’ll see her find happiness. It’s absolutely a commentary on the times that even Aunt Anne, who I think we are supposed to like, is an absolute snob. At least Mr. Lister understands, especially at Marian’s age, that marrying an up- jumped tenant farmer might be better than marrying nobody at all.
Bottom-line 9/10. Tremendous episode. I’m truly impressed with the thematic elements and how they brought all this human drama together to craft a powerful, affecting episode.