In episode 3 of Gentleman Jack, Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) and Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) return from their Lake District link-up to leafy Yorkshire, where love is clearly in the country air.
Sex, romance and proposals aplenty: the third episode of Gentleman Jack was one for all the lovers out there.
We finally got the Anne-on-Ann kiss we’d been waiting for, there was some Downton-style mirroring when a Shibden servant got engaged to a lady’s maid, and even moany old Marian hinted at a secret suitor. It was all very sweet and romantic. Until someone got murdered.
Here are the five things we learned:
Gemma Whelan is a comic genius
Before we do anything else, we have to tip our top hats to one Yara Greyjoy. Whelan plays the resentful younger sibling flawlessly in Gentleman Jack, exaggerating every sigh and squeal of outrage just enough to make us laugh.
Constantly angry about having to live in Anne’s shadow, she scolds her for coming in at 10pm, skipping dinner and a whole host of other things a 40-year-old woman should be allowed to do in peace.
When the truth finally comes out – that Marian feels “my own sister has cheated me out of what is rightfully half mine” by taking control of the Shibden estate – a hilarious scene ensues in which Marian threatens to marry and give birth to a son just to spite Anne. “Better look sharp about it Marian,” Anne smirks, “because you’re no spring chicken.” Anne 1, Marian 0.
Ann and Anne are finally official
After weeks of wistful glances, Anne and Ann’s relationship sets off at a galloping pace in episode 3. True to her word, Anne has built a love shack in the grounds of Shibden so they can have some privacy, and there they share their first kiss. The two are inseparable now, and in the giddiness of their romance they both become less inhibited, which is a joy to watch.
After a canoodling session in front of the fire, Anne proposes they live together as “companions”. Then comes our absolute favourite part of Gentleman Jack so far: there’s some under-the-petticoat action that takes Ann by surprise, and she asks her lover, “Have you done this before?” Anne gives the camera a devilish grin as she replies, “No, of course not”, which Ann NOTICES. In an amazing Fleabag-esque twist, she asks, “What are you looking at?” Anne looks alarmed – has she finally found a woman who really sees her? And is Ann Walker the new Hot Priest?
The final scene is enough to confirm that Ann Walker is the sort of woman she needs. After busybody cousin Eliza Priestley catches wind of how much time the pair are spending together, she starts sniffing around Ann’s house and notices the shutters are all down. Bursting into a room unannounced, she catches the lovers in the act and tries to shame them, warning that they’re “playing with fire”. Ann’s response? To cackle with laughter and lead Anne upstairs to pick up where they left off. Amazing.
Anne is determined to be happy
The most poignant moment in this episode comes during a conversation between Anne and her sickly aunt. Anne is laying out her big plans to shack up with the wealthy Ann and live happily ever after, which Aunt Anne (why does everyone in this show have the same name?) says would all be well and good “if you were a man” – a trigger word for our heroine.
“Nature played a challenging trick on me, putting a bold spirit like mine in this vessel, in which I’m obliged to wear frills and petticoats. Well I refuse to be cowed by it,” Anne says. Despite the abuse and disgust she faces from society, she is adamant about living life by her own rules and staying true to herself and her sexuality. We’re reminded, not for the first time, of what an impressive, inspirational person Anne Lister really was.
Working-class struggles put things into perspective
At first, we were slightly bemused by the storylines focusing on the servants and tenants on the Shibden estate, but now it’s all starting to come into focus. An engagement between French-speaking maid Eugenie and servant John, who literally cannot speak to each other, forces a frustrating comparison with the struggles of Anne and Ann’s lesbian relationship and the roadblocks they face.
But writer Sally Wainwright shrewdly reminds us that despite these roadblocks, the aristocratic lovers still have it easy compared to the working classes of Yorkshire – especially those working for Anne Lister. In episode 3 we get a glimpse into the lives of her tenants, the Sowden family, who live in fear of their violent, drunken father. After a shocking scene in which he attacks his son and wife, Sam Sowden is tied up by the young Thomas in an attempt to teach him a lesson – if he doesn’t get his act together, the Sowdens could be turfed out of their home. Things are looking bleak.
There’s nothing predictable about Gentleman Jack
And just when we think we’re on top of the story, things take a serious left turn. Realising that his evil father – who has threatened the stability of the family home by calling landlord Anne “a fella in a frock” – is never going to change, Thomas decides there is only one thing left to do. And that is slit his throat and feed him to his own pigs, apparently. Wow.
We have no idea what’s going to happen next, but we’re sure it’s going to be good.
Gentleman Jack continues next Sunday at 9pm on BBC One
Images: BBC One