On The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 4, much of what transpires is deeply uncomfortable, which only highlights the inequity of this dazzling world.
Too many assumptions are made that may spell ruin for some characters — or at the very least, humiliation and embarrassment.
Peggy Scott is such a fascinating character, and we learned so much about her here — still no hint as to her great secret shame yet, but it clearly can’t be that bad if her parents want her back home with them.
Mr. Arthur Scott: Dorothy, our responsibility is to raise a child with a sense of right and wrong. I cannot put that aside to play happy families.
Mrs. Dorothy Scott: No. And it’s not a game we are very well equipped for, is it?
Why is her father so obsessed with her taking over the family business when she has no interest? He should be proud that he raised a moral, resilient, determined daughter who achieves her dreams in a world that does her no favors.
Peggy understands politics enough to write about them. She’s already impressed T. Thomas Fortune, and it seemed like the sparks between them were not merely intellectual.
Why should I align myself with either party when I don’t have the right to vote?
However, Fortune was a real historical person, and Peggy Scott was not (though there were many like her). How much artistic license The Gilded Age will take with Mr. Fortune as a character remains to be seen.
Also, can Miss Ellen (Sandra Caldwell) please get her own plotline? It seems like all the other servants do! As the maid for the Scott family, Caldwell steals every moment she’s on screen, serving disparaging looks as easy as luncheon.
Peggy and Marian’s falling-out was unexpected, but, after Marian’s behavior, inevitable. Marian’s assumptions were short-sighted and insulting, and Peggy had every right to respond how she did — she made a valid point about the train fare!
Peggy’s words still stung because it was obvious Marian regretted her mistake, but it was too late. Honestly, Marian should have left as soon she saw the house. Once she went in, she should not have mentioned that she had brought something for them.
There were so many moments she could have stopped. Marian embarrassed Peggy and insulted her parents. Peggy even tried to give her an out, but Mr. Scott was not having it. He could see right through Marian’s veneer.
It almost feels like he gave Marian a harder time for Peggy’s benefit, to show Peggy what the upper-class white New Yorkers are really like.
Marian is extremely good-natured, but she still has her own ingrained prejudices. She may have believed she and Peggy were friends, but Marian clearly doesn’t understand Peggy’s world.
I live in a different country from the one you know.
This was first evidenced when Marian took Peggy into Bloomingdale’s. Marian is well-meaning but oblivious in many ways of the world. How she proceeds from here on out will prove what kind of person she truly is.
So there is more to Mrs. Chamberlain’s story — at least, there’s the story everyone believes (and in this world, that’s all that matters).
Sex before marriage is one thing, but sleeping with a man whose wife is dying shows a lack of sound judgment. Now that we’ve heard a few versions of Mrs. Chamberlain’s past, perhaps there’s a chance we’ll learn how it actually happened. Maybe her son will visit from Chicago?
Mrs. Chamberlain wants to be Marian’s friend, but why? Are her actions motivated by loneliness or something more? Her home and her art collection are exquisite, and it’s a shame that she should have no one around to see it.
The Pumpkin escapade was cute, but it’s unclear what purpose it served, apart from a frivolous diversion. It did get Bannister over to the Russell home, which was an amusing series of scenes.
The camaraderie between the servants was quickly short-lived thanks to Bannister’s gentle snobbiness. Was he really trying to help, or has Agnes’s prejudice against the Russells gotten to him as well?
So, Watson is following Mrs. McNeil, whoever she is. It’s difficult to get invested (even though it’s Michael Cerveris, who absolutely deserves more screen time) as we have gotten so little to go on.
Poor Bridget. The girl has been through some trauma, but the show is being deliberately vague about who abused her when it’s clearly a male family member. She escaped, but she still has unresolved anger, particularly towards her mother.
Mrs. Bauer is a good-hearted woman and provides the motherly warmth Bridget was denied at home, which was lovely to witness. Kristine Nielsen and Taylor Richardson do well navigating this tricky territory.
Let’s hope Mrs. Bauer doesn’t accidentally let anything slip to the other servants, lest it gets back to Ada, Agnes, or Marian.
Miss Turner: I’m wasting my life here.
Baudin: Then leave, or change things.
Oh, Miss Turner, what have you done?
The bedroom scene was extremely uncomfortable to watch. Miss Turner really misjudged Mr. Russell. It’s been set up and well-established that Mr. and Mrs. Russell are incredibly supportive of each other, still physically intimate, and have beautiful chemistry.
The flaw in your argument is that I love my wife.
Mr. George Russell
Surprisingly, Miss Turner doesn’t see it, for how close she is to the action. Obviously, she must have thought he’d go for it. It’s a huge risk for her to put herself out there.
She says she’s in love with him, but is she just saying this to gain his sympathy or stroke his ego (since he won’t allow her to stroke anything else)?
Mr. Russell’s contempt for her is apparent, and his response was extremely generous, given the circumstance that she put him in. His biggest mistake is letting her stay on as his wife’s maid.
No good can come of this. The best Mr. Russell can hope for is some awkward tension between them, but that’s not enough for a show like this. There will be drama.
I’m all for ruthless female characters seeking a better station in life, but it would be helpful to understand Turner’s motivations or her reasoning behind it?
We hardly have a sense of who she is as a person, except that she’s ambitious and unafraid to wield her sexiness as a weapon.
How will Turner respond to his rejection, and what kind of message is The Gilded Age trying to send with this particular story? We’ll have to reserve judgment until we see how it plays out.
Mrs. Aurora Fane has gotten much better at buttering up Mrs. Russell. The stakes are much higher. Her family fortune is on the line, and her friend’s husband is dead by his own hand.
Both she and Mrs. Russell don’t need to like each other to know that their “friendship” is mutually beneficial.
Kelli O’Hara shows a more knowing, steely side to Aurora Fane here that is exciting to see as an evolution of her character.
Mr. McAllister is mentioned twice, once by Aurora and once by Ada (in reference to his 400). Ward McAllister was a real person who helped shape New York society during this period (this was his 400).
His appearance is highly anticipated. Hopefully, Mrs. Russell can make a good impression on him. Who doesn’t love money?
Mrs. Russell’s outfits continue to astonish and delight. She looked simply radiant in her red gown and cape, descending the staircase like a queen. Her blue hummingbird dress at dinner was also stunning.
Every episode proves to be a dazzling visual feast for anyone who loves period fashion.
There was plenty more — Gladys has lost a governess, with no new one in sight. Will she somehow rebel against her mother, and will Oscar swoop in if given the opportunity?
Mr. Russell is astute and senses this, but Larry doesn’t seem all that worried. Oscar will have to try to get back into their good graces, though his mother won’t be too thrilled about it.
Agnes, as usual, amuses us all with her dry wit and veiled insults. Christine Baranski took a back seat, but Agnes still got in a few good barbs.
Self-destructive? You’ve been reading those German books again. I’ve warned you before, just stick to Louisa May Alcott.
Agnes Van Rhijn
There we have another simmering episode of The Gilded Age!
How and when will it all boil over? Which plots intrigue you most?
Share your thoughts in the comments!
Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.