Monday, May 13, 2019

REVIEW: 'Gentleman Jack' - Ann Walker Must Make a Big Decision About Her Romantic Future in 'Most Women Are Dull and Stupid'

HBO's Gentleman Jack - Episode 1.04 "Most Women Are Dull and Stupid"

During a visit to York, Anne Lister is delighted when Doctor Belcombe confirms that she is the perfect tonic for Ann Walker's nervous disorder. When news of a friend's death arrives, Ann's desperate reaction makes Lister suspect that she has secrets of her own. As her rivalry with Christopher Rawson heats up, Lister steps up her plan to re-open her old coal mines. Eugénie's misfortune has implications for John Booth. Thomas Sowden spins a risky web of lies after his father's disappearance.

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 next episode of HBO's Gentleman Jack.

"Most Women Are Dull and Stupid" was written by Sally Wainwright and directed by Sarah Harding

Anne Lister approached her relationship with Ann Walker at first in order to blow up conventions of her local community. It was an outlet for her to pursue her romantic feelings without lingering on the past and all the pain these pursuits have caused her. She is unabashed when it comes to living as her true self. She doesn't care how people respond to her romantic interests. She just wants to be take seriously as a businesswoman. She may essentially be playing a game with the Rawson brothers in order to get them to pay for all the coal they have stolen from her over the years. But she is also passionate about getting justice for her young tenant who lost his leg in the opening of the series. Lister isn't a cold and calculating woman. She just has a different perspective on the world. Of course, that can be very alienating as well. It means most people just want to dismiss or belittle her. She actually wields quite a bit of power though and makes sure that everyone knows it. However, she is at her most tender when it comes to Ann Walker. She seeks out the prescription from a doctor who says that this friendship is the best thing that has ever happened to Ann. She wishes to hold that up as the reason why the two of them should move in together. She asks her family how they would feel about Ann moving into Shibden Hall. They are open to it because it means that Anne Lister would finally be settling down. She would return to life amongst the family instead of constantly traveling around the world. Of course, Lister still believes she and Ann can do that as well. They are both absolutely happy at the start of this hour. That mood is quickly spoiled though with the news of the death of one of Ann's friends. Sure, she may just be an acquaintance. But that moment also proves just how shaken Ann can be as well. She too has a unique perspective of the world. Her mood swings yet again knowing that someone she has met previously is no longer alive. It's so impersonal but life-changing as well. That's the way that Ann processes the world. The doctor may say that it's all a part of a psychological issue that could be better balanced with Lister's friendship and traveling around the world. However, the people around Ann see it as the excuse for her being too fragile and naive about the way the world actually works. As such, she always has to be wary of other people's intentions and any offer that may come her way. And yet, she does get a marriage proposal while in this headspace. The husband of the deceased reaches out to her immediately. That's so despicable and degrading. But it also proves how Ann still feels the attraction to convention. She feels so alive when she is with Lister. She loves the relationship they have. She wants to hold onto it for as long as possible. She just also doesn't want it to destroy every other relationship she has in her life. Lister may fully be expecting Ann to help her finance flooding her own mines. That's an expensive venture. She is doing everything to ensure that Shibden Hall continues to earn a profit. Her experience and expertise is certainly helping with that despite some short-term pain. However, she is soon put into an awkward position where she forces Ann to make a choice about the future they will have together.

That's the point where this episode becomes especially explosive. Both Anne Lister and Ann Walker find themselves in compromising positions where they have to make major decisions about their future together. Lister is furious that Ann has received this offer for her hand in marriage. She has a big reaction to the news. But she also understands that she can't make this decision for Ann. No one else can tell her what to do in this situation. That's very mature and evolved in that way. Everyone else in this community may think Ann is foolish to even consider turning down this proposal. To them, she is simply an aging woman who has to settle for whatever she can get in order to fulfill her female duties in society. She feels the pressure to accept this offer because she still sees the appeal of that life of normalcy. Of course, Lister is more exciting and passionate. She has opened Ann's world entirely and made her realize exactly what she wants from life. Ann just seems condemned to accept what is expected of her especially because she fears of how others will react. She is torn between the woman she loves and the man who raped her. It shouldn't be a choice. Lister is there to comfort her and tell her that that heinous act doesn't mean she's connected to him forever. That's not how sexual relationships should work. He took advantage of her when she was suppose to be under his protection during a visit. That's despicable. He shouldn't be rewarded for simply believing that he deserves her. His wife hasn't even been buried yet and he's already making these overtures. Lister is delivering an ultimatum as well. She wants Ann to make a clear decision by the end of the weekend so that everyone knows what they are driving towards in the future. She seeks that clarity because that's the way she has always conducted her business. She seeks out the best information and then makes her decision in a way that is hopefully smart but fair. The outcome that Ann presents to her doesn't present as those things. She doesn't want to hand this decision over to fate. She may only have that reaction because she pulled out the "no" note first. But she also sees that as so impersonal. The feelings are obviously there. Ann is capable of making a choice. And yet, it's not until she is brutally honest that Lister fully understands the complexity of the situation. It's so difficult and enraging for Ann to share the truth about what happened to her. She feels like she has to commit to this marriage. But that's not what's necessary at all. Lister wants it to be known that she will support her no matter what. This hour sees these wild mood swings by both of the lead characters but they feel completely in line with who they are as well. They love each other and clash with each other. This life isn't easy for either of them despite their efforts to put on a brave face. And now, Lister has a major decision to make about how to help Ann out of this situation she feels trapped in.