Monday, June 10, 2019

REVIEW: 'Gentleman Jack' - Anne Lister and Ann Walker Choose to Stop Running From Their Problems in 'Are You Still Talking?'

HBO's Gentleman Jack - Episode 1.08 "Are You Still Talking?"

Following a journey from Paris to Copenhagen, Lister finds acceptance and appreciation in Danish high society, stepping out of her sartorial comfort zone to attend a birthday ball hosted by Queen Marie. When difficult news arrives from Shibden, Lister is faced with the decision to stay in Europe or go back home. In Scotland, a shocking discovery about Captain Sutherland leads Ann Walker to make a bold resolution about her future. An unexpected visitor to the farm threatens to expose Thomas Sowden's macabre secret.

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 season finale of HBO's Gentleman Jack.

"Are You Still Talking?" was written by Sally Wainwright and directed by Sally Wainwright

This season has really articulated perfectly why Anne Lister and Ann Walker need each other in their lives. Their worlds are made brighter and more magical because the other is in them. That's what love is suppose to feel like. Sure, it can seem like an unobtainable goal most of the time. There are plenty of obstacles standing in Lister and Ann's way preventing them from being together. They both feel depressed and heartbroken at the start of this finale. But that's also what makes it so rewarding when they both happen to be in Halifax once more with the certainty that they never want to be apart ever again. So many people have made them fear what could happen to them because of their love. This society isn't open and accepting of two women who wish to be together. Even in the present day, that's still an issue to some people. This show respects the physical and emotional harm that can be done. But it still revolves around how hopeful and uplifting this story can be as well. It also presents as the world conspiring to bring them back together. They have allies in this world who see the value in both of them being in Halifax once more. Ann's health would significantly improve as soon as she's far away from Captain Sutherland. Plus, Lister needs to deal with the major problems that have come up with sinking the pits. This is a very dramatic and scary time for both of them. Big and messy life moments are happening. Ann fears for her sister's safety in a marriage where she is afraid of what her husband is capable of. Lister makes a perilous journey across the sea in order to see her aunt before she succumbs to her failing health. And yet, everything presents as perfectly okay. Ann is rescued by her cousins who ensure that she isn't abused and isolated in Scotland anymore. Moreover, Aunt Anne makes a full recovery. Lister may be furious in the moment that she embarked on this journey for nothing. But it's so significant that she is back in Halifax once more. She left for her travels because she was running. She goes on these wondrous adventures that do mean a lot to her. She spends quite a lot of time in Denmark. She becomes a part of Danish society and even gets some advice from the Queen. She makes an impact wherever she goes. She sparks conversation. She may not always be right. The Queen sees the value in embracing the technology of the future while Lister is doing her best to keep everything afloat for her family in the present. But it's also so profound to see Lister accept that she runs away because she is constantly heartbroken. She lets people into her heart only for them to refuse to commit to her. She was devastated by Ann rejecting her. She wanted a marriage to work between them. That's the ultimate destination here. There is just the uncertainty and peril that comes from the two believing they have made the right choice in abandoning one another. Lister is on this journey all by herself. Meanwhile, Ann harms herself and lashes out at the family trying to help her in Scotland. It's a dark and depressing time. But both of them find the energy to return and hopefully embark on brighter days in the future. That's a fantastic overall feeling.

Both Lister and Ann are actively choosing each other and the lives they have in Halifax. Lister is made to feel like she has made a major mistake. The sinking of the pits has become much more expensive than she hoped it would be. Her entire family could lose their ancestral home as a result. There is the hope that Ann will be able to take some of the financial burden off of this project to better secure the future for everyone. And yet, that's not what the conversation is about when the two of them return to each other. Lister is screaming off a cliff because of all the problems this venture has caused. And then, she turns around and her love is there. In that moment, it's all about Ann saying exactly what Lister wants to hear. Lister has wanted a woman to love and commit to her for her entire life. She wants to be married and celebrate that in society. And now, she finally has a partner willing to do that. Of course, Ann has returned as a changed woman as well. There was a very scary moment in the previous hour where she cut her wrist. That was terrifying and could have had major consequences. But she's also open about it with Lister when she discovers the scars. She doesn't respond in the same why when her cousins inquire about her new wounds. That shows that she is more intimate and vulnerable with Lister than anyone else in the world. She trusts her opinion no matter what. She never feels like she is being taken advantage of by her. That was the overwhelming quality she felt while in Scotland with her family. Her sister supported her no matter what. She was rightfully concerned that Ann wasn't getting the treatment she needed. She wanted to keep reaching out to Lister for advice. Her husband just stood in the way of that by destroying that correspondence while trying to force Ann into marriage. Ann even believed she deserved that fate for a little bit. She is still a woman who is very uncertain about her life and the choices she feels obligated to make. She wants to know from her sister whether being a mother is all that great. She was willing to commit to Lister knowing that it wouldn't produce any children. That's the exact fate she agrees to here. She is very active in saving her self. She understands the situation perfectly. Even though she believes she is returning to a lonely life in Halifax, she actually has her dreams achieved. Lister has returned to her. That is so beautiful. It's also significant that the season ends with the two of them taking the sacrament together in church. That is a visual that means so much to Lister. The future may continue to be uncertain. There is certainly a lot of drama that continues to go on at Shibden Hall. This love doesn't solve all of the problems for Ann and Lister. But it's a remarkable start that may allow acceptance and appreciation fully into their lives. Those are qualities that could drastically improve everything. That's a very inspiring way to conclude the season.