Monday, February 21, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Gilded Age' - The Pursuit of Love Causes More Trouble for Marian and Gladys in 'Charity Has Two Functions'

HBO's The Gilded Age - Episode 1.05 "Charity Has Two Functions"

Bertha, Marian, Aurora and Peggy make an overnight trip to see Clara Barton speak. Gladys' desired beau is invited to dinner.

"Charity Has Two Functions" was written by Julian Fellowes and directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield

Marian and Gladys talk a great deal about love. They both believe they have found it. Their families disapprove. As such, they have to keep these secrets and pursue these dynamics whenever they can. Of course, George and Bertha are the only couple on the show that burns with passion. They have a true partnership. Bertha has a specific vision of what she expects in life. George wants to help his wife make that a reality. He has pursuits and ambitions of his own. If something matters to Bertha, then he supports it as well. He knows when to respect her authority and carry out her wishes. Meanwhile, she is just as engaged in his business. She wants him to succeed. Again, it's a true partnership. One that has been laid on the screen for all to see. With Marian and Tom, they create various meetings to see each other. Agnes and Ada don't believe he is good enough for their niece. She is deserving of someone higher in stature in New York society. She shouldn't have to settle even though they want to marry her off quickly. Agnes trusts Peggy to keep Marian safe. Marian's reckless nature is dangerous. Any word could shape her reputation forever. She believes she is surrounded by women supporting a progressive cause. They are passionate about expanding the Red Cross across the country. Bertha's money can open new facilities. Clara Barton has the vision and the respect to make it all a reality. She is aware of why people give money. She is grateful they signal out her charity. She won't say no to anyone. Marian's hopes to connect the Red Cross with Mrs. Chamberlain concern Aurora though. She opens these doors for Bertha because she has been cornered by the Russell family. In order to maintain her wealth and stature, she must help Bertha achieve respect and standing amongst the old money crowd. That's still a lofty ambition. But the transaction is clear. With Marian, she wants to see a changing world that is more accepting. Agnes appreciates and respects Peggy as her secretary. That's a progressive viewpoint among this crowd. And yet, Mrs. Chamberlain is still shunned. Marian's open embrace of her may doom her. People love her good heart. That ensures they never stay mad at her for too long. Peggy can't afford to hold a grudge despite the embarrassment that has entered this friendship lately. They all have roles to play. Marian wishes to disrupt that notion. That's her very basic plot function. It's one that constantly puts her in danger as any move that is perceived to cross the line may doom her fate in this society. That seems to be her destined path because the old ways refuse to change.

Meanwhile, Gladys appreciates it when Mrs. Bruce asks for her opinion about promoting someone from within the house staff to serve as her lady's maid. It's a way for her to have agency over her own life. That's all that Gladys and Marian seek to have. They've lived lives outside of this particular world. Their expectations don't necessarily line up with what life can now afford them. They don't need others to approve of every single thing they do. That has become reality for them. Love is a central dynamic. It's a choice they believe they should have some say in. That's a way for them to take the power back. Again, Marian creates ways to be with Tom. He does so as well. They surprise each other and are delighted when the feelings appear mutual. That dynamic is allowed to continue in secret. Meanwhile, Gladys' pursuit of love is given no choice but to accept her parents' deal to make him rich if he has nothing to do with her anymore. That showcases their harsh and cruel ways. It doesn't seem fair to the daughter who wants more out of life. Bertha continually professes that she knows what's best for her daughter. It's mostly just friction that continues to heat up. That escalation could become combustive by the end of the season. Gladys knows when the mood shifts. She is aware of what her parents have done. But they are off to handle the next crisis. One of George's trains has derailed. At least three people have been killed so far. They planned for this day. It still has the potential to doom the company. And so, they have to carefully manage it. That's the priority for them. They slyly move from these various set pieces. They handle each one with great importance. It provides them with a way to climb up even if it comes at the expense of those who love them. It continues to make their stories pop with more dimension and acuity. Other characters are seen scheming as well. Oscar hires Turner to serve as his spy within the Russell household. He needs information if he is going to marry Gladys. But again, nothing pops in the same way that George and Bertha's ambitions do. They have made it in this city. They still want more. They expect only the best. They remain fiercely loyal to one another. It's powerful and gripping. But again, it clashes with the standard reality of simple problems the rest of the world tends to blow out of proportion. Sure, it's nice to see the internal lives of those who serve in this world for the rich and powerful. Everyone has a story. It just takes the right investment to care and pay attention. Mrs. Armstrong basically only has a few scenes by herself before being forced back to being the maid in the van Rhijn house. It sets out to prove a point. It simply gets lost in the grand scheme of things without adding much complexity to the various ideas the show has going on at all times.