The Gilded Age Season 1 Review – A scathing commentary on excess, greed and ambition

Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 4/5



Created by Julian Fellowes, The Gilded Age is an absorbing and enjoyable period drama – but it’s not without its issues. The story does tend to meander a little and some of the subplots aren’t all that interesting. However, The Gilded Age does have a stacked cast, lavish set design and some absolutely gorgeous costuming, making it one of the more impressive looking period dramas on TV right now.

After the success of Downton Abbey, it was always going to be a tough ask for Fellowes’ follow-up series to hit those same lofty heights. And inevitably, many people are likely to jump into this hoping that it is.

Now, if one can separate that comparison and go in with an open mind, The Gilded Age presents its story with a sharp commentary on ambition, greed and excess.

The story is set in Old New York, deep in the heart of the 1880’s. Old Money and New money collide when the Russell family move in to the neighbourhood and immediately begin shaking things up.

George Russell is a ruthless railroad tycoon and will steamroll over anyone who stands in his way. His wife, Bertha, is desperate to make it into the upper-echelons of society while their daughter Gladys is just along for the ride.

Across the street live two aunts, Ada and Agnes. The pair don’t always see eye to eye and when their niece Marian Brook comes to live with them, those disagreements hit fever pitch. Marian is also joined by the family’s new secretary, Peggy Scott, who engages in her own subplot as the season progresses.

There are additional characters here but for the most part the hour-long chapters revolve around these central players.

Acted out as part soap opera and part slice of life drama, most of the episodes center on individual issues that balloon into larger plots.

From train accidents and suicide through to scandalous affairs, The Gilded Age presents an array of different topics, but it never quite leans into the campy or crazy feel Downton Abbey manages to achieve.

This is likely to be the biggest issue people will have going into The Gilded Age, and some of these subplots really don’t go anywhere. The Peggy Scott story is left  unresolved by the end, despite some nice commentary about race relations at the time, while Gladys doesn’t do very much here, despite the promise of her growing into a larger role during the show’s opening few chapters.

Production-wise, The Gilded Age looks fantastic and there’s no denying that the aesthetic and general feel of the show lends itself nicely to the time period. There are some overarching issues with things like pacing and a couple of subtle anachronisms but for the most part, the team have done a great job bringing this time period to life.

It’s not perfect, and at times the show does crumble under the weight of expectation. If you can go in with an open mind though and accept this is a simple but enjoyable period drama, The Gilded Age has enough in the tank to make for a decent watch.

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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