The second season of The Gilded Age came to a very enjoyable conclusion with episode 8. Titled ‘In Terms of Winning and Losing’, the finale brought a whole lot of changes for the cast. I so hope we get a third season. I need my fix of low-stakes drama!
With the first season doing its part in establishing characters and the setting, the second season was able to add a lot of twists and turns in every episode. Frankly, I enjoyed the second season a lot more than the first. And while The Gilded Age hasn’t been renewed for a third season yet, I hope it does soon. I will be okay with it getting a third and final season as long as we get another outing and a proper conclusion to the series.
The major battle that played across the sophomore season was the one between the Academy of Music (old money) and the Metropolitan Opera (new money). Of course, Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon) was supporting the Metropolitan Opera, especially after she realized how tough it was for her family to get a box in the Academy of Music because they were considered “new money” and not fully part of society. Bertha’s resolve to make the Met a success put her at odds with Mrs. Astor (Donna Murphy). It was fun to see the two women try to one-up each other throughout the season with the finale announcing the clear winner.
It all came down to which opera house opening the Duke of Buckingham would attend. While Mrs. Astor was able to steal the Duke away from Bertha by offering him a lot of money and opening American society for him, Bertha, being someone to not back down from a challenge, decided to take matters into her own hands and proceeded to offer the Duke something he couldn’t refuse during the finale. Bertha offered Gladys’s hand in marriage and such a proposal came with access to the Russell fortune.
With Gladys (Taissa Farmiga) not being the slightest bit interested in the Duke in a romantic sense and George (Morgan Spector) being supportive of allowing Gladys to marry for love, it will be very exciting to see how George will try to deal with the situation. He’s not going to like Bertha offering their daughter up to a greedy Duke in such a manner. Also, with the second season making Bertha angry at George due to the Turner situation from season one, it makes sense for the possible third season to have George be angry at Bertha and encourage her to do something to make it up to her husband.
George and Bertha’s marriage continued to be a highlight of The Gilded Age. I can watch hours of content where the two go about their business while being supportive of each other. Geroge came through for Bertha when getting the center box at the Met away from Turner. He also put down the funds required for the Met’s construction to be completed in time. Though Bertha has done her job in elevating her family’s status in society, I want the third season to show her to do something specifically to help George.
Due to Bertha being announced as the winner of the opera battle, I enjoyed the scene between Mrs. Astor, Agnes (Christine Baranski), and McAllister (Nathan Lane) as the three came to realize that things were changing quite fast in society. Holding on to the old ways of operating in society wasn’t going to do them any good if they wished to survive.
Though the opera battle was the main event, a handful of characters also went through their own troubles. In the romance department, Marian found herself being courted by Dashiell Montgomery (David Furr). Ada (Cynthia Nixon) fell in love with Reverend Luke Forte (Robert Sean Leonard). Peggy (Denée Benton) found herself catching feelings for Mr. Fortune (Sullivan Jones). And Oscar (Blake Ritson) got played big time.
While it was nice to see Ada find true love at her age, I think the fandom knew something bad was going to happen. I’m okay with Luke falling ill and dying. I’m just not a fan of it all happening in a single season. It all felt so rushed. At least Ada got to experience married life, even if it was short-lived. Also, Luke’s death left Ada with a whole lot of money during the finale, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Peggy’s romantic arc was quite messy and I’m glad she saw sense to end things with Mr. Fortune before the situation got out of hand. Peggy went through a lot during the second season. She dealt with the death of her child, experiencing racism in the South, the growing strain between her and her parents, and more. Peggy’s one of my favorite characters on this show and with the finale opening a new chapter in her life, I’m looking forward to seeing where she goes next. Peggy deserves to be happy and recognized for her writing.
And while we’re talking about Peggy, similar to the first season, the second season of The Gilded Age didn’t shy away from showcasing the racism and discrimination the Black community faced during that time. Peggy’s trip down to Tuskegee opened her eyes to the bubble she was used to living in when it came to the level of racism others in the Black community had to suffer. That’s also where we got to meet Booker T. Washington.
The show also introduced Sarah J. Garnet, which allowed Peggy and her parents to play an important role in preventing schools meant for Black children from being closed by the educational board.
Could such storylines be fleshed out more? Of course. But at least The Gilded Age brought the issues up and hopefully encouraged viewers to learn more about them.
Pivoting back to the romance department, Marian caught the eye of Dashiell Montgomery, who found himself being a single father to a young daughter named Frances (Matilda Lawler) after his wife died. I did feel bad for Marian with how the entire “relationship” played out. You could tell she was interested in marrying Dashiell in the beginning, but her opinion changed as she began to learn more about him.
Dashiell wasn’t a bad man. It was just that Marian wasn’t interested in the type of life he wanted her to live after marriage. The moment Dashiell brought up how he wanted Marian to stop teaching at the local school and live a life of comfort, I knew she wasn’t going to marry him. The final nail in the coffin was Dashiell calling Marian by his late wife’s name in front of Agnes and Ada when he offered to pay for the wedding.
The finale had Marian break off their engagement by having a very mature conversation with Dashiell. Kudos to Marian for getting her points across in a very effective manner. Dashiell couldn’t come up with a single valid counterargument. As far as my opinion goes, I’m with Marian. It’s natural to keep loving a dead spouse as you look toward finding someone else to continue your life with. But what wasn’t okay was finding someone new to replace the space left by the dead spouse and then trying to mold the new person into who you lost. Marian was her own person and she wasn’t going to give up her independence to appease anyone, especially not Dashiell.
The conversation that surprised me was the one that occurred between Marian and Frances. I thought Dashiell was going to move away somewhere after Marian ended their engagement and that would lead to Frances not attending the school where Marian taught painting. But nopes. Frances still attended said school and she asked Marian about why she wasn’t marrying her father anymore after class. Again, kudos to Marian for handling the situation well. She treated Frances in a somewhat mature fashion as she explained to the little girl about the existence of different kinds of love and how it was important to be with someone who accepted you for who you were. Even though she wasn’t marrying Dashiell anymore, Marian still loved Frances and she hoped to one day attend Frances’s wedding. They were still family due to Dashiell being a cousin of the van Rhijns.
Marian becoming single again in the finale didn’t last long as she ended up sharing a kiss with Larry Russell (Harry Richardson) after attending the Met opening. The fandom’s been waiting for those two to get together since the first season. So, I take it the writers will be exploring their relationship in the third chapter. While I’m not against Marian being with Larry (he respected her wanting to be independent), I’m not so sure about Bertha. As far as I can tell, Bertha’s okay with having Marian around. Marian’s kind and emphatic. But would Bertha be okay with Larry marrying her? Hmm. Also, Agnes wasn’t a fan of Larry.
Finally, talking about Oscar, I liked how the writers handled his relationship with John Adams (Claybourne Elder). The first season had John understandably break up with Oscar. He wasn’t going to wait around while Oscar browsed society for a wife. Even though Oscar assured John that things wouldn’t change between them after marriage, John put himself first and refused to live a life in hiding by being Oscar’s secret.
The second season showed the two being friendly to each other. They have been part of each other’s lives for so long that they couldn’t stop being friends. However, John had drawn the line at being romantic with Oscar. John was seeing someone else and while he couldn’t live with his new love interest out in the open during that particular era, it was still better than living a fake life by getting married to a wife and raising a family.
I liked how Oscar understood and respected John’s decision. He was just happy to not lose John as a friend.
With Gladys not being interested in Oscar and George stepping in to end Oscar’s pursuit of his daughter, Oscar turned his attention to a wealthy young woman named Maude Beaton, rumored to be Jay Gould‘s illegitimate daughter. Even though certain fans were suspicious of Maude, I have to say that seeing her scam Oscar out of a lot of money and then vashishing into thin air came as a surprise to me. The huge financial loss got a lot of focus during the finale as Agnes braced herself for the downgrade. From needing to sell the house and letting most of the staff go, the van Rhijn household wasn’t a happy one.
And that’s where Luke’s will came in. The final moments of ‘In Terms of Winning and Losing’ had Ada announce to Agnes and Marian that Luke’s grandfather had founded a textile company. Though Luke didn’t run the affairs of the company himself after devoting his life to God, he allowed the company to run because a lot of people depended on it. With Luke dead, Ada was now the sole owner of the company along with a whole lot of money.
Agnes didn’t have to sell the house anymore or let go of any of the staff. However, there was a catch. Ada was now the one with the money and power that came with it. Agnes would be ‘Number 2’ to her younger sister, something she had never had to deal with before.
I liked how Nixon played Ada during that particular scene as the realization slowly dawned on her. Though she assured Agnes that they would figure things out moving forward, one of the reasons I want a third season is to see how the writers will handle such a major shift between the sisters. It’s going to be so much fun!
Some other thoughts:
- Bertha giving Mrs. Bruce two tickets to the Met opening was a very nice thing to do. I’m here for Mrs. Bruce and Bordan’s relationship blooming.
- Yay for Mr. Watson being able to stay connected with his daughter and not needing to work as a valet anymore.
- I’m a huge fan of Mrs. Fish. She’s only here for the drama and she’s not ashamed to admit it.
- Here’s hoping Agnes telling Marian that she can’t afford a third strike finally knocked some sense into her. Marian really needs to think about what she wants to do with her life.
- Yay to Jack getting his patent and Larry offering him a business opportunity to expand on his work to fix alarm clocks.
- I think George will continue to become pro-Union and help the workers in season three.
All in all, The Gilded Age season two was another enjoyable story featuring lavish production design, likable characters, and low-stakes drama that I want more of.
You can watch my episode-by-episode coverage of the entire season over at The Geekiary’s YouTube channel.
What did you think of the finale of The Gilded Age season 2? Do you want the show to return for a third installment?
Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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