The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 2 Review: Money Isn’t Everything

There’s no free lunch when you dine with the Russells.

On The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 2, positions are taken and alliances begin to take shape.

There are intrigues, heaps of potential romances, potential scandals, and remarks so cutting you could serve dinner with them. Would we expect less?

The whole situation between the Russells and the Morrises wasn’t entirely unpredictable, but it was still fun to watch it all unfold.

There is no challenge you are not up to, my dear.

Mr. George Russell

Mr. Russell wants his station. Ms. Russell wants to be the toast of New York society.

It starts with the Morrises. For every thinly veiled insult Ms Morris uttered, Ms Russell had a scathing retort. Ms. Morris was clearly overwhelmed by this new adversary.

Mrs. Russell seems to want to be friends, but when scorned, she is ruthless.

Husbands want to do business, although it’s a bit shady with Mr Russell essentially bribing the aldermen, so it will be interesting to see how the relationship between the wives affects things between their respective husbands.

What a stunt from Mr. Russell at the charity bazaar! It was such a display of their immense wealth, but done in the name of a “good cause”.

It was a threat in the form of generosity — be our friends, or you are our enemies. It was a wonderfully passive-aggressive way to make their point.

Ms. Anne Morris: That kind of stunt doesn’t impress the people you want to convince.
Ms. Bertha Russell: Ms. Morris, that kind of stunt impresses everyone.

Even Mrs. Astor (the royal Donna Murphy) agrees. Ms. Astor’s endorsement seems essential to anyone hoping to be someone in New York society. The Russells have now caught her eye – if she accepts them, everyone will probably follow, however reluctantly.

Mrs. Astor - The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 2

Exchanging cash for social capital is nothing new. The Russells have so much to offer, and Mrs. Morris and Mrs. Fane are blind to the idea that they can take money without giving anything back.

It was quite telling that they both blamed each other for not wanting to use the Russell ballroom. Did they both assume the other was against it?

It was almost hilarious when Ms Russell threw away her breakfast upon finding out about the bazaar’s change of location – the music swelling, the drama of it all. Apparently, when you’re in high society, it’s the things that upset you.

It really heightened the superficiality of these people – it helps that there are a lot of other characters on the show with struggles and issues of real consequence.

Mrs. Morris - The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 2

Marian is so wonderful; she doesn’t buy into all the pettiness. She seems immune to the ill effects of association with the new rich. She is the niece of Agnes Van Rhijn, cousin of Aurora Fane and Oscar VAN Rhijn, but she is friends with “enemies” Larry and Gladys Russell because she likes them.

Marian has no money, but she doesn’t come from the money, so what does she have to lose? She is uneducated in society mores, but she is not afraid to be herself. It’s clear she believes Aunt Agnes wouldn’t disown her or kick her out.

Marian thinks Mr. Russell’s actions at the bazaar are wonderful, and she isn’t afraid to let the other ladies know how shoddy their treatment of Mrs. Russell is and how petty their reasons are.

We still want his check, though. We just have to insult him first.

Marian Creek

This show would be a bit too much without her, injecting some honest talk and hopefully helping to shake things up a bit. Louisa Jacobson plays Marian well as someone who manages to maintain decorum but can’t resist the urge to speak out on behalf of those aggrieved.

Mrs. Chamberlain - The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 2

Marian makes many allies who meet the disapproval of her aunt Agnès. Mrs. Chamberlain (Jeanne Tripplehorn) is another.

What did she do to become such an outcast? No doubt Marian will find out soon enough. Is she trustworthy? Maybe a Russell-Chamberlain-Brook alliance could form to really shake things up.

Aunt Agnes continues to serve haughty jokes at every turn.

It seems to me that the boat is sinking. We must follow the example of the rats.

Agnes Van Rhijn

The beautiful thing about Baranski’s Agnès is that her heart is well-meaning, as we saw in her scene with Ada. His cold exterior stems from a need to hold his place. Agnès knows how the world works and what is expected of her — and in turn what is expected of any woman who wants a comfortable life.

Agnes understands Marian’s position and has her best interests at heart. Ada is naive in this regard, which is a point of contention between the two sisters.

Ada never married, so she only has indirect knowledge of what Agnès went through. Through it all, they have remained close, and Ada remains tolerant of her sister’s harshness.

The contrast between Ada and Agnes was most evident in Ada’s scene with Marian, which was charming. Ada knows that the best way to earn Marian’s loyalty is through compassion, not harshness, and their shared love for Henry, Ada’s brother and Marian’s father.

The bond between aunt and niece was displayed so warmly by Nixon and Jacobson, a welcome contrast to the superficiality of so many other characters.

Agnes doesn’t seem to approve of any of Marian’s potential suitors. Oscar is out of the question for many reasons, leaving Larry Russell and Mr. Raikes.

Mrs. Aurora Fane - The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 2

It’s hard to say which Marian prefers, as she definitely has chemistry with both of them.

Larry is undoubtedly the better off of the two financially, but it looks like Mr. Raikes is willing to move to New York to be closer to Marian, which is a bold enough move to tip the scales in his favor.

As for Oscar, he seems to be interested in Gladys – for her fortune, and nothing else, it seems – and Mrs. Russell sees right through to him. Gladys seems interested, but she hasn’t even come out yet, so Oscar’s interest seems a bit unseemly.

Agnes doesn’t approve of the match either, but it seems Oscar isn’t as indebted to his mother’s hopes as she would like.

Agnes Van Rhijn: I’m not interested in facts. Not if they interfere with my beliefs.
Oscar Van Rhijn: I’ll sum up the prejudices for you.

Peggy In The Park - The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 2

Peggy’s plot thickens, but she still remains shrouded in mystery. What kind of questions could she have had for Mr. Raikes that she doesn’t want her father to know?

Peggy and Marian make such good friends because Peggy, too, feels the need to help those who are being slandered. Poor Mrs. Bauer, with a gambling problem, had to deal with debt collectors, but when Peggy came to her aid, a new alliance was formed.

Now Peggy has allies in everyone except Armstrong, Agnes’ maid. It’s refreshing for the majority of servants now unprejudiced in this regard and defending their new colleague – particularly satisfying was Bannister’s bashing of Armstrong when he pointed out that Peggy had outclassed her.

Peggy and Marian’s friendship helped secure Mrs. Bauer’s payment to the debt collector, first through Oscar but eventually through Ada. This probably won’t be the last we hear about the whole situation – no doubt it will ultimately come down to Agnes. It remains to be seen what she will do with it.

Mrs. Russell at Dinner - The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 2

Speaking of servants, it seems something is brewing between Chief Baudin and housekeeper Mrs. Bruce at the Russells. Although she comes from humble beginnings, he is clearly interested in her and she seems to be receptive. Everything is very sweet. Is it wishful thinking to hope it stays that way?

Not all servants of Russell House are so wise.

Turner subtly exceeds his limits. This show made a point of showing the deep love and respect between Mr. and Mrs. Russell, but he didn’t seem all that opposed to Turner’s touch. Maybe he was just taken by surprise.

We have, however, seen how much Mr. Russell loves power and attention. What is Turner’s intention here? Does she intend to seduce him? Or maybe cause a scandal or blackmail him into settling down financially? Whatever she does, it can’t be good.

The Russells - The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 2

This show is truly a love letter to New York, in every way.

Not only is it populated by many Broadway stars, but it showcases an old New York of our dreams — shiny, opulent, and, yes, golden.

How absolutely stunning was the scene in Central Park? Everything was perfect – the music, the background actors, the production and the beautiful fountain!

It really is like being transported to the world of 1882 – an idealized version, yes, but a splendid one nonetheless.

How do you like the proceedings, Fanatics?

What romances do you hope will bear fruit?

Do you support the Russells in their audacious upward social mobility?

Share your thoughts, hopes and dreams in the comments!

Mary Little John is an editor for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

Comments are closed.