Monday, January 31, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Gilded Age' - Marian Receives a Visitor While George Flaunts His Money to His Neighbors in 'Money Isn't Everything'

HBO's The Gilded Age - Episode 1.02 "Money Isn't Everything"

Marian receives a visit from Tom Raikes, whose legal advice Peggy seeks. The Russells take center stage at a charity bazaar.

"Money Isn't Everything" was written by Julian Fellowes and directed by Michael Engler

Marian is penniless yet has a world of opportunities presented to her. Meanwhile, Bertha has more money than her neighbors yet can't find anyone willing to accept her alongside it. These are high class problems. One demonstrated through a changing world of challenging expectations. It can also get repetitive rather quickly. In fact, that leads people to correctly predict how others will react. The line between new and old money is all that Agnes thinks about. All of society is aware of that. And so, that creates multiple conversations where Agnes chastises her niece for interacting with the wrong person. Marion and Oscar certainly don't take these arbitrary rules all that seriously. Ada doesn't either. However, Agnes is the one they are indebted to in this family. She is the head of the household who dictates what behavior is acceptable. Her family fears how she will react. That comes from them knowing exactly what type of woman she is. Marian knows her aunt won't have compassion for the cook who has built up gambling debts. Of course, some skepticism is warranted in that situation. Ada wants to know that this problem is done and her paying off the debt won't just encourage it further. Marian can't exactly make that promise. It's all based on her belief in people. She sees Mrs. Bauer as genuinely mortified. She is ashamed for others to see her like this. The problem is dealt with. She may change her behavior. She may not. The show is fundamentally about change. So, all of this suggests that the inner workings of the van Rhijn house are bound to shake up. That doesn't necessary apply in this particular situation though. It's just a problem that Marian becomes aware of thanks to Peggy. They find a solution eventually. The overarching focus is still kept on Bertha and George trying to be accepted in this society. They demand to be respected as a couple too. Councilman Morris doesn't care for the embarrassment that comes from dining at the Russell house. He believes he must be in business with George because he's the man with the money that can control the development of the city. He can make those deals in the backrooms. They conspire together to help them and the other councilmen get rich. They are profiting off these connections. Meanwhile, Bertha is continually shamed. Aurora refuses to move the charity bazaar to the Russell ballroom even though their prior location fell through. That's a personal slap in the face. It inspires George to take action. He doesn't even need Bertha to explain why it's disrespectful. He too doesn't see the point in the rules and structures of this society. He doesn't demand to be respected in these rooms. He has more money and influence than any of them. It's easy for him to walk around the bazaar and buy every display. Bertha sees it as an impressive sight as well. It doesn't play that way to everyone though. Some take it as pompous arrogance. One of strangers coming into this world with no respect for the traditions. Of course, they aren't welcomed either as people who earned their way into this status. All of this has the potential to be a searing examination of class and opportunity. But most of it comes across as petty romantic drama. That still has the potential to be interesting. It's just odd to spend time with Marian's lawyer who decides to pack up his life in Pennsylvania to move to New York. It's all obviously in pursuit of her. Agnes and Ada certainly have their opinions about that. Marian's feelings are basically an afterthought. Similarly, Peggy wishes to ask for his legal advice on something. That's all very cryptic and mysterious. It's the show wanting to operate with alluring desire. It wants to intrigue the audience into feeling invested with these characters and their mysteries. It doesn't completely work as such. It simply feels like the show talking around its story instead of actively fulfilling it right away. That can make the narrative feel wasteful. That's never a position a show wants to be in. It should present a reason to care about the predicaments these characters are in. Right now, the drama offers too much explaining of why people behave like they do without even offering enough evidence to prove it. That does create a lived in world where people understand each other. It can just be alienating to the audience so early in the series when we are unsure how to react to the developments that tepidly occur.