Four Reasons to Watch Gentleman Jack on HBO
You Love Period Drama
You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t – at least some of the time – love a good period drama. Downton Abbey, Outlander, The Crown, Godless, Guernsey, Pride and Prejudice, Vikings, Harlots, Turkish melodrama. Some sort of period piece pricked your fancy and led you down an internet rabbit hole, and you found yourself here – flailing with us online in total fangirl meltdown. That’s normal.
Gentleman Jack is a period piece for people who love them. Steeped in all the trappings of the past that you love: those fat ringlets that sit right on your temples, drafty dining rooms, horse poop strewn lanes, and arguments about ha-penny fourpence, Jack provides all the things you love about European historical television. The title credits are a montage of a 19th century woman getting dressed. COSTUME P0RN! The first episode contains not one, but two horse-drawn carriage plot points. The title character talks in quick soundbites about her time “on the continent” and is concerned about things like “dropsy.” This is your jam. Your period piece jam.
You Need a Break
Everything is terrible, and all the things hurt. You can’t open Twitter and have a good time anymore. Even if you loved last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, you have to deal with the idiots online talking so much about Arya being a Mary Sue that it became a trending topic. You thought that the podcast about the Black Dahlia was going to be so intriguing that you might feel good about it, but mostly you want to cry after every episode. Let’s be real. You need a break.
Gentleman Jack is that break. Even for a period piece, it’s fun instead of overwrought. Sad things may happen, issues may be addressed, and there is certainly drama, but every episode (so far) ends on a happy, hopeful note. The episodes are peppered with jaunty music, fast pacing and sardonic humor. You’re going to come away every Monday night feeling lighter, feeling hopeful. The only frustration will be that there aren’t more shows for you to watch that don’t make you need eight ibuprofen just to get through the next morning.
You Like to Know Things
Well, if you are anything like me, you do. I like to have interesting stories and narratives running through my brain, taking up space that was previously unused, and ready to throw down at a dinner party for the sake of quiet lulls that need to be filled with anecdotes. Gentleman Jack is a true story about the first (modern, wealthy, European) woman to defy convention and marry another woman. Remember that feeling when you saw The Favourite and you were like, “Queen Anne was super into rabbits!” and it felt wrong, but it also felt super right? You get the same feeling here that you are learning something about an historical woman that might be a little bit off, but is telling a greater truth.
One of the most interesting parts of the show is the battle over coal mines and profits. The surfeit of wealth that owning land on which coal was abundant at the very cusp of the Industrial Revolution produced is fascinating. This is exactly the kind of show that will have you googling how much 226 pounds, 17 shillings and 6 pence in the 1830s equate to today. You’ll want to know what societal rules about women owning their own fortunes meant in the regency era. And as a true story, you will definitely find yourself wanting to know more about Gentleman Jack herself, the real Anne Lister.
You Need To See A Woman Win
Speaking of the title character, Gentleman Jack is an English land owner named Anne Lister, who lived in Yorkshire in the early 1800s, was educated, adept, well-traveled, intelligent and singular. There are points in the show where other characters seem to just list off all of her many fine points in order to get other people to like Anne as much as they seem to. She’s fascinating. Played by Suranne Jones, you cannot help but be drawn to Anne as she navigates coming home to her ancestral estate, having certainly very recently had her heart broken, works within the current male-dominated space to improve her lands for her tenants and for herself, and all the while retains her own sense of individuality and desire for life.
Anne Lister’s real diaries were the basis for this show, and encrypted in them were very detailed beliefs about her life that will surprise many. She not only preferred women, but Anne was determined to marry one, to find true happiness with her chosen partner, and to live out her life with a woman who loved her. Finding an adequate life partner (someone of the same rank and fortune, of course; we’ve all read Austen) was no easy task, and we are introduced to Anne at the failing end of one relationship, but are quickly moved into the hopeful beginnings of a new one. A quick search of the true history of Anne’s life shows that she does fall in love and marry Ann Walker (played by Sophie Rundle), and they live their lives together. THIS WOMAN WINS. And we could all use a dose of that.
Watch the Trailer
Oh, and one bonus reason for all you Game of Thrones fans: her younger sister is played by Gemma Whelan, or as she is better known, Yara Greyjoy.
And One Tiny Reason NOT to Watch
The title character breaks the fourth wall A LOT and talks directly to the camera, often pulling Jim Halpert faces in a show that is decidedly NOT a mockumentary. This drives me batty, but I will let it slide because Suranne Jones’ face pulls you in and because she is often, in these moments, reciting from the Lister diaries. And truly, other than this one thing, the show is near perfect. Go watch!
Photos Courtesy of HBO
Gentleman Jack airs Monday nights on HBO