Home » THE GILDED AGE S2Ep5: “Close Enough to Touch”

THE GILDED AGE S2Ep5: “Close Enough to Touch”

by Travlis Hallingquest
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There is an abundance of stellar storytelling to unpack from “Close Enough to Touch.”  While brokenhearted over the break-up with Ms. Blane, Larry makes a startling discovery.  Peggy and Fortune escape a lynch mob. Ada and the good reverend tie the knot, much to the chagrin of Agnes. And a solid episode would not be complete with Winterton attempting to sabotage a major event hosted by Bertha. “Close Enough to Touch” is my favorite thus far, and S2E6 appears to be the most intense since the train crash episode “Heads Have Rolled For Less” (S1E6).

TheGildedAge_S2Ep5-Pic2-300x218We open with Larry Russel, the ambitious and now heartbroken recent Harvard Graduate, drunk in the family dining room. Bertha in the most loving yet direct way possible, tells her young son to get his shit together. George decides to distract his son by sending him to get an update on the building of the nearly completed Brooklyn Bridge. When arriving at chief engineer Washington Roebling’s home, Russel is warmly greeted but given the run-around about Roebling’s whereabouts. Larry may be young and inexperienced, but the young man is quite intelligent. He deduces that Roebling’s wife Emily, is the engineering mastermind behind the bridge that will connect Brooklyn to Manhattan. THE GILDED AGE has excelled in blending fiction with history. Some may find the scene between Larry and Emily to be a bit of girl-power politics.  Conversely, I believe the scene captured a capable wife stepping in for her incapacitated (George is battling an illness) husband on one of the most important projects in American transportation history.

An evening of dining becomes an evening of chaos for Peggy and Fortune. The county commissioner TheGildedAge_S2Ep5-Pic3-300x150brazenly shows up with one of his bigoted buddies. The dynamic duo chastises patrons with derogatory words and helps themselves to people’s food. The reaction from the restaurant owner informs viewers that this is not an isolated incident. Initially hesitant and remaining silent, Fortune eventually loses his cool, and lunges at the commissioner’s goon. Fortune throws him into a wall and he and Peggy flee. A lynch mob comes for them with torches, but Booker T. Washington effectively hides his northern companions. Peggy and Fortune have a moment of affection, albeit brief. Although the ominous glow of the mob’s torches in the distance is certainly an issue, Peggy is understandably distracted by the perpetual lingering of the loss of her child. The attraction between the duo has been evident from their first meeting, however, where it goes is uncharted territory.

I usually abhor the cliché’ of the previously disinclined character finally having a change of heart. However the case of Agnes vs. Mr. and Mrs. Forte is an exception.  Agnes openly admits that she will be lonely and unsure of herself without her baby sister Ada. This is after she tells Ada her parents would be ashamed of Reverend Forte’s status and that Ada has been a spinster so long that she will not be an effective wife. Marian is upset with her older Aunt’s unreasonable disposition, and Marian once again dines alone.  Realizing that she will be lonelier if she remains trapped in her ways, Agnes reverses course and shows up to the wedding just before vows are exchanged, a literal nod to the saying “better late than never.”

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And now my favorite part of this wonderful episode, Bertha vs. Mrs. Winterton. Showrunner Julian Fellowes won an Oscar for a murder mystery called GOSFORD PARK in the early 2000s. The crafty sequences in that film are reminiscent in the dinner party at House Russel. In a bid to get revenge for her ousting from the Academy of Music and losing her seat next to the Duke of Buckingham, Winterton has placed two saboteurs in the mix. The ever-observant staff of the Russels halt the serving of the first course and stop one of the errant servers from serving the Duke. Another win for Bertha. Don’t quote me on this, but seemingly Bertha is up 2-1 on the aristocratic petty games.  When Turner’s husband laments that she has to admit that it was a good dinner, Turner retorts “I wouldn’t admit it if they tore my fingernails off to make me!”

Next week, I cannot wait to see the showdown between George and the union strikers, the fate of Peggy and Fortune, the status of the newlyweds, and the non-stop shit show between Berth and Winterton. THE GILDED AGE returns on December 3, 2023, at 9 PM ET on HBO.

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