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The Gilded Age S2Ep4: “His Grace the Duke”

by Travlis Hallingquest
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TheGildedAgeS2Ep4-PicThe battle of the resting bitch face continues between Bertha and Winterton. At the start of “His Grace the Duke”, Bertha is presenting the opera house in its final stages to investors and curious socialites. Winterton is mildly impressed with Bertha’s endeavor but refuses to take a picture with her rival. Winterton reaffirms her support for the dance academy. Bertha fully recognizes the influence that her former aid possesses, yet she refuses to cave to the intimidation. Later in the episode, Winterton is vexed that her former employer has managed to cause her to lose her assigned box seats at the academy. 

Inside the walls of the Russel home, there is a brief period of calm before the storm. Bertha forgives George for not revealing Winterton’s attempted seduction. The embrace between Bertha and George is especially touching when he replies, “Yes, you did.” The husband wanted his wife to know that he felt totally disconnected from her, he wasn’t sure if she was going to cut him out forever. George has missed Bertha’s support while he’s gearing up for a fight with the union. The fight with the union is the impending storm.  The couple hardly views outsiders as equals, but their marriage is egalitarian in nature. 

TheGildedAgeS2Ep4-Pic2The exploits of Peggy remain equally as interesting as the Russels. Peggy and Fortune arrive in Tuskegee, Alabama to report on the Tuskegee Institute. After the formalities with Booker T. Washington have transpired, Fortune is flabbergasted to see a distinguished white gentleman commend Washington on his progress with the institute. Although Fortune and Washington share similar ideologies, their plans for blacks to obtain equal rights are inverted. Think of Fortune being Malcolm X and Washington being MLK. Washington believes peace and diplomacy is the answer.  ortune believes militarizing the oppressed to rise up against the oppressors is the correct course of action. Always the mediator, Peggy convinces Fortune and Washington to temporarily agree to disagree. 

Reverend Forte asks Ada to be his bride! Yes, you read that correctly, a couple that has had less screen time than a 1980s Mike Tyson opponent is getting married.  Although this plotline is sincere and intriguing, it feels a bit rushed. Maybe this is intentional, for the good reverend may have an ulterior motive for the marriage. Or, I am reaching and the man just likes what he sees. No matter the reasoning, a shot of Agnes dining alone in the dark may be an indicator that the older sister will be lonely if her baby sister marries. Who will Agnes have to gossip about the new money Russel family? Marion is absolutely ecstatic that her aunt has found love. Bertha, Winterton, Agnes, and Ms. Armstrong could take notes on Marion’s temperament.  

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But then again, we would not have this wonderful HBO drama series with such altruistic characters. In another feat of pure animosity, Bertha summons Mrs. Blane. After receiving wind of Blane’s 19th-century cougar tactics on her son Larry, Bertha insults the widow by stating Blane will be walking with a cane by Larry’s side in twenty years. Larry is devastated when Blane cuts off the relationship. What will be Larry’s reaction when he discovers it was his mother’s doing? Bertha has no time to linger on who’s in bed with whom. The Duke of Buckingham is arriving. Bertha switches the seating cards to have the Duke sit next to her, vice her rival Winterton. Winterton remains calm during the ordeal and even enjoys the company of Oscar Van Rhijn. Conversely, Winterton loses her shit behind the walls of her old money mansion. Her husband assures her that “there will be plenty of Dukes.” Winterton retorts “I want this Duke, and that witch stole him.”

The high-stakes drama of THE GILDED AGE returns on Sunday, November 26, 2023, at 9 PM ET on HBO.

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