Gentleman Jack Recap: Season 1 Finale ("Are You Still Talking?")

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 available on HBO and just concluded on BBC One, as well. (Note: Recaps include spoilers for that episode.)

Okay, Ann(e)dom. It's the Season One Finale and I'm feeling nervous. Anne Lister has traveled to "sunny" Copenhagen, Ann Walker is stuck in Scotland, and we're running out of time for the Anns to either rekindle their romance or start seeing other people in mutually consensual and affirming manners.

In Copenhagen, Anne seems to spend her days going on long walks and cavorting with royalty. She meets the Queen, for instance, and there's a tinge of romantic subtext between them (Maybe? Please? Sorry Ann). On some of these occasions, Anne sports more feminine outfits than what she usually wears, although she doesn't seem particularly happy about it.

We also learn that Anne plans on staying in Copenhagen until spring, which might mean something if I knew what month it currently was, but I'll just assume it means "a long time."  Indeed, she gets herself an apartment STAT, and I notice that she's hung her giant thermometer on the wall which suggests she's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Ann, meanwhile, is not doing well in Scotland, and we know this because she spends her days looking at drawings of Anne Lister and staring out at sea whilst wrapped in a blanket. It's lovely scenery, really, although I know that isn't the point. Ann also contemplates marrying her shitty brother-in-law's shitty cousin because she doesn't know what else to do with her life, which prompts the shitty brother-in-law to say that marriage and children "will give her something to think about other than herself." Oh, snap!

Ha ha, just kidding. Being a woman in the 1800s sounds terrible.

Anne has actually been writing to Ann, but Ann's sister and the shitty brother-in-law have kept the letters from her, so Ann thinks Anne has forgotten her. Eventually, Ann's sister tells Ann that she doesn't want her to marry the shitty cousin, and that Anne has written to her. So, Ann resolves to return home and take charge of her life.

Meanwhile, at Shibden, Anne's Aunt is not doing well. The medical man thinks she could die imminently of gangrene. So, they send for Anne to return home. Dun dun dun! I'm sorry about Aunt Anne, but this bodes well for a reuniann(e). Also, the aunt ends up being fine, in case you're worried.

Now, I genuinely don't give one infinitesimal fuck if the Anns' return to Halifax feels rushed and contrived. I want a happy ending. So, I likewise don't care if it strains credulity that both Anns appear to arrive in Halifax within minutes of each other and somehow separately meander to the desolate countryside near Anne's coal pits. IT'S FINE. What's important here, you see, is that some of the best ever 15 minutes of queer women's television happen next.

First, Anne is distraught. She's alone, exhausted, and thinks she's about to lose the deed to Shibden. Ann, who is supposed to be in Scotland, suddenly walks up behind her. Anne is startled, and seems angry at first, but Ann explains that she talked with her sister about Anne before resolving to come home and forego marrying a man. Anne, for her part, admits that she thought of Ann the whole time she was traveling. (And does she mention that she was traveling with her ex, Mariana? No. AND THAT'S FINE TOO. They will discuss that later, okay? Ann and Anne have both learned important things about who they are and what they want out of relationships by being apart, so it's FINE.)

Then, Ann proposes to Anne by saying she "wouldn't say no" if Anne asked her again. At least, I think that counts as a proposal? Either way, the Anns are getting hitched and I'm happy.

The scene is superbly acted by Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle, each of whom came to embody each character over the course of Season One to perfection. In the reunion scene, each character broke (or perhaps truly revealed?) her type. Anne, for instance, has thus far mostly seemed strong and in control of situations, relationships, and emotions. But here, she's on the verge of tears nearly the whole time she's talking to Ann and is completely vulnerable. "Don't hurt me," she says. "I'm not as strong  as you think. Well, I am, obviously, but. Sometimes I'm not."

Ann, who has felt fearful and powerless for much of the season, has a newfound strength and makes the major decision to marry Anne, after having realized that living per other people's ideas of who she should marry was making her miserable.

In the next scene, they take the sacrament together at a church in York, a public ceremony that they privately understood as their marriage ceremony (unbeknownst to the church and community), and I didn't cry, you did.

And there you have it. Just two respectable women who choose to spend time together AND THAT'S ALL.

In all seriousness, I will always root for a happy ending in TV/film, especially if it involves LGBTQ characters. I'm pleased we got it here in Season One. I don't know what could have made the ending better for me other than maybe if the Anns hopped into a carriage with a "just married" sign on it and then the 2019 US Women's National Team lined up and threw little foam soccer balls at them while they drove into the sunset. Or, oh wait, *listens into earpiece* a live correspondent from 1832 has just sent us this actual photo of Anne Lister and Ann Walker's wedding:

(Not an actual photo)
By "live correspondent" I mean my wife, who is amazing LOLOL.

Bits and Pieces:
  • Oh my god. From an interview with Suranne Jones: "Jones even went so far as to wear one thing that definitely wouldn’t appear onscreen. 'The perfume that I wore had very woody notes to it,' she said. 'We called it the smell of Anne Lister. It was actually a Jo Malone scent.'" 
  • Yes. That's all. 
  • Holy Trinity Church in York, where the Anns took the sacrament together, has a plaque on one of its gates commemorating the union of Anne Lister and Ann Walker. Blub. 
  • The theme song to Gentleman Jack is sung by English folk music duo, and married couple, O'Hooley & Tidow.
  • If you're looking for more LGBTQ content, I would highly recommend Pose and Tales of the City (2019), both of which are streaming on Netflix currently!

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