The gilded age
Let the tournament begin
Photo: Alison Cohen Rosa / HBO
When I was 6 years old, I asked a boy in my first grade named Timmy to be my boyfriend. He said for sure. In about an hour, he wrote a love letter (it was a drawing of a heart) to a girl named, I kid you not, Savannah. Then our relationship ended. The relationship between Tom and Marian in this show has almost similar depth, and its slight breakdown in this episode made me go, “…. what ??” Because just like Timmy chose Savannah despite my very catchy toast clip, this story makes no sense.
When this season began, I did not think I would ever be in a solid place with “I Enjoy This Show”, but the last few episodes have turned me around. We’ve dropped most of the boring plotlines, and we go from courtroom drama last week to social spectacle in the finale. Marian runs off with Tom, Bertha threatens Mrs. Astor, George just hangs around the house, and Peggy – Peggy is having a hard time.
After Peggy announced last week that she had gotten married, had a baby, and that it was dead, it immediately sounded filled with “that baby is still alive” options. And so it has become! Dorothy, aka Mrs. Scott, aka Peggy’s mother, finds a note in her husband Arthur’s trousers (classic), suggesting that Peggy’s son is still alive and in Pennsylvania. Arthur seems to have orchestrated it all, which is high on the list of the worst things you can do to your child. This explains so much! Before, it seemed a lot like Peggy just did not like his father’s lack of support for his writing career (also valid!), But it’s like pantomime villainous behavior.
Arthur comes home, and when Dorothy confronts him, he says they will never find the baby and that Arthur is not upset. Arthur !! You’re not up for grabs here! You think you are, but eventually you will realize that you are at the bottom of a very deep well instead. Peggy and Dorothy are leaving the season to look for Peggy’s son, who we will hopefully see next season, along with a real change of attitude for Arthur. I speak huge regretsArthur.
The rest of the finale is Marian’s attempt to escape and Gladys’ come-out ball. In addition, they use one lot of time that Monsieur Baudin is actually from Kansas? Like way too much time. I do not need this story – snip snip. Also: Does every servant have a mysterious secret ?? The maid Bridget, the chef, JohnJack (they change his name to him, so that’s what I call him), Miss Armstrong, Mr. Watson (this is the man looking at the lady behind a tree). I’m really interested in why Mr. Watson follows this married woman around and why she recognizes his name and then shows up to Russells’ very fancy party with her husband! Why could we not spend the finale on it instead of “you thought I was from France, but I am not.” Minus one star!
Okay, let’s do it. Let’s talk about Marian. MARIAN. Again! Look at your life! Look at your choices! This storyline is absolutely wild. It feels like it was just to give Marian something to do and set her up to come with Larry next season after the disappointment of a failed engagement. But it does too none feeling. Tom and Marian meet in the park and he says he has never loved her more than he does at this moment (unlike the other five minutes you spent together ??). They will flee the next day. This is important. The next day. I’m actually not positive about that, because the timeline is never ready in this series, but it’s at least the same week. When Peggy asks Marian where she and Tom are going to live, Marian says, “I shit you not that she’s guessing they’ll live in Tom’s apartment. She does not even do that. know. Marian !! What if he does not have an apartment! He’s been in New York for three weeks. He probably lives in a hotel. Good God.
Ada elaborates on Marian’s plans, and when Marian says they both wanted to wait, Ada points out that and yet Tom has not waited. An excellent point, Ada. This is all a learning experience for Marian, but it’s like… it’s an experience I would expect from a sixteen-year-old during this period? As if all this happened to Gladys Russell, I would be like, oh yes, absolutely. But Marian has positioned herself as this very picky thief and it’s just bananas she makes these choices. Agnes points out that Marian reads Henry James, and is one Washington Square reference? Hopefully. It was published in 1880, ie only a year before. Learn from your books, Marian! Or from absolutely anything other than your bad intuition. If it sounds like I’m too hard on Marian, be aware that this will continue until she starts thinking about absolutely anything. Ol ‘Shoes in the Carpetbag Marian.
Tom does not show up for the escape. Of course he does not, but it is also really, really strange that he does not. He has chosen the heiress Miss Bingham, which of course, but also this was set up terribly. Why was he so insistent on running away with Marian? Should we really do the work of believing he was trying to get married before his greedy side kicked in and he confused Marian? It’s extremely silly and I will not allow it.
However, it is very nice that Aurora sees him with Miss Bingham at the Academy of Music while a woman sings Bellini’s “Vaga luna che inargenti” and hurries off to tell Marian about it. That’s right, and I support Aurora. She’s Mercury throughout this series. Marian has the support of many excellent women in this episode, including Aurora, Mrs. Chamberlain, Peggy and Ada, whether she deserves it or not.
Side note that Marian gives Mrs. Chamberlain a painting she made of a bird when Mrs. Chamberlain literally has masterpieces all over his home, is one brave moveand I laughed a lot at Marian’s bird painting gift.
Let’s get to ball and WWE smackdown of The gilded age it’s Bertha Russell and Lina Astor. It all comes down to this: Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Russell is in the same room where they are fighting for social dominance. It’s all based on real events! Or at least a possibly apocryphal story. To no one’s surprise, Bertha’s role was played by Alva Vanderbilt, and she did not actually invite Carrie Astor to the ball until Mrs Astor called on Vanderbilt. In the right version, instead of Gladys’ come-out ball, it was a costume ball, and I’m so sorry they did not go this route in the show. Some came like a phoenix rising from the ashes, some came like a wasp, and some seem to have murdered many peacocks to get their dress covered with peacock feathers. But play.
But first we have this meeting between Lina Astor and Bertha. TO TITANER. Mrs. Astor refuses to sit down and says that now that she has called Bertha, Carrie can go to the prom. Bertha parries and says she called as there was probably no one there. I am distracted of how beautiful Carrie Coon looks in this scene. The drama alone is so good, but also: beautiful. Bertha has all the power here and is extremely aware of it, which is a sight to behold. She makes her demands: Mrs. Astor must attend the balsa, and she must also get van Rhijns to come (“WOW. WOW” says my notes). Bertha! Captain of the social industry! “Mrs. Astor is leaving,” she says to her butler, “that’s exactly what I wanted from this show.
Mrs. Astor decides to give in to Bertha’s demands, and Carrie is invited to the ball. At the ball, I hate Bertha’s dress, but it’s okay! Carrie Coon was about 8 million weeks pregnant at the time, and the costume designer (s?) Have done extremely well to mask it. Perhaps this dress is also High Fashion for 1881; I do not know these things. Van Rhijns has arrived! Mrs. Astor comes in with Carrie, and everyone stops talking because it’s a moment. A success for Bertha Moment!
We have to sit through the much talked about quadrille, where the dancers were in 18th century costumes and had small parasols. The men wear horse heads and they all whiz around. It’s not a wasp or peacock costume, but it’s fine. Mrs. Astor tells Bertha during the dance that she could ruin her, and I am so attracted to Donna Murphy in this moment and at all other times.
Oscar tries to get Gladys to dance with him, and she says she’s had enough of being told what to do – a warning about next season! Everyone is dancing and it’s so beautiful and again exactly what I wanted from this show. SELECTION. Tom arrives with Miss Bingham, which is shameless, and he tells Marian he did not think she would be there. Okay, sir. He says he meant it when he said he loved her and she says love is not always enough and goes away crying. There is no emotional gain at this moment. What a messy story. When Larry comes up and asks her about Tom, she says he’s just someone she used to know (“Somebodyyyyy”).
People go outside when it’s full daylight outside, like this is the first night The bachelor. Larry escorts Marian across the street to the van Rhijn house, and she says she should not have told him. Does it feel like they’re cutting out a big section? As if we all had a blackout at the party, and oh, there’s Marian Brook telling Larry Russell that she should not have told him about Tom? When to Spoon? Probably when we talked to Miss Rockefeller about her cunning peacock costume and then drank too much punch. At home, Marian Ada says that one day she will explain about the canceled escape.
The butlers nod to each other on the other side of the street. The waiters roll up the red carpet and stack up the party chairs. Season 1 is over! For more drama and a fancy dressball in season two!