The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 5 Review: Charity Has Two FunctionsMary Littlejohn at .
A trip to Dansville proves revelatory, with lines being drawn and alliances taking shape - - all in the name of charity.
There are new characters to consider on The Gilded Age Season 1 Episode 5 and backstories being revealed in unexpected places.
Who will prove to be the power players of the endgame now that we are in the very middle of the season? In whose favor will the scales tip?
The goings-on of The Gilded Age are so juicy and melodramatic, and that's exactly what they should be. The actors are all making meals out of their roles.
Mrs. Morris (Katie Finneran) flat-out called Mr. Russell a murderer, but it may be too late for her. Her closest ally, Mrs. Aurora Fane, is now beholden to the Russells, and Mrs. Fane is playing the game.
Mrs. Fane is trying to get her friend to see sense, but a little sympathy wouldn't go amiss - - Mrs. Morris is spiraling, and she needs help. But what they do is merely charity for the sake of what it looks like rather than actually helping people.
I know the facts. My husband is dead, that’s a fact. My house is sold, my money is done. And now you’ll turn your back on me like all the other just to keep in with this potato digger’s daughter.Mrs. Anne Morris
Mrs. Fane and Mrs. Morris have both proven to be hateful in that they have a prejudice against anyone who is not like them, including their not-always-subtle racism. If Kelli O'Hara weren't so charming, it'd be a lot easier to hate her character.
The good thing is that, despite their internal politics, they ARE helping people.
Clara Barton is back, forcing the elite to consider people outside their narrow sphere. The real Barton was ahead of her time in the medical services she provided and as an unmarried suffragette and abolitionist.
It was so satisfying when she deigned to answer Peggy's questions, defiantly implying that they would help people of any race.
Barton doesn't care what high society thinks of her, as long as she gets their money. What's more, she doesn't care about scandal, either. Now this means Marian's got an in to be friends with Mrs. Chamberlain, and she can justify it by being for a noble, life-saving cause.
Speaking of Marian, she and Mr. Raikes had the buildup and the tension throughout the episode, leading finally to him kissing her outside her bedroom. Was he actually hoping she would invite him inside? An "adventurer," indeed!
The kiss seemed to go on a bit longer than appropriate (well, not much is appropriate in this era, but still). If Peggy hadn't have shown up, it might not have just been a goodnight kiss!
Miss Marian Brook: You surprised me, I grant you.
Mr. Tom Raikes: Let me surprise you some more.
At least Mr. Raikes has made his intentions clear. He wants to marry her and takes courting her seriously. He doesn't seem to care about any of the upper-class life lasting for too long - - it seems to be more just a way to maintain his proximity to Marian.
Marian and Peggy appear to have made up and become friends again. Marian wants to emulate Peggy, Miss Barton, and women like them. It would appear Marian is doing better than she thinks she is. She's following her own path, though she's still not sure what it is yet.
At its crux, Marian believes in helping people, choosing a partner who loves her, and not being prejudiced.
You have a good heart. But I run my own life. Is that clear?Miss Peggy Scott
Peggy's secret is starting to unfold. She was in love with a "lowly" stockboy. Did she get pregnant? It has to be something to do with this stockboy. But her parents still want her home, so it truly can't be that scandalous unless they are just the most forgiving parents.
Marian and Mrs. Scott (Audra McDonald) had a lovely scene together, but the sadness and resignation that's there for the Scott family don't really seem to have gotten through to Marian just yet.
Nathan Lane finally showed up as the Ward McAllister.
For all the hype, he was barely in the episode, and with everything else that happened, he didn't leave too much of an impression -- it only left me wanting more of his hammy, campy energy and his chemistry with Mrs. Russell. McAllister appears to be quite taken with her, and she is just as pleased as punch.
Miss Marian Brook: Mrs. Russell and Mr. McAllister seem to be getting on well.
Mr. Charles Fane: Why wouldn’t they, when they are more or less the same person?
It's satisfying to see her ambitions pay off and to finally see her included, even if it's at the result of some extreme measures that inadvertently led to a man's death.
The fact that someone has DIED over Mrs. Russell wanting to have other special friends in fancy houses exemplifies these people's true nature and motivations.
But it was hard to stay on board with Mrs. Russell after she made George threaten Archie Baldwin.
It was unfair to toy with Archie and Gladys that way. What exactly is Mrs. Russell hoping for here? Can't Gladys marry someone rich who loves her? Who will be good enough for Gladys, in Mrs. Russell's eyes? What was wrong with Archie Baldwin? Why is Mrs. Russell so obsessed with controlling her daughter's social life?
The Russells are easily one of the most dynamic couples on television. They are so complex and interesting, beautiful, and so into each other.
I always felt I was where I belonged, because I had you.Mr. George Russell
Mr. Russell doesn't seem to care about much except giving his wife whatever she wants. He's ambitious, ruthless, and obscenely wealthy, but what drove him to that? And how did he end up with a "potato digger's daughter"?
They are both deeply ambitious, but to what end? Is Mrs. Russell simply trying to prove herself, rise above her lowly birth, and prove to herself that she is worth it?
At least there's someone in the Russell household who cares about the needs and wants of the young women.
Mrs. Bruce (Celia Keenan-Bolger) is a compassionate woman who sees the girls as people no matter their station. It was beautiful that she recognized and wanted to do the right thing for both Gladys and Adelheid, as they both have other older women figures who don't always treat them kindly.
Adelheid and Gladys are a sweet pair, and if their little escape attempt at the beginning of the episode was any indication, we should see more of them as" partners-in-crime." Though, when Gladys gets in trouble, someone will have to take the fall for her, and if not Adelheid, then Mrs. Bruce.
Miss Turner is no nun, I assure you.Mrs. Bruce
This brings us to Miss Turner. What is she up to now? Adelheid idolizes her -- will she use her to help Oscar somehow maneuver his way into Glady's heart? Is Oscar good enough for Gladys, in Mrs. Russell's eyes?
Turner and Oscar are the duo we didn't know we needed. Both are cunning, ambitious, and incredibly self-serving - - what will they be capable of together? Whatever it is, I don't think it will be good for anyone but themselves.
We saw very little of the Van Rhijn household, with only a bit of Agnes and Ada, and then, unexpectedly, Armstrong's home life.
Armstrong (Debra Monk) is an unpleasant woman, but her mother is worse. What's more, Armstrong puts up with her mother's attitude to take care of her. No doubt her secret will get out too -- perhaps, if Peggy's shame is revealed, Armstrong and Peggy might find some way to connect.
As the episode concluded, the announcement of a train wreck shifted things into perspective.
Here's where the connection to the Red Cross comes in handy - - it was a clever move on the part of the Russells, for it does indicate that their choice of this charity, in particular, aligns well with the work they do -- in can help mitigate the damage of their industry.
It could almost be a symbiotic relationship, or at least mutually "beneficial" -- if it can be called that. As we've seen, even disasters can benefit some folks.
Where will it all lead?
Will Mr. Russell ever stand up for his daughter? What role will Mr. McAllister play in the ascent of Mrs. Russell?
What is the nature of Peggy's secret? And do you see a future for Marian and Mr. Raikes?
Share your thoughts in the comments!
Mary Littlejohn Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She loves television, cinema, and theatre (especially musicals!), particularly when it champions inclusivity, diversity, and social justice. Follow her on Twitter.