A Long Ladder
Episode 4 of The Gilded Age begins with a stark juxtaposition. While Mr Morris is buried and his service held, applause breaks out with George Russell and the Aldermen, as they look over schematics and plans for the new railway.
After the big meeting, George receives a telegram informing of Mr Morris’ death. He does pay his respects, apologizing for the unfortunate suicide and reminding Mr Fane that this is not a game for the weak. For Fane, he realizes George is his best ticket for getting out the predicament their family faces and encourages his wife to make amends with Bertha.
Meanwhile, Peggy continues to go on the hunt to try and become an acclaimed writer. Her next target is T. Thomas Fortune, who works for the New York Globe. She excitedly lets Marian know, as the pair go shopping together before the big gig.
When she arrives, Peggy meets Mr Fortune who gushes over her writing. She’s given a 200 word article to discuss political affiliation without voting rights. It doesn’t pay much, but it is a foot in the door.
Elsewhere, Ada is distraught when her dog goes missing. Although half the staff believe someone will bring the dog back, others aren’t so sure. Well, as fate would have it it shows up next door at the Russell house.
Bertha decides to give it a bath and feed it before sending a letter next door to let them know. Agnes though believes that this is a kidnapping when she receives that aforementioned note; a way to force the families closer together. They do eventually get the dog back but Agnes, as per usual, remains wary.
When a wood-carved box shows up from Mrs Chamberlain, Ada is horrified and urges Marian to take it back. When she shows at her house, Mrs Chamberlain invites Marian in to check out the lavish art collection she has. The woman’s motivations are unclear, but after she encourages Marian to show up again.
Back home, Marian decides to visit Brooklyn and surprise Peggy Scott, who’s back with her family for the time being. As she tells them about her writing, things grow heated as her dad bemoans Peggy’s “fool errand.”
Marian shows up with a bag holding old shoes. Peggy covers for her though, claiming it’s for a charity but clearly Marian believed Peggy was living a life of poverty and has been called out for it.
In private, Peggy lashes out at Marian, pointing out that they live in very different worlds. She also tells her not to try and be friends.
Following the earlier truce with Mr Fane, Aurora swallows her pride and shows up to see Bertha. She invites her along to meet Mr McAllister, who’s a sort of gatekeeper for the upper-echelons of society. Aurora wants them to be friends now, even inviting Bertha along to watch a concert with her.
The big night arrives and Bertha leaves in a lavish red dress. Just prior to this, it’s worth noting there’s a particularly awkward moment as Miss Turner, the hired help, waits for George in his bed, naked. George immediately shoos her out, pointing out she’s made the wrong assumption and he has no interest in having a mistress.
At the concert, Marian ends up meeting Tom Raikes, who happens to be in the box next to hers. They get talking but as the third act of the symphony begins, she tellingly looks at Raikes and hopes there will be a happy ending.
The Episode Review
The Gilded Age returns this week with another decent episode, one that sees Mr Morris’ death send ripples across to the other Aldermen as George Russell manages to press ahead with his railway plans.
This also has the indirect effect of allowing Bertha to be accepted into the society after all, with the earlier tensions between the group simmering out somewhat.
The whole incident involving the dog seems like a bit of a misdirection, given it doesn’t really go anywhere. However, the trip to Brooklyn, involving Marian giving over old shoes and realizing Peggy doesn’t live a life of poverty, is a nice way of showing her life and reinforcing that old adage of not judging a book by its cover.
That works surprisingly well in the context of this episode, even rippling across to the ending involving Tom Raikes and a few other shady characters whose motivations aren’t quite clear – including Mrs Chamberlain.
Either way though, The Gilded Age leaves plenty of drama dangling for next week’s follow-up.