As I watched the final episode of season 2 of Gentleman Jack I was struck by how much had happened to Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) and Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) since the start of their marriage. This real life 1830s lesbian couple did not have an easy adjustment to being together.
Season 1 of Gentleman Jack was about learning to love and admire the force of nature that was Anne Lister. Season 2 showed some of Anne’s flaws and allowed Ann Walker to come into her own as a courageous and strong-minded force of nature herself.
The problems this couple had were real. Creator and writer Sally Wainwright took her story straight from Anne Lister’s diaries and translated them into television worthy drama. I want to touch on some of the storylines that drove season 2.
Gentleman Jack has a past
Anne’s past history as a lesbian was hard to ignore. Ann Walker was particularly upset about Mariana Lawton (Lydia Leonard). She was jealous and suspicious about what went on between Anne and Mariana. And she was right to be. Anne found Mariana hard to resist, even after pledging her fidelity to Ann Walker.
Mariana wasn’t the only name from Anne’s past that troubled them. Ann Walker met Tib (Joanna Scanlan), who obviously had intimate knowledge of Anne. There were others. A piece of hate mail they received (there was a lot of intimidation aimed at the lesbians) even brought up the name of the 13 year old girl Anne knew in boarding school.
Anne Lister’s entrepreneurial ambitions
As soon as Anne felt the financial security of having Ann Walker pledged to her, she went far above her former ambitions involving coal. She developed a hotel and casino, planned to build a bank, and create what would now be called a housing development. She borrowed the money to do this. It was a lot of money.
Anne wasn’t technically using Ann Walker’s money to finance her grand schemes. But as Ann Walker pointed out, if the projects failed it would be Ann Walker to bail her out.
Ann Walker comes into her own
I thought Ann Walker was the hero of season 2. She stood up for herself against Anne Lister and spoke plainly about things she thought were unfair or wrong. She even got snarky at times.
She pushed through the division of property from her inheritance with her sister Elizabeth Sutherland (Katherine Kelly) and her brother-in-law Captain Sutherland (Derek Riddell). Elizabeth had signed over her half the the inheritance to her husband, and he wanted Ann Walker’s half, too. He was quite nasty and devious about getting his hands on it.
Ann Walker spoke up for herself against other members of her family and reclaimed property that had been illegally taken from her. She even gave a speech at the laying of the cornerstone of the bank building Anne was erecting.
Ann Walker faced the town’s gossip and hate mail. She wasn’t as strong or as practiced at it as Anne, but she stayed with it. She put aside her many doubts and fears and stayed with Anne through it all. It was a lovely character arc, all based on truth!
In season 2 we peered into some of Anne Lister’s failings – she could be unkind, she was a class snob, her politics were all about hanging on to her position and money. She wasn’t the perfect role model we thought she was. But she was a role model for Ann Walker. Ann Walker learned about strength and will and determination. Though the relationship was not perfect, they both gained from it.
What are your thoughts about season 2 of Gentleman Jack?
There’s no news of another season yet, but showrunner Sally Wainwright shared some ideas about it with Newsweek.