Money Isn’t Everything
Episode 2 of The Gilded Age begins with Marian preparing for the arrival of a lawyer called Mr Raikes. He’s the man who settled Henry’s estate and he’s due to visit. Peggy chirps up when she learns about this, wanting to speak to him about a personal matter.
Peggy plays her cards close to her chest though, not telling Marian the exact reason why. We as the audience also don’t learn why either, at least not this episode anyway!
Meanwhile, Agnes continue to express disdain toward Gladys and the Russell family. Ada is much more receptive though, pointing out to her sister that “Money isn’t everything.” The thing is, in this society money talks. And it’s worth remembering this line as it comes into play during the chapter’s climax. Anyway, I digress.
When Marian shows up with the rest of the women, discussing the charity event they have planned, the conversation naturally swings toward the Russell’s. Marian wants to invite them to be among the stall-holders. Mrs Morris and the others refuse outright, wanting the event to be as “pure” as possible.
The irony here is that they could really do with the Russell’s money in order to make the event a success, which is due to be held at the Veteran’s room.
Mr and Mrs Morris soon show up at the Russell house to discuss about the charity bazaar. Verbal daggers are thrown across the table between Bertha and Mrs. Morris as their hot lunch is juxtaposed by the icy words traded.
This verbal spat soon paves way for George talking to Patrick in confidence. George wants to build a new station to shake up the railroad, encouraging Mr Morris that it’s in his interest to buy shares before agreeing to do the deal. In doing so, the share price would then skyrocket and give them all a tidy profit.
It’s an under-the-table suggestion, hence why it’s not done in the official capacity of the office, and something George is quick to admit is “just a suggestion.”
When the pair leave, it’s clear the real reason for this night was to reel in Patrick for work, rather than the squabbling ladies and the charity event.
Meanwhile, trouble brews outside for Mrs Bauer, the Russell cook. She has a big gambling debt and Peggy notices the debt collector outside. She owes $50 (around $1200 in today’s terms) and Peggy urges Marian to help her out.
Ever the one with a kind heart, Marian asks Oscar for help with paying the debt. Although he agrees, Oscar does so on one condition – they set up a luncheon with Gladys.
Ada soon catches wind of what’s happening and interjects. She speaks to Marian in confidence and decides to pay the debt herself. She also encourages Marian to come to her next time something like this happens.
In the morning, things take a turn for the worst. The Charity Bazaar event is due to go ahead but not at the Veteran’s Room. Instead, the women have moved the event to the Fifth Avenue Hotel. When Bertha finds out, she’s livid.
The Russell family show up and George immediately ruffles feathers. In fact, he buys out every single stall, demanding everyone pack up their gear and move to their own ballroom.
It’s absolutely genius and although Mrs Astor isn’t convinced this is going to win anyone over, money talks and with George waving away bills so readily, it certainly makes a splash. As everyone begins to peel out, Mrs Astor is left with a free morning. So naturally, she heads upstairs as gracefully as one can.
The Episode Review
The growing friendship between Gladys and Marian is a nice middle ground for the war simmering up to a boil. Beyond the beautiful costuming and lavish set design, there’s an ugly, gnarled war brewing and this episode does a great job bringing that to the forefront of the series.
Seeing the petty politics of George buying out the whole charity event just to snub Mrs Morris and leave her with egg on her face was surprisingly satisfying and easily the best part of the whole episode.
There’s also a really nice moment involving Ada too, who admits that Agnes carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. This explains why she’s so distrusting and on edge around others. It doesn’t excuse her archaic attitude but the whole “new money” schtick is the real crux here. The Russell family have undoubtedly made quite the splash though.
While the first episode was quite slow and worked on fleshing out all the different characters, this follow-up works really well to start building on the various conflicts with these men and women, throwing in politics, social issues and class warfare to boot.
If this is a sign of things to come, we could be in for quite the turbulent ride over the weeks!