Welcome back to my most favourite show on television right now: Gentleman Jack. Suranne Jones is blowing our minds as Anne Lister, the sexiest coal boss this side of Aberdeen. Will she find love with her shy neighbour Ann Walker? Let's find out!
We ended last time with Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) being attacked out of the blue by a random man who told her to stay away from Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle); now we open with a bloody and battered Anne staggering home to Shibden Hall.
I mean, she also just broke up with Ann, so it's been a miserable bloody day and wouldn't it be nice to have a cuppa tea and lie down? Not just yet, however, she was trying to avoid having tea with tradesman John Abbot (John Hollingsworth), who is in rugs *shudder* and possibly interested in marrying her sister Marian (Gemma Whelan) but he's still here and still talking.
Anne heads down a back hallway where she scares the shite out of her maid Elizabeth Cordingley (Rosie Cavaliero from Unforgotten!); she just needs some water, fanks.
*Ahh it's torture watching a bloody and pain-wracked Anne try to drag herself upstairs
She struggles to undress in her room; everything hurts. Her poor hands!! And watching her pull herself to her feet! Cordingley and I are beside ourselves, but I wouldn't suggest calling for bloody Dr. Kenny.
A package has arrived while Anne was out; is that the beautiful wedding ring she ordered for Ann? It is
*Crying break* then sexy credits.
Anne blames her injuries on falling off a wall, which leads to many, many more questions from her family. Aunt Anne Lister (Gemma Jones!! from...everything) and Anne's dad Jeremy (Timothy West) don't understand why
A) you'd climb on a wall (it was there)
B) then you'd fall off it, apparently directly onto your face and ribs
Marian tries her best to hope that Anne missing her beau was an oversight, but her smile gets more fixed as we go on. Anne asked how it went, it went fine!
Anne is undone by a question about Ann; she runs out of the room to vomit outside. Marian follows her to question how she got hurt and request that she pretty please be there when John brings over his mum.
Anne writes to her friend and former lover Marianna Lawton (Lydia Leonard from Apple Tree Yard!), requesting a recommendation for a "strong English groom who would do anything in the world for me" in the style of an Amish personal ad. Mrs. Lawton knows just the fella for her Fred!
*I've been trying to decide whether or not to call Anne Lister "Fred" as Marianna Lawton does; it would certainly ease the confusion when Anne and Ann Walker are messing aboot but I think it might muddle it up in a different way. What say you, gentle reader?
Marianna hands over the name Thomas Beech and probes gently about the nature of the relationship between Ann and Anne.
*I enjoyed watching Anne answer Marianna's letter out loud as it was read. That was fun!
Jeremiah Rawson (Shaun Dooley)'s sent over a note, he wants to discuss the coal lease again. Anne lies across a chair to think about it and Aunt Anne settles in for a chat. She didn't like Mr. Abbott but if Marian's happy...and if Anne was happy...
Oh but that's off; she explains, Ann is too "nervous and insipid" for her. If only that were true, hey? Love works so much better when you don't care so much, but you can't call that love, exactly, can you?
She's definitely not in love.
Anne laments the loss of Ann's personality and her impending isolation with her closeminded arsehole relatives.
So that's it, it's all off. Aunt Anne gently asks who Anne will travel with now then? Alone, but she'll have that strapping young groom with her as well as Eugenie. Do ladies do that? Travel alone?
They sure do! You'd be AMAZED at what women can get up to solo!
Anne is saddened once again and a little shocked when her aunt suggests that maybe her and Ann being apart is for the best, since it's such a big step and her family doesn't approve and all.
Samuel Washington (Joe Armstrong from Happy Valley series 1!) comes to call, he's got all the news about sinking the pits. About that...Anne indicates that she's holding off for now, since the Rawsons want to talk some more about the coal lease.
*In case you're just tuning in (WHAT? GET THEE BACK TO THE BEGINNING AND START FROM THERE!! I'LL WAIT HERE!), Anne was planning to borrow the money to sink her coal pits from Ann, but after their horrific breakup approximately 15 minutes ago, that is no longer expected. She would like to pause and reassess, an unusual choice for our decisive Anne Lister.
Anne set Samuel's daughter Suzannah (Amy James-Kelly - that's the girl from Safe!! I knew I recognised her, it was just the clothing and bonnet that was throwing me off!) up with an apprenticeship. This involves her cozying up to Thomas Sowden (Tom Lewis), who only just killed his abusive and violent dad.
*I shouldn't be petulant because stories are for everyone, but I don't know if we exactly need to shoehorn in another heterosexual love story, do we? We've already got Marian and John Abbot, however unfortunate.
Ann Walker is having a horrible night too, she's dreaming of being dragged to the gallows with Anne (who looks as though she's been beaten but remains charmingly insouciant) for lesbian acts and wakes up screaming and hysterical.
Anne's face is healing apace, it still gets a look and comment from Jeremiah Rawson, who essentially confirms for Anne that his brother hired the thug by suggesting her position might have altered. It has, though, she has a great price for him for the upper coal beds but not the lower AND there's a penalty for turning on the water, woot!
*I could listen to Anne talk about the coal business for HOURS.
She dispatches him quickly and explains to her dad Jeremy what really happened to her face. She's decided to get out of the coal business. A servant from Ann's house with a letter interrupts.
Ann's groom James Mackenzie (Saul Marron) leads Anne over to Crows Nest - blimey, look at the size of this thing??!
Harriet Parkhill (Elle McAlpine) has fled; it's Catherine Rawson (Emma Paetz from somethingbutImnotsurewhat) who greets Anne gratefully. Ann is in terrible shape. She's been *lowered voice* "hearing voices."
Anne enters Ann's bedchamber, Ann about leaps into her arms.
Ann begs Anne to never leave her again; Anne promises to do what she can for her. Anne struggles to understand what's happening to Ann, is she really hearing voices? She agrees to spend the night with Ann so she can hear the noises from the hall.
She sends a letter to Shibden Hall, where Aunt Anne and Jeremy are sacked out in front of the fire while sitting upright. They fall asleep again.
*That felt like a lovely nod to the Narcotic Couch of Dreams in Last Tango in Halifax.
James is in the kitchen being fed by Cordingley and Hemingway (Jessica Baglow), but it's ladysmaid Eugenie Pierre (Albane Courtois) he wants to know about. She's pretty, see.
Eugenie is definitely interested in James's attention, she completely ignores her former fiance John Booth (Thomas Howes from Downton Abbey!) and we're devastated. Okay, he'd never spoken to her, exactly, but he's very sweet, she WAS going too marry him and now she's literally turned her back on him.
Ah John, she didn't deserve ye.
Ann wakes up to the voices; okay, now we're sure: definitely in her head. There are three men screaming in her head about Anne and her dying. It originates in the clock, so Anne moves out into the hallway to remove the weights, encountering Catherine who is called into Ann's chamber.
Catherine and Anne cuddle Ann while she reads the bible aloud.
The next morning, Anne and Catherine discuss a plan to treat Ann. Anne would like to take Ann to see Dr. Belcombe again as he specializes in mental treatment. In the meantime, if Catherine could just not tell anyone how bad it is, please, Ann's family would definitely have her committed and Anne believes Ann's condition can be improved with treatment.
In a lovely surprise, Catherine apologizes to Anne for believing and spreading gossip about her. She recognises the depth and warmth of Anne's character as she tended to her great friend the night before.
In a rather inexplicable turn of events, Anne sends a letter to Captain Sunderland (Derek Riddell from Happy Valley!!) advising of her plan to take Ann to see Dr. Belcombe. He thinks they ought to collect her instead, is this a sanitarium? His wife Elizabeth (Katherine Kelly!! From Happy Valley AND The Night Manager!) is as confused as I am but at least I'm not breastfeeding a newborn next to a child rife with measles.
John Abbot has brought his mother Mrs. Abbott (Louise Harding) to tea, but we're all looking at Anne's empty chair.
*A quick reference was made earlier to Mr. Abbott ingratiating himself into polite society via committee volunteering; he may want to seal that up with a bit of pedigree in the form of bagging a Lister.
Young Suzannah and Thomas cuddle up under a tree and *zzzzzz sorry, I nodded off for a moment. I think he just did the second least romantic proposal ever. I mean no offense, they're adorable but zzzz oops, there I went again.
The Rawsons are on the move again, they're creating access roads across Lister land (hahahah watching Marian correct Anne's "my land" to "OUR land" was hilarious) and you missed tea with the Abbotts again! Anne's gone before that's half out.
Anne gets the lowdown from Samuel (some guy Hinchcliffe made a deal with the Rawsons and got screwed, so now he's taking her stone and access road) and puts a stop to that rightfeckingnow thankyouverymuch. Then she's off to town to see Mr. Parker (Bruce Alexander) for legal advice.
Anne is dealing with a bully; being told to not take it personally is exceedingly unhelpful.
Anne continues to tend to Ann, reassuring her that she'll be back soon.
Captain Sutherland writes to Anne, he'll be picking up Ann with his mother (random) then delivering her to the best medical man Edinburgh has to offer. Ahhh, Elizabeth Sutherland is Ann's sister and Anne was sort of asking for permission to take Ann to see Dr. Belcombe again.
Anne tries to help sell this Edinburgh trip but Ann is incensed at the thought of Anne traveling without her.
Is she staying that night?
Catherine is excused and Anne about fidgets herself to death trying to give careful answers to Ann's entreaties. Anne is trying to do the right thing by helping Ann, but Ann thinks she's lost Anne. Oh Anne's not done at ALL.
Oh but Ann does not take it. Instead she cries along with the rest of us.
*I don't know exactly why you would propose to someone literally in the throes of a mental disorder. See how carefully I'm not saying schizophrenic break? Except for there, ignore that part.
Anne writes to Mrs. Lawton, perhaps they can have a visit for a fortnight. That was in no way a I Don't Care Anyway and I'm Going To Bounce On My Ex I Care So Little And Won't Even Think About You Letter.
Marian is out of sorts at supper; her John Abbott hasn't been in contact for the past three weeks because Anne wouldn't sup with him and his mother. Oh honey, he was a bore, you know that.
Anne gets a letter from Ann, we're all getting just a weeeeee bit tired of this back and forth are we not? Anne makes smalltalk with Captain Sutherland and his mum (Veronica Clifford) then heads up to be jumped on by Ann.
Ann really does blow hot and cold. She'll do anything she can to get Anne to stay with her, well, except agree to marry her or be with her forever.
They make love later (in a way I'm not going to forget any time soon), but Anne falters midway. She cries. She's demolished by Ann's inability to commit to her, she knows what people say about her everywhere and she's trained herself to rise against it. But. She forgets how difficult it would be for anyone else to accept that.
Anne is the consoled this time. It's so difficult always being the confident one, the pursuer, the always strong. We're all just people.
It brings me back to every time someone questions Anne about what she does. It's all people do on this show: do ladies travel alone? Do they sink coal pits? Why does she care that the Rawsons are stealing her coal? They steal everyone's coal! And every time, she has to slash on a smile and explain herself, over and over again. Like this one, when she was trying to play nice so she and Ann could spend time together:
Every time reminded over and over how nobody understands her, even having to fend off accusations of her desires being repugnant and queer from people who love her.
It's time to go the next morning, Ann and Anne are determined to make me cry all night so Ann's given Anne a bible with a favoured verse in the back.
Anne receives some unwelcome backstory about someone hoping for Ann's hand in Edinburgh, Alexander MacKenzie sounds like the last thing Ann needs. Then Ann is leaving and we're flattened by the loss.
My goodness. Well. What are we to do with that? We've got Ann Walker displaying all the markers of a serious mental illness; I feel as though we're all Anne, trying to gauge Ann's condition and support accordingly. Just. A lot of pain and sadness, wrapped up in a gorgeously costumed English drama. The good thing is its relatability; that's also what makes it wrenching to watch. Who among us that is not the status quo hasn't felt as Anne did? Unloveable but aching for the same support we offer others freely? It's deeper than that, of course, this is the queerest of tales for Pride month and I'm so happy that they're handling it without shying away.
I have to bring up one more thing; this probably says a lot about the world we live in and what we expect from TV shows, but I am so happy the assault on Anne was solely of the physical variety. That's our low bar, people.
Until next time, you lot, it'd better be a whole bunch more optimistic, you mark my words! Cheers