“The Gilded Age” provides a glimpse into how New York looked and functioned in 1882. The world was still learning about Edison’s potential to provide electricity to one of the globe’s largest cities. While building and construction progressed, materials such as steel, brick, and stone were being sculpted to make bigger and better structures. Americans have never had a lack of vision or lost sight of their ability to wield power. As the series moves forward, it reveals upheavals, secrets, tragedies, love, and bondage to power.
Even while some white men and women are progressive, the black community (African-Americans) and the white community still do not see eye to eye. Mrs. Agnes Van Rhijn, the Van Rhijn family’s matriarch, is the eldest sister to a brother who leaves her with a destitute niece named Marian Brooke. Marian Brooke meets Peggy Scott, a black woman who happens to be on the same train to the city as Marian Brooke when Brooke’s wallet is taken. Peggy, out of pity for Marian, offers for her to join her carriage since they are both going to the same destination. A genuine friendship begins between these two strong women. Let us look at how this progresses.
‘The Gilded Age’ Season 1: Plot Summary: Can Peggy and Marian Achieve What They Set Out For?
Marian Brooke comes to terms with the fact that surviving in Pennsylvania on her own is not worth it when she discovers her father has left her with a house and thirty dollars. Mr. Raikes is his lawyer, and he demonstrates that he simply has her best interests at heart. He makes every effort to assist her in every way he can. She knows she has to go soon, so she packs her belongings and prepares to visit her two aunts in a fancy part of New York City.
To get to New York City, Marian must take the train and the ferry with Peggy. Marian invites Peggy to stay with her after they arrive at Marian’s Aunt’s house, since she paid for the ticket and had her torn clothing repaired because she tore it when a brawl broke out at the train station and her wallet was stolen. The incident is conveyed to Marian’s aunts, Ada and Agnes Van Rhijn, when Peggy comes with Marian. Peggy is well-liked by both aunts, and she is allowed to spend the night with them. While prejudices linger, Peggy has found herself a new home without even realizing it.
While the Van Rhijns have a new occupant, the newly arrived George Russel and his wife, Lady Russel, who are tremendously wealthy urban developers in the city and region, have built the house next door. The Van Rhijns have cemented their position and authority in the neighborhood, but Lady Russell has other ideas. It gradually becomes apparent as events unfold. Larry and Gladys are the names of the Russells’ son and daughter. Gladys is nearly housebound due to her mother’s wishes that daughters from upper-class families be “let out into the world” through a debutante ceremony.
Marian becomes more acquainted with the community over time, including an “unsavory” member known as Mrs. Chamberlain, who has a tarnished past to disclose. Following her husband’s death, Mrs. Chamberlain invites the community to witness her lovely art collection. A wealthy widower who is tragically never seen by the community because they believe they must be as distant as possible. Marian never believes this and instead nurtures an unexpected bond with her, from which Marian only benefits.
Aunt Agnes’ secretary, Peggy Scott, begins to handle all of her written correspondence with her swift and fluent writing ability. Her ambitions are limitless, and she aspires to get her articles published in a public publication. Her race and color are a hindrance until she meets Mr. Fortune, a black man who writes for The Globe, a publication managed by people of color like her.
Peggy’s relationship with her father is deteriorating, while her relationship with her mother is also deteriorating. Even if a particular Lady Armstrong from the Van Rhijn household staff has a distaste for Peggy’s being colored, Aunt Agnes is the one true stable force that supports her throughout. Aunt Agnes is unyielding in her opposition to it, but remains silent in her ability to carry out justice when in support of Peggy. Despite Aunt Agnes’ viewpoint, Peggy must decide if her future is truly secure with this family. Peggy has secrets that only Mr. Raikes knows about because it is a very personal affair.
When Raikes proposes to Marian when she is still living with her aunts, Marian believes he has feelings for her and accepts his concept of love. When Aunt Ada comes across an old crush of Aunt Ada’s who just wants to marry her for the Van Rhijn fortune, Aunt Agnes has already proven her ability to find gold-diggers. Raikes considering Marian as his wife was antithetical to her because she knew he was pursuing so much more. Marian must decide if she can follow her aunt’s desires or marry a man who loves her regardless of her current monetary situation.
Peggy must decide whether she can find a woman who has all the answers to a dark past of hers and whether she can go on living with a certain past after receiving a piece of information that will affect her life forever.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘The Gilded Age’ Season 1: Ending Explained – What Do Peggy And Marian Do When They Find Out The Truth?
The wealthy of New York City are ready to rejoice at the prospect of being able to light a building entirely with electricity. When Thomas Edison demonstrated his capacity to illuminate an entire building, he became the talk of the town. Power must be distributed evenly, so it is taken away from lesser sources and given to a larger one. This very concept of power very aptly applies to the Russel family, who must also arrange their daughter’s debutante ball amid their numerous challenges. This ball is her public declaration to the world that she is now a free lady who can make her own decisions without regard to her parent’s wishes. Gladys Russel would soon be recognized as a powerful woman in her own right.
Raikes is present with Cissie Bingham, the niece of a very wealthy businessman, on the night of the building’s lighting up. Lady Fane, Marian Brooke’s cousin, tells him that Raikes has become closer to Cissie. It makes her suspicious, and she warns Marian Brooke about it. Marian is most passionate about him and pays no heed to the possibility of his betrayal. Despite everyone’s reservations, she decides to put everything to rest by accepting Raikes’ marriage proposal. Mrs. Chamberlain intervenes, offering her home as a meeting place for the two to marry.
Peggy Scott had entrusted Raikes with the job of locating a specific person who delivered her child as a midwife when she was married. Unfortunately, when he was unable to do so, he sent word through a letter, which was received by Armstrong, the Van Rhijn household’s Lady Help. When she opens the letter, she discovers Peggy’s secret and makes a petty assumption and she tells Aunt Agnes, who is not pleased. Peggy is completely uneasy as a result of this, and she is forced to reconsider staying with Aunt Agnes.
While the city’s matriarchs fight their pride in order to attend the Quadrille Ball, the children of the families prepare for the dance that declares their independence. Oscar Van Rhijn, Aunt Agnes’s only son and an in-the-closet homosexual, is dependent on his marriage to Gladys to secure his standing in society, with a sole regard to wealth. This irritates his lover, Adams, even more. When the ball arrives, Oscar places himself first in Gladys’ eyes and gets his dance, guaranteeing his marriage prospects.
Aunt Agnes’ pride is put aside when Lady Astor, the most respected lady in town, demands her participation at the ball since Lady Russel pushes Lady Astor’s hand, and Lady Astor’s daughter Carrie Astor, like Gladys, is also a member of the Quadrille Ball. On the day of the ball, much is at stake in terms of people’s intentions toward one another. Marian is set to marry her true love until Aunt Fane arrives to inform Aunt Ada that Raikes may not show up at all because he was with Cissie the night before. Aunt Ada quickly dispatches her to Mrs. Chamberlain’s and informs Marian of the news. Marian is sad, but she arrives at Raikes’ office confused and finds out the truth.
When she sees him, he confirms Aunt Agnes’ fears, which hits her like a ton of bricks. He admits that living impoverished together would be difficult for them both, but his feelings for her remain pure love. Marian leaves heartbroken and dashes back home in time to prevent her aunt from learning how the day should have gone through a willing messenger.
From a note, Peggy learns that her son is alive and lives in the Philadelphia area. Her father is to blame for keeping them apart for so long, which enrages her and her mother, who now has no choice but to support her daughter. In his opinion, Peggy’s husband was worthless and would be of little service to her. He forced him out of the marriage and had his daughter’s marriage declared null and void by a judge. Peggy and her mother agree to travel by train and leave their father behind, regardless of his situation.
“The Gilded Age” Season 1, explains how New York City came to be with clear strategic relationships that everyone constantly maintained with one another. The Russel’s seek to establish their strong foothold in an age of building, upsetting the pride of many, including the Van Rhijns and the Astor Family combined. We now observe the city of New York resplendent with amazement and awe as a result of a succession of highly guided attempts to reshape a metropolis for the future.
The series depicts a humble and noble line of dialogue combined with faultless direction to bring out characters that captivate the frame, making this a series to watch and appreciate. Power emanates charm and tells us, in a straightforward and original manner, how a city evolved to be what it is now.
“The Gilded Age” is a 2022 Period Drama Series created by Julian Fellowes.