Sunday, December 10, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Gilded Age' - Tragedy Strikes the Van Rhijn Family While the Rest of the City Celebrates in 'Wonders Never Cease'

HBO's The Gilded Age - Episode 2.07 "Wonders Never Cease"

Bertha begins to rethink her loyalty to the Metropolitan Opera, an engagement party leaves Marian full of doubts, and George strikes a deal with the union leader Bill Henderson.

"Wonders Never Cease" was written by Julian Fellowes & Sonja Warfield and directed by Michael Engler

While the entire city celebrates, a family mourns. The completion of the Brooklyn Bridge marks a new connection between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan. It provides a vital lifeline for the residents who travel between those two distinct worlds. The entire city is caught up in the beauty of this moment. No one can deny the amazing display of fireworks. It's a vast display of wonder. It's life moving boldly into the future right before their very eyes. And yet, the van Rhijn family is devastated by Luke's pending death. He and Ada married after a whirlwind romance. Then, he was diagnosed with cancer. And now, the doctors can't do anything more for him. He's destined to go quietly during his sleep. The family tries to ease his pain. They stay by his side. They know the fate that awaits him. They seek to be near to comfort one another. This personal devastation is more important than anything else happening in the city. That doesn't mean drama has stopped elsewhere. It's simply one tragedy after another that threatens this family for good.

Agnes gathers the family to celebrate Marian and Dashiell's engagement. Marian still questions whether this is what she wants. Everyone else wants it more than her. She appreciates Dashiell's company. She adores Frances. However, the connection that makes her feel safe and known isn't there. She hopes it can develop. Everyone else is sure though they get distracted by Luke falling ill. He wanted to be there to celebrate Marian. He appreciates how much she championed his love with Ada. She supported their relationship long before anyone else. He wants to return the favor. Ada has long provided that comfort to her niece. She welcomed her into her home fully. She was her champion even when Agnes was difficult. That forged a strong bond between the two. Marian is so happy to see Ada happy. She deserved love. It's being cruelly taken away from her now. The family rallies around her. They are grateful for the strength Luke provided for her. She has now gotten to experience love. That has been life-changing. The status quo is still maintained with Agnes and Ada looking after each other. It's complimented by the fact that the hardships they face are quietly devastating.

Luke dies. The family gets a moment of peace and understanding with him. He was only in their lives for a short time. It was still meaningful. Everyone believes they must remain strong for Ada. She's the one struggling the most. It hits the rest of them hard too. Marian is always thinking about Frances when it comes to Dashiell's priorities. She limits her feelings because she believes his daughter should come first. She makes it easy for him to leave. Meanwhile, she accepts comfort from Larry. He is more than willing to spotlight the achievements of women. He wants the world to know that Mrs. Roebling was responsible for overseeing the bridge's construction. She kept the project on time. She developed this marvelous achievement. She also knows it won't matter what Larry says. People will believe whatever story they are told. He knows the truth. That's good enough. He still makes his proclamation. And then, he returns home to support Marian. She needs a moment to grieve the loss of her uncle. He has the opportunity to take care of her. He has no where else he is meant to be. She can benefit from his time and kindness. He is more than willing to give it. That's something she can't count on with Dashiell. It's for good reason too. Marian is often the one making that decision though. 

Love and support overwhelms the van Rhijn household. Yet Oscar is missing. He doesn't answer his mother's call. He doesn't join the family through this collective pain. Instead, he's enduring his own. He realizes he has been scammed. Maud Benton was nothing more than a fortune hunter. Everyone believed she came from a respectable background. She was friends with Aurora. Agnes never cautioned Oscar against getting too close. His mother is always quick to voice her opinion. She refuses to let anyone in the family destroy their reputation or fortune. She has a blindspot with her son. Everyone got their hopes up that he was finally stepping into his responsibilities. Instead, he was completely blind to the truth. He saw Maud as someone he could be happy enough with. That's all that he expects from his life. It's an obligation. He has to marry and continue the family line. He feels that pressure. He must create a convincing story because he can't have what he wants. His sexual identity isn't accepted. He thought he knew what he was doing. He was acting responsibly. Instead, he was fooled. It was so easy for Maud to trick everyone. It's scandalous. But it's devastating for the entire family because they are now essentially broke. The old money that once controlled this city is now quickly fading away to the keen businessmen who know how the world now functions.

George declares victory in his fight against the union. Public perception believes he operated with sympathy. He refused to fire at the picket line. He offered a modest wage. He hopes he has successfully divided the union. He offered benefits and raises to some but not all. His fellow robber barons are furious. They perceive him as weak. They will now have to compete despite their hatred for the people who make their businesses operate. George sees all of this as inevitable. He has plenty of contempt as well. However, he believes he has the upper hand in managing the story. He hasn't lost the battle despite others believing he has. He sets out to shape his own story. Bertha must follow that same path. A box at the Academy is no longer good enough. She has bought into the potential prosperity of the Met. It's a sound investment. One that she has to see through to the end. She can't surrender now. That would be giving away too much control. That's what she desires. It doesn't matter which opera house is the better business. It's a war of influence. Bertha is rising. Mrs. Astor is fading away despite her connections to the President and the Duke. More surprises are coming. Yet it's also more fruitful to see the results of this labor. Jack's patent is being processed now that a clockmaker signs off on his invention. Watson finally communicates with his daughter about what she wants. Peggy advocates for her community even while some struggle with accepting integration. The world is changing fast. People must be wise to that or risk fading to obscurity.