TV Review: Gentleman Jack Series 1

Gentleman Jack proves a huge success, for Sally Wainwight, for Suranne Jones, for lesbian storytelling, for everyone

“So much drama, always, with Anne”

Even with as reliably assured hands as Sally Wainwright’s at the tiller, I was a little nervous for Gentleman Jack in the pride-of-place Sunday evening TV slot. But I should have been surer of my faith, for it has been a stonkingly good 8 hours of drama, with an epically romantic lesbian relationship at its heart.

Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) is a wealthy Yorkshire heiress whose uncompromising nature about any and every aspect of her life rubs any number of people up the wrong way. Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) is most definitely not one of them though, she wants to be rubbed the right way and so we follow the path of true love as it winds through the prejudices of the Yorkshire Pennines and Anne’s attempts to break into the coal mining world.

For once, I was a bit ahead of the curve with my gay history. Arrows & Traps mounted their own version of Lister’s story with their play of the same name, so it was interesting to see another take on her biography, albeit one which clearly leaves plenty of room for a second series, if not more.

So dramatically, there might be a lot more to come about the mining business (more fascinating than it sounds honest) which fell a little by the wayside. But when the result is a fuller focus on such a queer love story as this, there’s little to complain about, culminating in a gorgeous hilltop scene for the ages with both Jones and Rundle in fine form.

Among the many highlights across the series were Gemma Whelan’s every look to the camera, Michael Xavier in muttonchops, actual Sarah Lund (the marvellous Sofie Gråbøl cameoing as the Queen of Denmark), death by pigs, and Vincent Franklin clearly relishing the chance to be entirely nefarious.

Definitely worth catching up on if you haven’t done so already.

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