Sunday, December 3, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Gilded Age' - George Contends With a Strike While Jack Applies for a Patent in 'Warning Shots'

HBO's The Gilded Age - Episode 2.06 "Warning Shots"

George travels to Pittsburgh as a strike looms large at his steelworks, and Bertha gets wind of who might be returning for the grand premiere of the new Metropolitan Opera.

"Warning Shots" was written by Julian Fellowes and directed by Crystle Roberson

Radical change is happening in New York City. That's depicted in more dramatic and engaging ways than the current opera war. That feud between Bertha and Mrs. Astor is incredibly inert. When Gladys inquires about their friendship, it doesn't particularly matter what Bertha's answer is. It's all about domination through social influence. Bertha doesn't care how her actions are felt by others. She has wealth and aims to use it how she wants. She is entitled to that possibility. She won't abide by the rules established by others. She doesn't set out to dramatically reshape the social order. And so, she's simply the next generation further strengthening the system that has allowed many to prosper previously. She makes decisions for others. That controlling nature doesn't really inform defiance. George will do anything to keep his wife happy. Meanwhile, Larry and Gladys are only allowed to be annoyed for a short while. Larry was upset when his summer fling with Mrs. Blane ended. But now, he's encouraged by a nurturing friendship with Marian. And Gladys is just meant to be a debutante who is the envy of the world without having an opinion of her own.

Something dramatic ultimately occurs within the Russell family. The workers at George's steel mills are ready to strike. He heads to Pittsburgh to try to avert that disaster. No progress is made in the negotiating room. He isn't willing to engage on any of the topics. This excursion allows him to put a human face on this conflict. On the train, he and Clay plotted out the necessary response from the National Guard to get scabs into the jobs. They believe they must project strength every step of the way. However, George can't be removed from this conflict. If things are being done in his name, he needs to see them firsthand. He must be the one to give the final order. He knows a strike is coming. No more time is necessary to prepare. It's personal for the families on the ground. This work is all that offers prosperity to this community. It's still not enough to provide a meaningful life for the people they care about. They want more. They want their humanity to be respected. George has refused to do so until now. Henderson is willing to put what he's fighting for at the front of the picket line. Family means everything. George would be taking that away to maintain his hold on this industry. He can't do that. He can't threaten these people as easily as he does Mr. Gilbert to appease his wife with the opera drama.

Meanwhile, Peggy doesn't have to travel all the way to South to investigate radical change happening in the world. It's occurring in her backyard too. Everyone is relieved that she and Fortune returned home safely. Sure, they are still contending with the romantic intrigue of their kiss. It's complicated by him being married. Peggy places distance between them. She doesn't want to be seen as his co-writer in every article. She provides everyone who matters with a warning about the story that will be published detailing their time in Tuskegee. It's shocking. However, the Black community faces discrimination in New York as well. Peggy has experienced that on the job. Armstrong sees no reason to encourage change. It's just a fanciful flight that will only lead to heartbreak and terror later on. She refuses to get personally invested in anything. Peggy sees opportunities worth taking ahold of. Dorothy eyes a story that will keep her daughter close and safe. It's a worthy story to investigate too. The schools for the communities of color are being targeted by the education board. People in power refuse to see the necessity of offering this education. As Marian can attest, education opens doors to everything else in life.

Marian wants to give back to the community. She doesn't care what her family thinks about her employment at the school. She is doing meaningful work. They just want to marry her off to Dashiell already. Marian has been more than willing to step into a maternal role for Frances. That doesn't immediately translate to becoming Dashiell's new wife. He makes a big public display out of proposing. He gives her no ability to decline. This is what he wants. She doesn't know what she wants. She's confused. That turmoil was the only thing she could think about when she was summoned to the rectory. However, Ada didn't call for her to discuss the proposal. Instead, Luke needed to share his cancer diagnosis. Everything was wonderful for the newlyweds. They just got back from their honeymoon in Niagara Falls. Ada was preparing for a lifetime of adventure and happiness. And now, everyone returns to pitying her once more. It's remarkable seeing Agnes spring into action to comfort her sister. This isn't the fate she wanted for her. It's what life has become. Everyone rallies around Luke even though he doesn't want a dramatic change. He's comfortable at the rectory even though everyone wishes they could do more. It's a sudden and jarring development. One that everyone just has to quickly accept. It puts everything else into perspective for what really matters. Marian so casually forgetting about her engagement is the answer to how she truly feels towards Dashiell.

Despite all of this turbulent and emotional change, it's still a daunting prospect for anyone to believe in their own potential. They are often too caught up in their own lives to recognize the pain of others. Bannister was waiting for the perfect moment to embarrass Church as payback for a previous slight. He saw him stumbling into work drunk from the night before. He immediately wrote to shame him out of a job. In reality, Church was suffering the pain of losing his wife thirty years prior. Upon learning that detail, Bannister is remorseful for his action. He no longer seeks to escalate this feud. The servants are capable of living in proximity to one another. They can act civilly. The families they serve haven't reached that peace yet. People are capable of surprising others with their reactions. Almost everyone is willing to encourage Jack with his possible invention. He deserves to be recognized for his talents especially if he created something that can transform an item everyone uses. Armstrong believes everyone is going too far in proclaiming his genius. No one wants money to be the reason why he can't apply for a patent. Instead, the system is set up to discriminate against him. A great idea can truly come from anywhere. The government simply only wishes to acknowledge those who work within a chosen field. It's limited in thought and makes for a crushing blow. Jack can't give up. The payoff isn't what he wanted. It shouldn't crush his spirit when so much is possible in this new era even for the servants.