The Gilded Age: A Long Ladder
February 15, 2022 6:33 AM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Marian learns more about Mrs. Chamberlain. George makes a deal to benefit Bertha. Peggy meets a trailblazing newspaperman. Turner makes an indecent proposal.

"Drama! Action! Astounding dresses! It feels like The Gilded Age has finally arrived with this episode. So much happens, and we’re finally not talking about stocks and aldermen but about actually interesting things, like an unwanted naked lady’s maid in your bed."—from Alice Burton's 4-star recap on Vulture.


I didn't watch this episode yet (had to catch up on Claybourne Elder's TikToks) but I heard there is a dog called Pumpkin?
posted by bcwinters (12 comments total)
And Marian learns anything about Peggy's family. What a great scene!
posted by kingless at 7:02 AM on February 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

I heard there is a dog called Pumpkin?

I can confirm this. I am still waiting to find out if it is the maid or the naked lady who is unwanted.
posted by biffa at 1:14 PM on February 15, 2022

I really don't feel they are getting full value from Baranski. She's better than the material they are giving her.
posted by biffa at 2:09 PM on February 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

The writing in this show letting us down in the scene where Marian visits Peggy's family. Peggy has been wearing a diverse array of reasonably fashionable and well-made clothes that she owns (I don't know enough about the fashion of the era to evaluate what might make her clothes less expensive than Marian's aunts per se, but they look nice to my untrained eye. Decorated, in the same silhouette we see the society ladies wearing). As she points out, she had money to pay for a second train fare. There's no reason for Marian to think that Peggy's family would need used shoes! I feel like the writers didn't think we would understand how inappropriate it was for her to visit based on the employer relationship, so they forced it with something silly.

Did you catch the look the Fanes gave each other in the Academy box when Marian said Raikes doesn't have any money? There's definitely more going on with him than he's telling Marian.
posted by jeoc at 4:43 PM on February 15, 2022 [1 favorite]


If there is Gilded Age dresstok out there, I'm going to find it.

I actually like how cold-blooded Bertha is when she calls Morris weak for shooting himself. I really enjoy unrepentant vengeance in my fiction.

I really don't feel they are getting full value from Baranski.

Has Baranski even been allowed out of the van Rhijn house yet? I do look forward to her meeting Bertha. I hope we get to enjoy some enmity between them for a while, but I feel like they're eventually going to enjoy one another.

I loved Agnes's response to Peggy writing a political article and then also advising her not to tell her parents about it.
posted by gladly at 6:14 PM on February 15, 2022

Her delivery of "I haven't been enthusiastic since 1865" was great and had strong Violet Crawley vibes.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:38 AM on February 16, 2022

Edit: "I haven't been thrilled since 1865."
posted by CheeseLouise at 10:46 AM on February 16, 2022

I concur that the shoe scene was forced and awkward, and not in the way it was meant to be. Marian stood on the sidewalk staring in disbelief that this is where Peggy's parents live, even checking the adress to be sure, and instead of leaving the shoes in the carriage she walked in with them? Or maybe I'm wrong and she took a "cab" because I think she walked away after she left (or maybe THAT was because she was chasing Peggy?) I think Marian realized her error on the sidewalk and as jeoc says the tension in the disruption of the social more of visiting "the help" on their terrain would have been enough. But I loved Peggy's parents' attitude of "How dare you come to our home uninvited." I think I heard them say three times that she was not invited, and I was hoping for more of an exploration of white people being in Black interior spaces that they kind of scratched at.
posted by archimago at 7:41 AM on February 17, 2022

Peggy has been wearing a diverse array of reasonably fashionable and well-made clothes that she owns (I don't know enough about the fashion of the era to evaluate what might make her clothes less expensive than Marian's aunts per se, but they look nice to my untrained eye. Decorated, in the same silhouette we see the society ladies wearing). As she points out, she had money to pay for a second train fare.

Yes, I thought of that too. Peggy is very well-dressed, perhaps not so lavishly as Marian, but certainly like a lady, and also seems to have been given a good education. Marian had no reason whatsoever to think the Scotts would be poor enough to be in need or want of her cast-off shoes. You'd think at the very least she would have had the sense to forge some excuse for not opening the damn bag once she saw their house and its furnishings.

I am no expert on Victorian etiquette, but I think that in those days in polite society one didn't just show up at someone's house for the first time uninvited. One had to establish a calling acquaintance first, by being invited or at least asking if one might call. One might make an uninvited call on others lower in the social order with whom one didn't have a calling acquaintance, such as one's servants, for business or charitable reasons, presuming that the people of a lower order will be grateful for the opportunity/kindness, and this is what Marian has assumed she could do given that Peggy works for her aunt, but of course Peggy and her parents (rightfully) see her attitude/behaviour as a gross insult.

"I haven't been thrilled since 1865."

So... it presumably took the ending of the Civil War to thrill Agnes Van Rhijn? Some people are hard to please!

I was so relieved when Pumpkin turned up safe and sound.

I found it more than a stretch to believe George would not have fired his wife's lady's maid on the spot for showing up in his bedroom naked. Come on, no lady's maid is that irreplaceable. And of course this inexplicable decision will bite him in the ass later on. Let me guess... someone in the household saw the conniving lady's maid leaving the master's room in a state of near undress.
posted by orange swan at 5:29 PM on February 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

So there I am sitting next to Mr. Jadepearl who sees the naked lady's maid and yells "Where are these women?!" My reply after seeing trim robber baron ass yells back, "Where are these fit robber barons?!"

I swear, if I do a drinking game involving the phrase, "Good Day, sir/gentleman/insert snide title" I will be VERY inebriated.

+1 on wanting that bird dress and that opera cape being magnificent. Totally here, for the costuming and the occasional snide commentary from the "old money". Also, is it a screenwriter thing to telegraph a character like "Raikes" = rake? Just wondering how heavy-handed the screenwriter is in his foreshadowing. Because the lawyer seems very knowledgeable about New York City and getting in the Schermerhorn box is pretty socially impressive since they are related to the Astors.
posted by jadepearl at 10:40 PM on February 19, 2022

I like how this is developing. I felt like they dress Marion like a very stylish fairytale princess and I like that it's appropriate to her story. I felt like the visit to Peggy's family was to continue to find ways of pointing out that she's truly a country bumpkin and is in way over head. In her mind "Oh I will go visit my friend, oh I better have some sort of excuse, oh I will bring some things to give away, yes, this is a good plan." Only to find out there's a lot more to it than that, Peggy is not her friend, and she wasn't welcome in Bloomingdale's. Of course this is an Englishman's idea of what an innocent country bumpkin from middle America would be like.
posted by bleep at 3:03 PM on February 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I thought the scene with Peggy's family was great writing and way more nuanced than most of this show, or this kind of show. Sure it could be even better but compared to most of the writing ("we don't like new money!" "we are new money and your neighbors!" "I am mad the new money found our dog.") it was good. Here's all the things going on:
  • The home of Arthur and Dorothy Scott, a beautiful and proper townhouse bespeaking a level of wealth and high culture that many white Americans are not aware existed in Black society at this time and place.
  • The awkwardness of Peggy's visit in estrangement, Dorothy's attempts to smooth it all over.
  • Dorothy's pride in Peggy's success with selling a story.
  • The complicated aspect of which paper Peggy sells the story to, and how the Black paper was a good choice but will pay poorly.
  • Arthur, clearly an irascible old coot and ruining everything with his bitter comments.
  • The unknown cause of Peggy's estrangement; Arthur did something unforgivable.
  • Marian showing up at the house in the Black neighborhood, clearly out of place.
  • Marian showing up uninvited to someone's house (in the context of all the typical drama of this show about how hard it is to secure an invitation somewhere desireable.)
  • Marian showing up at Peggy's house, and Dorothy, the lady of the house, commenting how inappropriate it is revealing Marin's oblivious white privilege.
  • Marian showing up with those shoes, a humiliating and frankly idiotic gift.
  • Dorothy reading out Marian on her condescension, with absolute integrity and pride.
  • Peggy covering for Marian and being embarrassed at it all.
There's a lot of complicated overlapping stories and emotions going on in this scene. Primarily the juxtaposition of Marian's white cluelessness vs. a lot of interesting stuff happening entirely in the Scott family that has nothing to do with the rich white people of the UES. I appreciated that the writing was complex. I was afraid this show would feature a token Black character with one or two thin storylines to check off some "woke" box. But there's a lot more going on.
posted by Nelson at 8:18 AM on February 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

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