Home » THE GILDED AGE Season Two Finale: “In Terms of Winning and Losing” | Review

THE GILDED AGE Season Two Finale: “In Terms of Winning and Losing” | Review

by Travlis Hallingquest
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At the writing of this article, Home Box Office has yet to announce the fate of THE GILDED AGE.   Collectively, reviews for the second season have surpassed the well-regarded first season. However, Nielsen ratings have slightly dipped with the sophomore outing. Hopefully, Season 3 of this entertaining series will be greenlit, however the ending to “In Terms of Winning and Losing” places the Russells, Van Rhijns, and Scotts on an optimistic path.  

“Mrs. Winterton was pressing my underwear a year ago.” This statement by Winterton’s arch nemesis is true, but Winterton is now married to old money. Bertha Russell( representing new money) receives a letter that the Duke of Buckingham will not join her for the opening of the new Opera House. Expectedly, Bertha is distraught and George Russell declines to monetarily invest further into the venture. Conversely, George tells Bertha her wit and determination will solve the dilemma. Adding more to the tension, the ever-vibrant Ward McAllister tells Bertha that Winterton’s old money status gives her an advantage of introducing the Duke to more status quo people than Bertha could ever offer. 


At house Van Rhijn, Oscar’s apologies only further vex his mother. Although not on the course to be destitute, Agnes’s financial advisor concludes that the grand Van Rhijn home must be placed on the market to sustain a middle-class living. Agnes apologizes to Ada for bearing this news in the wake of Luke’s death.  The understanding Ada comforts her sister. The Van Rhijn staff is informed that their loyal service to the House will be coming to an end. Jack is saddened by the news of the financial plight of the family, but the young man is now a member of a reputable horological society. Jack reveals the patent office has approved his alarm clock.  The word of Jack’s success reaches Larry Russell, who suggests a partnership to market the invention. 

At the Scott Pharmacy, a white customer pitching a medicinal product informs Arthur that the education hearing was moved up a day. Arthur hauls ass to the black education board and tells them that the New York school board has convened to decide the fate of predominantly black schools. Peggy Scott, Dorothy Scott, and the black school board crash the meeting, initially to the dismay of the New York school board members. The effort was an overall success, two of the three black schools will remain open. Arthur’s recent compassion and his quick thinking mend his relationships with Peggy and Dorothy.


The Russells invite Marian (of course to Agnes’s dismay) and their head chef to the opening night. Music Academy has a pitiful turnout, and the majority of the patrons mosey over to the Opera House. And just like that…The Duke arrives. It is heavily implied that Bertha has offered the nobleman a courtship with Gladys Russell. Bertha has triumphed over Winterton and the old money snobs once again.

If I have one complaint about this season, it would be its predictability. The Luke Forte storyline was a plot device rather than a true story arc. The brief friendship and marriage between Ada and Luke was touching but felt a bit forced. I was not surprised with the “reveal” that Luke was the owner of a highly profitable business. The good reverend allowed the revenue to pay his workers well and go into savings that he was not allowed to touch. The exact amount of Luke’s fortune is not revealed, but is more than enough to curtail the sale of the house and all of the workers will stay. I knew the writers would have Luke’s death serve as a late-season “twist”.  I did enjoy the staff’s reaction to the good news.  When Bannister asks permission from Ada  & Agnes to relay the good news, we see that a new head of household has been appointed.  


As expected, Marian ends her and Dashiell’s engagement, knowing he still mourns his late wife and is not abreast of her professional ambitions. Peggy Scott quits Fortune’s newspaper, to avoid being attracted to a married man and to pursue her independent writing dreams. 

The second season of this series is still quality premium cable programming, however everything was wrapped in a bow.  Jack is on his way to being a successful time-piece maker.  Marian and Peggy are on solid courses to accomplish their career goals. Agnes and Ada are closer and richer than ever. George’s rail empire continued to expand, even without the support of some of his peers. Bertha’s Opera House endeavor is a massive success and even Armstrong is touched that Peggy spoke highly of her, albeit I do not expect Armstrong to march for equality anytime soon. 

Although a third season of the series is certainly wanted, if HBO pulled the plug, the series would have a decent ending.  All of the major story arcs have been resolved.  What are your thoughts on the season finale of THE GILDED AGE?  


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