Gentleman Jack (2019) is set in 1832 Halifax, West Yorkshire, and based on the diaries of Anne Lister (1791-1840), a landowner and industrialist who wrote extensively of her daily life and her same-sex love affairs. It’s airing on HBO in the U.S. and the BBC in the U.K. Check out our interview with the series costume designer Tom Pye. Read all our series recaps here.
Wow, this was an episode! I did not see that ending coming. If you haven’t watched it yet, STOP READING NOW because I am no-holds barred here. A few new very pretty costumes, mostly not on the main characters though.
We start with Mrs. Priestly telling the Mister what she saw in regards to Ann and Anne getting it on last ep. He says “don’t ask, don’t tell” because it’ll bite them in the butt. Ooops. She already did. To a lot of people. That’s how she rolls.
Then Mr. and Mrs. Priestly go chat with Anne’s Aunt Walker. That’s how we learn that Lister has taken Walker off to York to see a doctor. Aunty says, “She’ll have her in Paris before we know it.” Apparently that’s this episode’s code for “getting laid” because another character will say it later. Funny, but on The Graham Norton Show last week, Suranne Jones, who plays Lister, said that “wintering in Rome” was code in Lister’s diary for “getting laid.” So continental either way!
Off in York, the ladies will be seeing the doctor, maybe later, because right now it’s sexytimes in the hotel, aww yessss.
“Nervous hysteria” is Dr. Belcombe’s diagnosis, due to “sadness” in Miss Walker’s life. His prescription is more Miss Lister and perhaps a trip abroad. To Paris or Rome? Nobody says, but that’s what I’m thinking now.
Btw, Dr. Belcombe is brother to Marianne — Lister’s married ex-lover who visited for a quick fuck in episode one. But we only get a brief scene of her reading the letter of her trip to York. There’s no “old GF meets the new GF” drama. Yet?
On the way out, Lister quizzes Walker’s carriage footman about the accident in episode one. The guy doesn’t want to blame Mr. Rawson, but it’s totally Mr. Rawson. Also, Eugenie is “travel sick” again, suuuuuure.
There’s a digression to Thomas Sowden, but it’s boring so I’m not screencapping. Just assume that at some point, folks are gonna find out his dad is dead and pig-shit is gonna hit the fan.
Back at home, Miss Walker giddily tells her aunt that she’s
getting laid SUPER HEALTHY now, according to the doctor. She and Lister talk about travel plans. Aunt Walker bursts their bubble with a letter about an old friend’s death.
Over at Shibden, Marian’s returned, and Aunt Lister admits to blabbing about John Abbot. They debate his class level a smidge, until Dad reminds everyone that the Listers are descended from trade too.
But in the Shibden kitchen, it’s revealed that Eugenie’s had a miscarriage, sad girl! She says the marriage is off, naturally.
Another scene not worth screencapping — the Sowden mom and kids think crazydad just up and left because Thomas ain’t telling anyone he did the deed.
Lister is concerned at Walker’s extreme reaction over her friend, Mrs. Ainsworth’s, death. Walker explains they were close — “not close like we are.” She’s not telling the whole story. The next morning, Lister tries to go about business as usual and suggests paying a call to Mr. and Mrs. Priestly so it doesn’t look like they have something to hide.
Yeah, this is awkward. They make banal chit-chat with Mr. & Mrs. Priestly, but Walker is like a zombie.
Lister returns to Shibden, where Marian first makes a date to go into into town together, and then Mr. Rawson has to talk obligatory coal stuff with her. Sorry, I got it wrong before — this is Jeremiah Rawson, he’s the dumb brother; Christopher is the smart, mean one! Before the coal stuff, Lister starts up talk of gig shopping to collect info about the carriage accident. At some point, she’s going to get Christopher Rawson for maiming that boy, even though Rawson is a magistrate.
Marian and Anne take a walk into town, yay, sisterhood! Marian is going to make drawers because she has a new pattern with an improved gusset (!) and offers to make some for Anne.
Lister talks about inviting Miss Walker to live at Shibden, and Marian is cool with it. Then Marian brings up Mr. Abbot, and Anne slaps him down as “a man who makes rugs.” OUCH.
Lister arrives at the coal pit, where a little boy has been banged up because this is well before child labor laws. She’s mildly concerned about it, but y’know, more interested in her own coal, yay capitalism. Though after all the talk about how they prefer the little boys working in the pit because they’re small, it’s a wonder 6-foot-tall Lister can even walk down there.
Then Lister goes straight from the pit to her lawyer to plot about the Rawson’s stealing her coal and getting them to pay for it.
She does take a bath, and that’s when she gets an urgent note from Walker and heads over.
Walker is again mopey, now because she got a letter from Mr. Ainsworth, widower of her friend, and she thinks he wants to propose. But she won’t show Lister the letter. Lister posits that this is Walker’s chance to fulfill her societal destiny. Walker breaks down and says she’s been in love with Lister since she first saw her at age 16.
They apparently have make-up sex because they’re next seen in bed, but then Walker says that Mrs. Ainsworth was much older than her husband and there’d previously been joking that when she died, Walker would “take care of” him via marriage. Obvs, Lister is freaked out by this.
So she pushes up her proposal from six months to two days from now. Walker asks if they could still be friends if she did marry the guy. Lister is angry, and who could blame her: “How could we go back to common friendship now?”
Cut to a diary voiceover while writing, “a pretty scene we’ve had…” For a miniseries based on a 4-million-word diary, the show has not much used the trope of voiceovers for writing. I don’t know how I feel about this because yes, it’s overused, but also, this is based on diaries so I’d kind of like to get more of Lister’s own words in here. Hmm.
And now for something completely different: At home with the Rawsons!
Mrs. Rawson is chewing out Christopher for not being able to deal with Lister. But she admires Lister because she’s so smart and “most women are dull and stupid” (that’s the title of this week’s episode).
She gossips about Lister and Walker, saying they’ll be ‘going to Paris’ (nudge nudge, wink wink), plus she makes a crude joke about dipping into Miss Walker’s purse.
I get the feeling the Rawsons are nouveau riche. Their clothes and house are super flashy, the matriarch has a vulgar mouth, and the sons are thieves. They’re also cousins to the Walkers, who we know are not as established and land-rich a family as the Listers.
Ah, there’s Ann, digging in the street, taking out her frustrations as she waits for her lover to decide on her proposal. She talks with John about Eugenie and learns the wedding is off. Lister had figured out the pregnancy though. They have a cute moment reflecting about love. As he says, “It’s very rare that both parties feel that way about each other.”
Not screencapping but FYI, at the Sowden farm, they get a letter from Lister via Mr. Washington’s wife and daughter (are we setting up a romance between the daughter and Thomas? otherwise, why do we even see these characters?). The result is that Thomas can take up tenancy of the farm if crazydad doesn’t show up for 2 months.
Back at Shibden, Lister tells Dad she wants to sink a new coal pit. She needs cash though — maybe she can borrow money from Miss Walker? She asks Dad how he feels about Walker moving in. He’s cool with it. Just like Marian, he says, essentially, ‘it’s good for you to be settled down.’ I don’t think it’s too weird for the family to be so chill with Lister and her same-sex love affairs. She’s been like this her whole life, it’s nothing new. The ‘settled-down’ aspect makes sense because that’s best for the household. It’s practical.
Well, here comes a fruit basket and a letter from Miss Walker. She says she can’t make up her mind about Lister’s proposal. She puts two letters in a purse and lets Ann draw one out. Lister goes to her and flips her shit. It’s “like a raffle ticket!”
Walker cries, “If I accepted him it would be out of duty…” Lister begs for the full story…
Anne admits that she had been “indiscreet” with Ainsworth. She “didn’t know how to say no.” He had “intimate knowledge” of her. Lister asks what exactly — kissing? touching? “connected”? “Yes, once,” Walker says through tears. He inflicted himself on Walker!
OMFG. WALKER WAS RAPED BY HER FRIEND’S HUSBAND AND SHE FEELS LIKE SHE’S OBLIGATED TO MARRY HIM NOW THAT HER FRIEND IS DEAD.
I WANT HIM KILLED AND EATEN BY THE PIGS NOW GODDAMNIT.
Are you enraged too? What the hell is going to happen in episode 5 airing next Monday?