Hurrah, Anne Lister is back with a bang in Gentleman Jack season 2 and here’s our full review.
As the first episode of season 2 of Gentleman Jack opened, we were immediately reminded how much we love Anne.
Not just because she’s a larger than life woman who’s afraid of nothing.
Nor because when she smells blood, no one in the way of what she wants stands a chance.
But because, as her ‘Fleabag’ asides to camera reveal, she can be very funny and sometimes even touchingly sensitive.
She’s a fierce, faulty and fallible character, who actress Suranne Jones brings to life with breath-taking force.
Read on for our Gentleman Jack season 2 review so far.
Life with the wife
Anne, of course, ‘married’ Ann Walker at the end of the last series. But she is yet to install her beloved under her roof at Shibden Hall.
Instead Ann is in York still recuperating from her breakdown under the care of Anne’s doctor. Ann’s family have no idea where she is. Just as Anne likes it.
Although this season doesn’t hold the promise of the racy sexual tension between the women which had us gripped the first outing, there are definitely signs of friction.
Ann might seem wet, and easily dominated by her beloved, but she stands her ground when Anne pressurises her to change her will in her favour as a “final commitment to one another”.
Perhaps Ann would rather leave her fortune to a cats’ home. She’s that sort.
Anne Lister faces temptation
There are further clouds on the horizon thanks to a couple of Anne’s former special ‘lady’ friends.
Firstly, Mariana Lawton, who broke a young Anne’s heart when she left her to marry a man, once again makes her presence felt by writing to Anne voicing concern about her relationship with Ann.
And then, we are introduced to the outrageous Isabella ‘Tib’ Northcliffe (Joanna Scanlon), who shares a rather colourful past with Anne.
Meanwhile, Anne herself appears to be having some doubts.
When her old pal Charlotte expresses surprise that Anne would settle for a (let’s be honest here) rather bland and boring partner, she simply replies: “I am fond of her. Fond enough.”
Oh dear. Will it really be ‘enough’ to resist the familiar charms of Mariana, who we know is going to put in more than a passing appearance in this season?
Anne Lister’s and Ann Walker’s formidable in-laws
Anne’s feelings aside, our heroine faces some major opposition from Ann’s family who are raging against the influence Anne has over their relative.
Chief pitchfork-waver is Ann’s redoubtable aunt also called Ann (played by the wonderful Stephanie Cole).
“You, Madame, may yet find that by crossing swords with this family… you have bitten off more than you can chew,” she tells Anne in no uncertain terms.
When Ann finally returns home to see her aunt, she does her best to defend herself. “We are respectable, landed ladies,” she declares.
Aunt Ann’s retort: “Do you think anyone who knows anything about Anne Lister believes that?”
She has a point.
Anne’s family, on the other hand, have long-since come to some kind of acceptance of her life choices.
They are perfectly happy that Ann is shortly to join them to live in unholy matrimony with Anne.
When Anne’s own aunt (yes, don’t forget, she’s also called Anne), spots her niece’s wedding ring, she simply gently remarks that Ann seems a quite fragile.
As for Marian, Anne’s sister, she’s relieved that Ann is her chosen one.
When Anne ponders with her if “might make a better companion”, Marian is adamant how much she and their father like Ann. And quickly points out how much her ex-girlfriend hurt her over the years.
“She’s always worming her way in again!” Indeed, as we fear, she is.
It should be noted that Game of Thrones’ Gemma Whelan is once again brilliant in the role of Marian.
She’s the only one who ever manages to steal a scene from Suranne Jones, with her beautifully subtle reactions and comic-timing.
The toilet rush
This first episode hints at many of the tribulations to come in the series, like Anne’s continued battle with the dastardly Rawson brothers over coal and the truth about her tenant Thomas Sowden killing his father.
But what makes Gentleman Jack even more of a joy are the little, inconsequential subplots.
Take for instance the plumbing in of a loo at Shibden Hall. This occurrence is greeted by the locals with exactly the same awe and suspicion the women of Cranford had when the railway arrived.
And it’s these moments, along with the more dramatic ones, that make Gentleman Jack such a well-rounded show – much like Anne Lister herself.
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