TV Review: The Gilded Age (Series 2, Episode 1)

The Gilded Age returns for its second season with Broadway legends aplenty once again

“If I stay, it will be under duress and only to avoid scandal”

Just a quickie for this as only the first episode of the second series of The Gilded Age has aired to date but I just can’t resist it. Baranski! Murphy! O’Hara! McDonald! Page! Lane! Cerveris! Broadway’s finest have lined up once again in the upper echelons of 1880s New York City society as old money and new money do battle over significant things like having a box at the opera in order to be seen even if you hate opera.

I am no fan of Julian Fellowes’ writing or plotting but there’s something irresistible about this company of actors doing this work. Chief among them is Carrie Coon and Morgan Spector’s Bertha and George Russell, the new money arrivistes determined to make their mark and who burn with real chemistry, I love the intensity of their connection which leaves us in no doubt as to how far they’ll go for each other.

And matching them for entertainment is Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon as the van Rhijn-Brook sisters, old money socialites through and through with contrasting approaches to the winds of change that are blowing down Fifth Avenue, Baranski in particular is blessed with some wonderfully withering lines and the most disdainful looks – echoes of the Dowager Countess for sure but no less enjoyable for it.

It will be interesting to see where this second season goes, beyond the drama at the opera house. Its delving into the experience of the black upper class was a highlight last time around so I hope that continues, though I hold out little hope of a nuanced story for the gays – Blake Ritson’s Oscar deserves better than Fellowes’ ham-fisted attempts at anything contemporaneously convincing.

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