Using their respective daughters as pawns, Mrs. Russell secured not only Astor’s grudging assent to attend her lavish ball, but got her to arm-twist those within her social circle to join in as well.
“Whoever achieved great things without taking a chance?” Bertha asked her husband (Morgan Spector), who further demonstrated his commitment to his wife’s ambitions by leveraging his financial clout to pressure a bank president to attend.
In a thoroughly delicious moment, Mrs. Russell savored her public triumph as the room came to a stunned-into-silence halt when Mrs. Astor entered, before the latter mused under her breath about the possibility of destroying her as retaliation.
“I will be a good friend to you if you let me,” Bertha said, though one suspects an enduring alliance of this nature won’t be forged quite so smoothly.
As for Marian, as rebound relationships go the Russells’ son, Larry (Harry Richardson), seems like a promising option, and there’s the matter of Agnes’s closeted son (Blake Ritson) seeking to woo Larry’s sister Gladys (Tassia Farmiga), hoping to take solace in her wealth given the impossibility of living openly as his true self.
As with “Downton,” Fellowes somehow makes it all look easy, though perhaps the defining quality of “Gilded Age” is the number of sparkling roles for the women in its cast, which, in addition to those mentioned, includes Jeanne Tripplehorn, Cynthia Nixon and Kelli O’Hara.
Of course, Marian should be changed by her experience with Tom Raikes (Thomas Cocquerel), after having naively asserted, “Society means as little to him as it does to me.” (With the benefit of hindsight, that last name was a pretty big bit of foreshadowing.)
As season one demonstrated, then as now, New York can be a tough town for the young and romantic, and money — old or new — can produce strange bedfellows. But as “The Gilded Age” demonstrated throughout and particularly during the finale, the seeds of all that Big Apple drama can be a whole lot of fun to watch sprout.
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