Gentleman Jack, which premiered on HBO Max in 2019, is an excellent example of an influential series with skillful storytelling. Sally Wainwright masterfully creates tension and comedy in this fantastic second chapter of the show, with each cliffhanger leaving us wanting more. In this second season, it’s easy to welcome Ann (Sophie Rundle) and Anne (Suranne Jones) back into our lives for more queer love, drama, and plenty of Shibden Hall gossip.
Because of the quirky, hilarious Anne Lister, who frequently breaks the fourth wall, as well as the refreshing script, comedy components, and talented cast, the show became a success among the LGBTQ+ community and audience. After we left the two Annes to their devices in Season 1, they were getting a sacrament in their local church to begin their lives together. However, that’s not the end of obstacles for them. Both struggled with homophobia and backlash regarding their “unusual” lifestyle at that time. As a result, many harsh words are thrown their way, especially toward Anne, who seems tough but, deep down, desires to be accepted by her community.
As the second season commences, Ann intends to relocate to Shibden to live with the Listers. Ann’s decision, however, doesn’t lie lightly with her avaricious family, which includes the Priestley couple, Eliza (Amelia Bullmore) and William (Peter Davison). Unceasingly infantilizing Ann, who struggles mentally, the family believes that her lover has a negative influence on her. However, Lister, aka Freddy (as Marianna Lawton calls her), doesn’t give up and continues to prove everybody wrong, In between discussions about coal pits and train tracks (a lot of them!), both women navigate newlywed life, which is full of domesticity and warmth.
Despite the fact the show focuses on the legendary lesbian figure and her wife, the supporting characters provide solid background, delivering satisfying and complex performances. Ms. Cordingley (Rosie Cavaliero), Eugénie (Albane Courtois), and Mr. Washington (Joe Armstrong), among others, return to our houses with more gossip and drama. Washington tries to solve the mystery of Thomas Sowden’s (Tom Lewis) father and his strange disappearance, especially since the boy is now his son-in-law.
The Lister family provides the most entertainment from Gentleman Jack’s supporting cast. Gemma Jones, who plays Anne’s aunt, Timothy West portrays Lister’s father, and Gemma Whelan, who is the diarist’s sister, all keep up with the leads and make sure we don’t forget about the rest of the cast. Jones, especially, showcases the kindness and understanding of Anne’s aunt, in particular in one of the conversations about the niece with Marian.
Even though the second season doesn’t offer anything new per se, it’s still highly satisfying. After all, Anne got a girl, and they should live happily ever after, but tranquility rarely occurs. Instead, we get a glimpse into their lives as they adjust to a new reality. It’s an ideal season for queer couples who have been married or are in a long-term relationship — they will easily be able to relate to the wives discussing finances and budgets during love-making, for example. Similar to them, the young Washington and Sowden settle into living as husband and wife, but for Suzanna, the transition isn’t as pleasurable as it is for Ms. Walker, especially with Thomas’ dark secrets.
Wainwright does an excellent job of analyzing Lister’s journals and then combining all of the historical figure’s characteristics into an intriguing portrayal of perhaps pop culture’s most famous lesbian icon. In the second season, Anne Lister demonstrates that each relationship is difficult; Wainwright doesn’t glorify the Gentleman Jack characters. The historical figure is undoubtedly progressive in her thinking and attempts to change people’s perceptions at the time. However, the series is also critical of her; she is strong-willed, impatient, and sometimes short with her struggling wife. Because of it, the creators ensure that we get a layered portrayal of Halifax’s greatest that is as true to the original as possible.
When it comes to the main cast, Jones and Rundle appear to have been born to play tthe Ann(es). There is always strong chemistry between them, which transforms and contributes to the overall great portrayal. That doesn’t mean there won’t be complications, especially with the return of Anne’s former lover, Marianna Lawton (Lydia Leonard). However, Ms. Walker shows her progress and often surprises her wife with mature reactions. It’s great to see Rundle’s Ann slowly coming out of her shell. It’s apparent that a healthy relationship and being true to herself is a vital part of one’s well-being. Seeing Rundle flourishing in this role in Gentleman Jack is nothing short of beguiling – the Peaky Blinders actress is outright astonishing.
After three years of (im)patiently awaiting the second season, Wainwright reminds us that the wait can be oh-so-sweet and worthwhile if the execution succeeds to dazzle from the start. Season 2 augments the comedy components with skirmishes between wives and their daily life. Words cannot express the happiness Gentleman Jack causes in a lesbian critic, as it depicts a domestic life of a lesbian couple in the 1800s. So worth waiting for!