Face The Music
Episode 3 of The Gilded Age starts with the Brook’s discussing the upcoming speech of Clara Barton, a nurse who established the American Red Cross. She’s bound for Aurora Fane’s home, which Ada and Marian decide to attend.
While there, Ada bumps into an old friend from Pennsylvania called Cornelius. He wants to revive an old friendship with her but Ada can only laugh awkwardly. Naturally, Agnes is suspicious and it seems she’s right.
Later in the episode we learn that Cornelius has been spotted boasting in a local bar about how he’s going to have a “meal ticket” by marrying Ada. Agnes confronts him and calls Cornelius out for his dire finances, promising that there will be no financial incentive to marrying Ada. In learning this, he hastily leaves.
The main drama here though stems from George Russell who brandishes the morning newspaper and learns second-hand that the railway proposal has been rejected. This certainly catches him off-guard.
The city alderman have gone back on their deal and it comes off the back of their stocks. They intend to make triple the investment they normally would, bagging a tidy profit on stocks and attempting to swallow Russell’s business and ideas in the process. All of this, of course, hidden behind the façade of a railway “not being in the public interest.”
George is livid, calling Mr Morris a thief and gritting his teeth, promising revenge.
Back home, George speaks to Bertha about the risk they’re facing. This is a war, and he could lose everything by playing his hand. Bertha stands by his side though, allowing George to risk the estate and trusting that a good deal of money to swing the balance of power back on their side will work. If not? Well, they can always build their fortune again.
So George immediately buys up every stock that goes on the market. This financial power play immediately worries Morris, who’s incredulous that the stock has risen. Nothing has fallen, like he predicted, but soon we learn why he’s so invested in this.
Morris is deep in debt and has bet absolutely everything he has on this play. The thing is, there’s only so much one man can do and the Aldermen brush it off, believing George will only hold up for a day or so. But is that really worth betting the house on?
While all this is going on, Oscar and John Adams continue their secret relationship but discuss the notion of marrying to keep up pretenses. And for Oscar, he’s set his sights on Gladys. She seems like the perfect girl but with word on the street that George Russell will be wiped out in a few days, Oscar realizes he needs to find another woman to satiate his need for more money.
At the same time, a publisher from the Christian Advocate writes to Peggy, wanting to print one of her stories. However, that good news is soon quelled when her father shows up and wants to talk. He wants her to come home, given it’s her Mother’s birthday coming up. Peggy reluctantly agrees, but only for one day.
Unfortunately, Peggy experiences racism at the Christian Advocate and in particular, the editors have specific changes for her story. Mostly it comes from changing the black characters to white, which Peggy is understanding not happy about. Not only that, she’ll also need to hide her race and even worse, once she signs the stories over, they’ll belong to them. So she refuses.
The situation with the stocks continues to worry the Aldermen, who even send Mrs Morris over to try and patch up her differences with Bertha. When she asks for mercy and pity, Bertha scoffs at her feeble attempts and forces her out. As a shell-shocked Mrs Morris leaves, Bertha’s sly grin speaks volumes.
Meanwhile, Tom Raikes heads out with Marian and proposes to her in Madison Square. Marian is surprised and doesn’t give her answer right away, echoing back to the earlier moments of this episode where Agnes warned her about Raikes.
Agnes scoffed at his ideas, calling him an adventurer and vehemently deciding that they’re ill-fit for one another. And given Marian is there to stay with her Aunts and living off their money, she’s got no choice but to succumb to their will.
At the office, Mr Fane, Morris and the other Aldermen all gather together in George’s office and beg him for mercy. Morris even gets down on his knees and pleads with him. Unfortunately it falls on deaf ears, with George bringing up the belittling of Bertha as a valid reason, making sure their actions don’t go unpunished.
That night, George speaks to Bertha in private and decides the Aldermen have been punished enough and will confirm as much in the morning. Unfortunately it’s too late. Mr Morris heads up to his office and commits suicide that very night, shooting himself in the head.
The Episode Review
The Gilded Age returns with several different subplots starting to interweave around the main plot line centering on the George Russell railway. The Aldermen here tried to pull a fast one on George but he’s way too smart and cunning for that, managing to get back at them ten-fold. This also helps to show just how ruthless he is. However, the death of Mr Morris could change everything.
George is not one to be messed with but so too is Bertha. After the incident at the charity bazaar last episode, this time around we see her standing by her husband’s side and doing whatever she can to make sure the other ladies know they’re here to stay – and here to fight.
Tee episode does well in that respect and Mr Morris’ death will likely cause ripples across the political and societal spectrum. Quite what this means for our characters and how that ties into next week’s chapter are still unknown. For now, Gilded Age bows out with another good episode.