The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 7 Review: Irresistible Change

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Another historical figure, another historical event!

The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 7 meandered slightly, which is unsurprising considering its many characters and plotlines.

It was like the calm before the storm — a lull that ended with a bang and hinted at fireworks yet to come.

Ever the risk-takers, Mr. Raikes and Marian met at Mrs. Chamberlain’s to discuss their future. He’s assuming she loves him, though she’s never actually said it, and she didn’t accept his proposal.

I need to see your face at regular intervals to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Mr. Tom Raikes

A kiss doesn’t mean yes. Though Marian may love Mr. Raikes, she is likely reluctant to jump in with both feet because Aunt Agnes has gotten to her. What’s more, it’s starting to feel like Agnes may be right about Mr. Raikes. He’s friendly with Miss Bingham at the light display.

Marian’s too polite to say anything, but she’s too passive to know how to speak up for herself. Poor thing, now she has a taste of what Mrs. Chamberlain was talking about — is the love of a man worth being left out of society?

Signs seem to be pointing to a trip to Newport. Will Mr. Raikes visit Miss Bingham there? Marian’s lack of verbal declaration might come back to bite her. Poor Aurora looked so sorry that Miss Bingham and Mr. Raikes got along so well — if anything happens between them, she’ll shoulder some of the blame.

Miss Cissie Bingham: I shouldn’t, but I will.
Mr. McAllister: That ought to be my motto.

Despite Aunt Agnes potentially being right about Mr. Raikes’s “adventurous” ways, her judgment is not always sound. After all, she thinks her son is straight and sleeping with the lady’s maid from across the street.

The scene between Agnes and Ada was funny, but it bordered on absurd.

In her anger, Agnes was needlessly cruel to her sister. It’s only because Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon are such seasoned and masterful performers that this scene didn’t feel like high camp (a line The Gilded Age often hovers over).

Ada is a grown woman, and Agnes gives her no credit. Has she always been like this? Agnes must be projecting, and Ada just takes it because she feels she has to due to what Agnes did for them.

Though initially, she came across as simple, Nixon’s Ada is just a pure soul, whose kindness suggests that she is more naïve than she truly is.

After how things went with Miss Turner, I suspect an uneasy truce between Agnes and Mrs. Russell for the time being.

The Gilded Age is sometimes guilty of creating build-up to a scene which is then skipped over entirely. Many shows do this, and it can be a clever storytelling device if appropriately done, but here it felt like a cop-out.

It was unfair to tease a scene between Agnes and Oscar only to cut to the end with him storming off. Their relationship is so layered, and Baranski and Ritson always have sparks in scenes together! It’s such a bother when good shows do this.

That Oscar! What a cad! You can see Mr. Adams growing weary of his lover’s social ambition. Will Oscar sneak into Gladys’s heart? It seems much less likely now that Mrs. Russell suspects that he and Turner were having an affair — she’s overly protective of her daughter at the best of times.

My mother wants me to have everything — except a life.

Oscar Van Rhijn

Turner finally got her comeuppance, but she won’t go without a fight. How audacious that she went into Mr. Russell’s bedroom again! I still don’t buy that she truly loved him — she seems incapable of the emotion.

She almost gave herself away, thinking it was Mr. Russell that had told his wife, but I doubt Mrs. Russell would be so calm about it if she knew what Turner had actually done.

As I mentioned in my review of The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 6, the apparent letter-writing culprit seems to be Church, but what if it was Turner setting Church up? She said she was not done with him yet.

None of the Russell servants seem to enjoy working with Turner (apart from Adelheid, at one point anyway), but Church appears to have it in for her, and she for him. I wouldn’t put it past her to drag him down with her.

Get back in your cave.

Church

Things are not looking good for Mr. Russell in the train crash aftermath.

Though he loves his wife, it appears Miss Turner did touch a nerve — Mrs. Russell cares about how she is viewed in society and preserving that image above all else. Again, Mr. Russell had to remind his wife of the seriousness of the situation and what it could mean to them.

I don’t think it in the least funny that I’m facing the possibility of prison and my wife is more concerned with the date of a ball.

Mr. George Russell

What if Mr. Russell is taken away during Gladys’s ball? Wouldn’t THAT be the scandal?

It’s an interesting parallel to see how strict Mr. Russell is with Larry (regarding his architectural aspirations) and how Mrs. Russell is with Gladys. Reverse the parents, and Mr. Russell is attentive and compassionate with Gladys, while Mrs. Russell is more lenient and casual with Larry.

The scenes with Peggy and Mr. Fortune hint at something growing between them. However, she may pull away when she discerns his intentions. She may pull away due to whatever happened in her past, perhaps afraid of being hurt again?

The way they laughed together about Lewis Latimer was such a perfect little touch and one of the most authentic moments in the entire series. White men will always do their due diligence to erase the contributions of Black people. It was unexpected to have this acknowledged, but it’s great to see.

Much was made of Mr. Edison’s great electrical display at the New York Times. September 4, 1882, was indeed considered the beginning of the electrical age.

Every character seems to know this — Edison, Mrs. Russell, Ada — with everyone hammering home the point, offering keen insight into the future, to make sure we understand the significance of this event.

We don’t have a choice in the matter, Mr. McAllister. We must go where history takes us.

Mrs. Bertha Russell

The Gilded Age sometimes tends to, for lack of a better term, gild the lily. They needn’t have kept saying it. The sequence of the New York Times building lighting up was profound and resonant.

The lead actors and the background extras all did such a wonderful job conveying the emotion of it all. You could see the understanding hit them, as if they were all being ushered into a new world they had never seen before, and how they would remember for the rest of their lives.

The visuals were more than enough to convey the significance of the moment.

It was a solid finish to an uneven episode. The increasing inclusion of actual historical figures (Clara Barton, T. Thomas Fortune, Mr. McAllister, Mrs. Astor, and now Thomas Edison) gives gravitas to the lives of the fictional central characters, as though they could easily appear in history books as well.

However, with characters like the Russells and the Van Rhijns, Fellowes has free reign to create the kind of characters he wants and not be beholden to history — only to his imagination.

What did you think of the episode? Is Aunt Agnes right about Mr. Raikes?

Do you love Oscar or hate him? Does Turner have any more tricks up her sleeve?

Were you awestruck by Mr. Edison’s illumination?

Share your thoughts in the comments!  

Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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