In the second instalment of Gentleman Jack, Suranne Jones’ Anne Lister was up to her old tricks: wooing women and smashing the patriarchy.
“I dissected a baby once. It was dead. Obviously.”
As chat-up lines go, it’s not her finest work. But, as always, Anne Lister gets top marks for originality.
In the second episode of Gentleman Jack, Anne was back at it again – ‘it’ being marching around Halifax at double speed, giving men withering looks and laying it on thick with wealthy heiress Ann Walker.
Not only is she making some serious progress in the gold-digging department, she’s also getting closer to running her own coal empire and taking over the world. Or at least West Yorkshire. Here’s what we learned:
There’s some serious sexual tension between Anne and Ann
OK, so aside from the slightly problematic same-name issue – and the fact that Anne is definitely after Ann’s money – we want these two to be a thing so badly. But man, are they making us wait for it.
Episode two is full of wistful looks and breathy whispers as the two edge closer, and the impressionable Ann is clearly enamoured as Anne regales her with humblebrags about all her worldly travels. “I think you’re a little bit in love with me,” Anne smirks, as the object of her desire stutters, wide-eyed. Don’t worry Ann, we’re all a little bit in love with her.
The Rawson brothers are definitely baddies
The way we’re introduced to Christopher Rawson, one of the two brothers stealing coal from Anne’s estate, is laugh-out-loud funny in its campness. We see a highly shined shoe and silver-tipped cane, followed by the man himself in embroidered finery, exit a carriage and throw some coins at a group of street kids without even looking at them. And this is the guy we’re pretty sure ran over the little boy who lost his leg in episode one. A pantomime villain if ever we saw one.
The other Rawson, Jeremiah, is an equally bad egg. Now that he knows Anne is looking to sell her coal, he panics and tries to put in an offer so as not to get caught in his thievery. But it’s all part of her master plan – no one outsmarts Miss Lister.
Anne sees herself as equal to men – even if they don’t
And for 1832, that’s pretty radical. There are some real table-thumping moments in this episode, mostly to do with Anne’s coal plans (who knew we’d get so excited about 19th-century business strategy?). In an impressive feat of mental maths that we absolutely did not follow, she calculates exactly how much money she deserves from Jeremiah Rawson and refuses to accept anything less. It’s fast becoming clear that Anne’s superpower is using men’s perpetual underestimation of women against them. Which is way better than being able to fly.
Side note: ringing a tiny servant bell and asking “Was there anything else?” while already being halfway out the door is our new favourite way to end interactions with tedious mansplainers.
Anne is able to be the bigger person
Picture yourself at the wedding of the love of your life, watching them marry a person who is definitely not you. You probably can’t, because who would ever put themselves through that? Anne Lister, as it turns out.
Suranne Jones perfectly conveys Anne’s hurt as she watches the wedding ceremony of her former lover, Vere Hobart, dressed solemnly in black. She attends the wedding so as not to “look bad” and manages a heartbreaking moment of tenderness with Vere as she wishes her well for the future. Despite her heartbreak, she is calm and collected. What a woman.
There is one thing that can fluster her, though…
In another poignant scene, Anne goes to visit Henry, the boy who lost his leg in the aforementioned carriage incident. After she checks his pulse in an alarmingly similar fashion to the horse who met its untimely demise in episode one, he asks her, “Are you a man?”
The dark clouds pass over her face, and you almost expect her to whip out her pistol for the second time – but instead she just gapes, lost for words for the first time. “I’m a lady – woman – I’m a lady woman…” Yes you are Anne, yes you are.
Same time next week, gents?
Gentleman Jack continues next Sunday at 9pm on BBC One
Images: BBC One