THE GILDED AGE: In Terms of Winning and Losing

Posted on December 18, 2023


Bertha is livid! Again! This time, her ire is directed at Mrs. Astor, who stole the Duke of Buckingham off her after she stole him off Mrs. Winterton. While it’s probably more accurate to call the Duke a whore, he’s really more like a piece of silverware that keeps winding up in someone’s bag. She vows to ignore the news and continue to announce the Duke’s presence in her box on opening night.

Across the street, Agnes is reacting to the news of Oscar’s idiocy in exactly the restrained and even-tempered manner you might expect. “YOU THROW AWAY THE WORK OF CENTURIES!!” She notes with concern that she might be forced to live in the Jewish quarter and announces that she’ll start wearing “loose Arab clothing” since she’ll no longer have a ladies maid. Agnes van Rhijn doesn’t need her family money to continue being a bitch. Oscar sits in the corner weeping softly and slowly shrinking. His feet no longer reach the floor when he sits down. Later, they announce the news to the staff. “I knew that homo couldn’t be trusted with money,” Bridget mutters on her way back downstairs.

Bertha is throwing a sort of pre-game tea party, tailgating the Met opening, if you will. The excitable and obsequious Mr. Gilbert announces that Bertha has done a tremendous job of filling all the boxes. Over in the corner, a Gladys suitor suddenly pops up out of the floor and makes his presence known. He is cute, meek and shy. Bertha will have him dismembered. Mr. Gilbert tells her that if she doesn’t convince people that the Duke will be safely ensconced in her box on opening night, all of New York will wash away into the sea, a victim of God’s judgment. Downstairs, Mr. Borden and Mrs. Bruce are blowing off their job responsibilities and going to music festivals to party and make out. Bertha throws some extra tickets at her.


Marian takes Jack to see Larry after his clock patent is approved. Larry waves a magic business wand over the clock to try and turn it into money. It doesn’t work right away but he promises to keep at it. He invites Marian to his mother’s box on opening night and she lets slip that Mr. McCallister was the one who did Mrs. Astor’s dirty work in stealing the Duke. Later, at dinner that night, she lies to Agnes and claims that Mrs. Russell invited her.

Bertha entertains a two-faced cartoon rooster in her parlor. She’s hurt that he went behind her back and helped Mrs. Astor steal the Duke, but he’s not the type of rooster who can be easily shamed. He explains that Mrs. Astor can open up all of American society to the Duke in a way Bertha simply can’t and that it’s time for her to accept that she’s been bested. Little flames shoot briefly out of her nostrils. Later, she visits the Duke just so she can slap him across the face and call him a dirty whore.

Agnes offers Armstrong a job with her after the house is sold and they move into more humble circumstances. Armstrong is annoyed to hear that Peggy was concerned about her. “Is it so awful that she might feel sympathy for you? Is your heart so hard?” Agnes asks her softly. “Now pack this stuff up so I can go live among the Jews.”

Dashiell the Unblooded comes for dinner. He tells Marian he envisions a life of clothes and babies for her, offers to pay for the wedding himself, and advises Ada not to slack off on the post-death paperwork in case there’s some sort of ridiculous last-minute plot twist to be found in it, before calling Marian by his dead wife’s name. He runs out in tears. Everyone pretends not to notice.


The Scott family rally behind the Black schools and manage to get the Board of Education to agree to keep two of them open. This is seen as enough of a victory to mend Peggy’s relationship with her father and her parents’ relationship with each other. It also spurs Peggy on to quit her job at the Globe because she can’t control her feelings for Mr. Fortune. Honestly, this kind of sucks. The show keeps setting her up as this dynamic and groundbreaking character only to saddle her with secret baby and extramarital affair plotlines.

Marian informs Dashiell she won’t be marrying him. He takes the news surprisingly well. His daughter M3GAN tries to kill her with a knife but is eventually subdued.

It’s Opera Night! Everyone’s getting ready to do battle. Agnes and Marian wish each other well before they head to their dueling events. Agnes is surprisingly sanguine about Marian’s second engagement ending. Across the street, everyone’s being extra nice to Gladys because Bertha sold her off in order to improve the family’s social standing. “Why is everyone being so nice to me?” she asks cluelessly. The Met is packed with people in silly outfits and Bertha is escorted triumphantly to her center box, to the extreme displeasure of Former-Turner. The Duke arrives at the last second and everyone applauds Bertha for being so very rich. Over at the Academy, there are small fires everywhere and the sound of weeping can be heard. Mrs. Astor is bereft. Her rooster friend tries to quote Ecclesiastes at her but she cuts him off by strangling him. Mrs. Fish is all, “Fuck this funeral, I’m out of here.” Hot Beard slowly realizes his daughter has been sold off for a center box. He furrows his brow hotly.

Larry finally kisses Marian and we have nothing bitchy to say. It was a sweet moment and they played it beautifully.


And finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for practically from the second Ada laid eyes on the Reverend Forte. Is this a ridiculous cliche of a plot twist? Yes. Does it make any sense that a man of the cloth owned a factory? Absolutely not. Did we clap our hands in glee? Most definitely. Look, after a decade-plus of recapping the man’s work, we can only applaud the audacity of show creator Julian Fellowes. He will throw the silliest crap at his audiences and not give one good shit what you all think of it. He knows you’ll be back for every last bit of soap opera nonsense. He’s right. We can’t wait for next season, when Ada becomes a huge bitch to her sister and Marian figures out some way to screw up her third shot at marriage.


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