Gentleman Jack Recap: Season 1, Episode 4 ("Most Women Are Dull and Stupid")

This post continues my recapping of the TV show Gentleman Jack. For those not familiar:
Gentleman Jack is an eight-episode drama series from BAFTA-winning writer Sally Wainwright (To Walk Invisible, Happy Valley).

Set in 1832 West Yorkshire, England, Gentleman Jack is inspired by the true-story and coded journals of Anne Lister (played by Suranne Jones), and follows her attempt to revitalize her inherited home, Shibden Hall. Most notably for the time period, a part of Lister's plan is to help the fate of her own family by taking a wife.
The series is on HBO and runs Monday nights at 10 PM. (Note: Recaps will include spoilers for that episode.)

Welp, the Anns are officially in peril.

Apparently, blabbermouth Mrs. Priestly told half the town that she caught the Anns doing unnatural deeds with one another, because rich people in the 1800s have nothing better to do than gossip about other people's sex lives. Woof.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (and by ranch I mean Ann's estate, Lightcliffe), a doctor makes a visit and tells Anne that his diagnosis of Ann is literal "nervous hysteria." Okay, a couple things. Why, other than this being the 1800s, is this conversation happening between the doctor and Anne, rather than doctor and patient?

And two, while I'm certain that nothing good ever comes from a man diagnosing a woman with "nervous hysteria," in this instance the doctor prescribes a trip abroad with Anne as the treatment. And, on that point, I agree with him. It's evident that Ann is happy with Anne, and that her mental state noticeably improves whenever they are together. It's almost everyone else in the town that causes distress, in addition to the usual dollops of patriarchy, restrictive social norms, and so forth, I'm sure.

The Anns are immediately excited at the prospect of their trip together and this is about the precise moment I start to get that familiar sour feeling in my stomach, due to years of conditioning from TV/film about queer women's love lives. And right on cue, Ann learns that her friend, a Mrs. Ainsworth, was thrown from a carriage and killed. This news causes her to sit forlornly in a poofy dress, as one does, while Anne serves her tea.

Ann's mental health takes a downturn and she reveals that anything having to do with death frightens her. (Same, girl.)

Anne then goes home for a bit to take care of some business at Shibden, because um?? One of the Rawson brothers stops by Shibden while she's there and, to be honest, I'm not closely following this plot point since it involves men and is only tangentially related to the lesbians, but the gist of it seem to be that the Rawsons want to buy coal from Anne. They're apparently already stealing the coal from her, but I guess they want to make it official. They also think Anne's price is too high, although I suspect any price would be too high for the Rawson brothers if it's a woman setting it. Whatever, I just want to see Anne outwit them already.

In a more important development, the Lister sisters have a bonding moment while taking a walk. Mariam notes that she has a new pattern for "drawers" that includes "a gusset," and she can make Anne some if she likes. I'm not entirely sure what a gusset is, but Anne says the new drawers will be "useful" since she'll be traveling with Miss Walker, so read into that what you will.

Anyhoo, Marian then says she'd be pleased if Miss Walker moved into Shibden with them as Anne's companion, so she's accepting of Anne, at least.

Later, Ann reveals to Anne that she's received a private letter from Mr. Ainsworth hinting that he wants to marry her now that his wife has died. Anne perceives that there's something about the situation that Ann isn't telling her. She asks to see the letter, but Ann refuses. On the verge of another heartbreak of losing someone she loves to a man, Anne tells Ann that she needs to choose her or Mr. Ainsworth so they can get on with their lives.

I know this is a serious moment, but as an aside, Ann's canopy bed looks cozy and both Anns are wearing cute bedclothes (Wait, are these the drawers that Mariam made? Did she make them already? Is this a different day?). Also, note to Ann: WHEN IN DOUBT BETWEEN A MAN OR ANNE LISTER, CHOOSE ANNE LISTER.

In any event, in case anyone's wondering whether Anne's love for Ann is legit, or whether she was just after Ann's money, Anne storms back to Shibden, frantically writes about Ann in her journal using the secret code she invented to write about lesbian matters, vomits into her bedpan, and then scolds the air, "Don't you dare do this to me again!" So, yeah.

The Rawsons, meanwhile, are sitting in their parlour for a chat/gossip sesh and whew they are quite a bunch. The brothers complain about Anne, but the mom says she likes Anne because she's interesting, whereas "most women are dull and stupid." Mind you, she's sitting in a room full of women, but of course they all just sit there awkwardly, as if silently conceding the point. Oh, or maybe they think they're Cool Girls? Were there Cool Girls in the 1800s? I'm sure there were.

The mom then mentions that Anne Lister has been spending a lot of time with their cousin Ann Walker (wait what?), and not-at-all subtly suggests that Ann has been letting Anne "dip into her purse" in more ways than one. (I told you, these various rich people apparently have nothing better to do than blabber about homoerotic happenings in Halifax.)

The next day, Ann sends Anne a fruit basket with a note in it, which at first seemed like a good sign, albeit a little on the nose. But sadly, the note actually sucks. She says she can't make up her mind about who to marry: Anne or Mr. Ainsworth.  So, she has placed two scraps of paper in a little bag, one saying "yes" and one saying "no," and whichever Anne pulls out first is the answer to Anne's marriage proposal.

Okay, what the actual fuck, Ann? That is not a decision.

Anne shows up at Ann's rightly pissed.  However, in a surprising and disturbing turn, Ann reveals that Mr. Ainsworth had previously raped her when Mrs. Ainsworth was still alive, and that she's been operating under the impression that she is now obligated to him. Like a proper friend and lesbian, Anne believes Ann's account, swiftly disabuses Ann of her misconception that she owes anything to Ainsworth,  and comforts her. She also calls Ainsworth "grubby wretch" and gets this look in her eyes like she's immediately developing a plan.


The good Reverend (ugh, of course) Ainsworth is headed to town soon for a job interview or something, and I very much look forward to whatever just deserts Anne Lister might be sending his way. Will he get Fried Green Tomatoed? Tune in next time.

Bits and Pieces:

The Season One finale of Gentleman Jack aired last night on HBO, but in good news, the series has earned a Season Two order!

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