Monday, April 22, 2019

REVIEW: 'Gentleman Jack' - Anne Lister Returns to Shibden Hall and Finds Exciting New Opportunities in 'I Was Just Passing'

HBO's Gentleman Jack - Episode 1.01 "I Was Just Passing"

Anne Lister returns to Shibden Hall, frustrated by the shabbiness of her ancestral home and finds her father and long-suffering sister difficult to live with. When Lister discovers that her land is rich in coal, her plans to transform the estate soon provide a welcome distraction. On the neighboring estate, shy heiress Ann Walker is quietly delighted to hear that the charismatic Anne Lister is back. A hit-and-run accident on Shibden land puts a child's life at risk, and Lister's new French maid, Eugénie, finds herself in trouble.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of HBO's Gentleman Jack.

"I Was Just Passing" was written by Sally Wainwright and directed by Sally Wainwright

Many compelling narratives have been crafted around the idea that a specific character personality existed in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many complications extended out of that as they aspired to be exactly who they wanted to be - society be damned. That's the opinion that Anne Lister has throughout this premiere. She is a woman so curious about the world. She sees the value of traveling and learning as much as possible. She has familial responsibilities at home in Halifax. She is the owner of her family's estate, Shibden Hall. Her father wasn't given the property after the death of his brother. He didn't have the mind for business. That shows when Anne goes around collecting the rents from her tenants. She sees it as a job that must be done not as something that would be unbecoming of a woman to do. She makes her opinions known. Everyone does stand in awe of her. Everyone wants to be her friend or form some kind of connection with her. She has a willingness to take what she wants as much. She is a rambunctious free-spirit who likes to breeze in and out of the lives of her family. She sucks all of the oxygen out of the room. That can be tiring and suffocating in a way. Her sister, Marianne, doesn't like how everyone talks about Anne all the time. She sees her own skills and values as important too. She sees progress being made in the world and championing it. Anne has a completely different mindset. She believes that everyone has a right to vote for fair representation. Marianne sees the value in the working class earning that right for themselves instead of those who simply take from them. That's the core disagreement between the sisters here. But it's all done with the knowledge that Anne won't be staying here for long. She never does. Her family has grown not to accept much from her visits. She may never tell them the full truth of her exploits around the world. She just sees the value in exploring and learning as much as possible. She doesn't wish to be tied down and dealing with responsibilities that bore her. Of course, she projects strength when she looks after the family home and hopes to make it profitable once more. In fact, an opportunity is staring them right in the face with the coal that can be mined on their land. The world is only now seeing how profitable that resource can be. Anne doesn't know the first thing about mining it herself and selling it to new business partners to make a profit. But she does see the value in exploring that revenue opportunity to grow the estate instead of simply relying on the rents of the tenants. She believes herself to be a fair-minded individual. She stands up for herself when someone disrespects or challenges her. Of course, she is also so devastated when the world refuses to cave to her demands. She wishes to live as an out lesbian during this time. That's tragic because everyone just assumes they have to go through the motions of what is dictated by society. Anne wishes to be married to a wife and spend every day with someone who loves her. She has no interest in marrying a man who will be absent doing whatever he wants. It may allow her the freedom to continue living the way she has always done. She aspires for more than that though. That is inspirational and hopeful. It proves that she is a main character the audience should look up to and respect as well. That's a fantastic start to the proceedings. Plus, she already has her sights on exactly what she wants. It just means spending more time in Shibden Hall to hopefully gain the trust and love of its people despite the gossip that is bound to stir up.