‘The Gilded Age’ Season 1: Major Characters, Explained

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Along with power, avarice and strategy are inextricably linked in the quest to ascend the corporate ladder. Power, when misguided, lacks a solid base and is doomed to fail. “The Gilded Age” characters introduce you to the dynamics of the year 1882 when man’s primary desire was to live a wealthy life. The women wielded the majority of power through their subtle and charming influence through charity. Women’s money was put to good use, forcing males to stay in line and continue to have them supporting noble causes, which helped the community grow and survive.

The masculine gender had to balance business politics, while the feminine gender had to balance prejudices of pride. While credits were distributed based on history, affiliations, and accountability, both genders found a way to collaborate and keep up with their luxurious lives while still contributing to society and the well-being of their families. When the Russels arrive in town, Lady Russel turns the wheel on the Van Rhijns and the Astors to claim her rightful place on the pedestal and make themselves the sole aristocrats of New York City. Let’s have a look at how they accomplished this in “The Gilded Age” Season 1.


Marian Brooke

Marian is almost like an ugly duckling attempting to find her place in the precariously secure position that her aunts have made for themselves in society, while the Van Rhijns are the ruling matriarchs. She is liberal in her ideas in order to achieve what she wants as quickly as possible, but she has no foundation on which she could stand. While she is humble and considerate in her approach, she is primarily naive when it comes to dealing with reality.

Marian does not accept several warnings from ladies close to her that a specific love interest might not be all that he appears to be. This puts her in an extremely difficult position, forcing her to re-evaluate her own place in society while her aunt enthusiastically defends her choice, whatever it may be. Marian merely wanted to be vulnerable and protected at the same time in love, despite her Aunt Agnes’s vigorous attempts to convince her that women linked with her status must be safeguarded at all costs.

Mrs Chamberlain had a big impact on Marian. She secretly wished for a life free of Aunt Agnes’ restrictions where she could be self-reliant and independent. Raikes only made her realize these ambitions were not possible when he failed to show up on the day of their wedding, disproving her assumption that they may live a stable life but most probably as a penniless couple.


Peggy Scott

Peggy Scott is a woman who is self-sufficient and her abilities propel her to higher places. Despite the fact that the black communities had been subjected to a great deal of humiliation and tribulation, and that many people had been killed, the city was approaching a moment of acceptance for both races. Peggy is obliged to become her own woman and stand up for the beliefs she acquired on her own as Armstrong (the Van Rhijn household worker) tried to portray a false picture of Peggy and her history. If she hadn’t had Aunt Agnes’ assistance, New York would’ve been very difficult for her to sustain.

In “The Gilded Age” Season 1, Peggy’s narrative is a personal tragedy involving an estranged spouse and a child who appears to be ignorant of her presence. Peggy’s father makes an attempt to mend fences. This enrages her because he has betrayed her and shows no remorse. Peggy’s values reach a pinnacle when she and her mother finally receive a response from the midwife who delivered her child, revealing yet another betrayal by her father. As a result, the parent-child relationship no longer exists. 


The Van Rhijns

We witness exquisite feminine strength played out in the finest conceivable way when we look at the Van Rhijns. The soft touch of the dress and the swish of the fan, with figures prepared to erupt into dance at any moment. There is nothing but elegance here. It is built solely on stoic strength. Aunt Agnes and Aunt Ada formerly relied completely on their brother who inherited their father’s whole estate. The brother attempted to sell all he inherited, potentially leaving the sisters homeless and impoverished.

This only made Aunt Agnes more sensitive to males who tried to proactively sink their claws into her family and the social stature she and her sister had worked so hard to achieve. She would defend her family like a lioness, but she was slow to realize her vanity had clouded her judgment when it came to upholding morals.

Aunt Ada is Marian’s polite confidante, who helps Marian in whatever way she can. Her goals are most visible when she suspects Marian is in danger, yet she knows how to maintain a healthy balance between herself and her sister, Agnes. While Mrs. Chamberlain is a wild card, Marian and Aunt Ada agree on the importance of identifying women of actual authority.


Lady Russel

Lady Russel is the lone femme wolf, the wife of George Russel, a business aristocrat. She is the hawk circling her prey, keeping a close eye on any potential disturbances. Despite their opulence and glamor, each personality, with the exception of Larry Russell, is plagued by strife. When there are two matriarchs in power and Lady Russel is unknown, she must make her debut as the reigning Matriarch of 61st Street in New York City alone. Her goals must be on par with her husband’s.

In “The Gilded Age” Season 1, Lady Russel’s orchestrates an elaborate scheme when her daughter insists that she “be let out,” so she keeps her daughter locked up and under house arrest. When the time comes, Lady Russel devises a complex plan to place herself in the company of society’s who’s who. Some ladies dislike her because her husband nearly pushed an alderman to commit suicide, causing enough dissension to inform the others that she and her husband are a dangerous influence.

Not only to them, but also to their husband’s health, their livelihoods, and their way of life. Lady Russel learns her capacity to tame Mrs. Astor, one of the solitary matriarchs. Lady Russel finds an inside source to begin her plans when Lady Astor’s daughter befriends Gladys Russel.  Lady Russel and Lady Astor come together at the Quadrille Ball because their children have taught them how to put their differences aside and secure their place in the future of New York City as wealthy, independent women.


George Russel

George Russel is a very wealthy businessman who must find a difficult balance between the interests of his firm and those of his socially ambitious wife. While several occurrences take place, he does not miss a single detail. George Russel keeps an eye on everything. From his daughter’s continual yelling about wanting to be let out, to the chef’s difficult truth coming out in the open. When you come from a wealthy family, deception and treachery are inevitable. Those you put your trust in can quickly betray you. This is something he has firsthand experience with, and it comes with the threat of prison time.

The Law of Physics is straightforward. There is a reaction to every action. The scales of justice, whether you call it karma or justice, never fail to balance. When one of his secretaries comes close to accusing him of first-hand involvement in a rail road accident caused by malfunctioning gear, he must re-evaluate his views on who sticks by his side in difficult times. This would be a result of his forcing an alderman to commit suicide when he coerced the stocks.

Those who are focused on achieving a clear goal, regardless of whether the weather is foggy or not, develop a vision. George Russel would influence the clouds to help him achieve his goal. His determination to see things through to the end would occasionally bring him good fortune. He understands, unlike his wife, that remaining neutral with everyone serves his purpose and may save his career and way of life. This would only benefit him and his family’s future, as well as the community as a whole.


See More: ‘The Gilded Age’ Season 1: Ending, Explained – Do Peggy And Marian Witness A Happily Ever After?


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Anushka Rao
Anushka Rao
Anushka is a Storyteller and a Painter. She is still looking for a silver lining in any situation and figuring how innovative she can be to make the world a better place. Charisma and mystery with a spark of genius. A true Believer that films are our strongest power yet, for change.

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