“Oh Is That What You Call It?” ups the stakes with a surprising murder, while Anne and Ann get closer.
This Gentleman Jack Season 1 Episode 3 recap for the episode titled “Oh Is That What You Call It?” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Every drama about closeted homosexuals must contractually contain at least one scene in which they’re caught being gay; “Oh Is That What You Call It?”, I suppose rather obviously given the title, contains that scene. But in the case of Gentleman Jack and Anne Lister, upon whose diaries the show is based, it seems more surprising to me that anyone doesn’t know that Anne is a lesbian. She’s hardly candid about the matter.
That’s the point, of course; most people know she’s gay, but they just mostly keep their mouths shut about it because it isn’t the done thing in polite society and Anne’s also a landowning, coal-mining woman of means. But this episode opens with a suggestion of how it ultimately ends: Anne and Ann caught in the act. And that means that people aren’t going to remain tight-lipped for long.
Love is in the air, though, which is probably why “Oh Is That What You Call It?” contains quite so many proposals. John — who has perhaps the broadest Yorkshire accent I’ve ever heard, and I live there — proposes to Anne’s pregnant French maid; Yara Greyjoy — aka Anne’s put-upon sister Marian — is on the lookout for a secret suitor who might help her find a way from beneath the yoke of Anne’s domestic dominance; and Anne herself suggests to Ann that they should live together — a proposal she takes quite literally, requesting a six month grace period to make sure it’s all still going swimmingly then. Phew.
Things aren’t going swimmingly elsewhere, mind. One of Anne’s tenants and workers is a violent alcoholic who batters his family and launches aggressively homophobic attacks at Anne, so it was something of a relief when his own son trussed him up in the pig pen and eventually slit his throat, leaving the corpse laying there for the piggies’ dinner. A bit out of left field, perhaps, but it worked to up the stakes a little bit and provide some surprising drama, and it’s always nice to see rampant prejudice giving a setting a bit of local color. Helps us root for the heroine, which is what we should be doing and is where Gentleman Jack has fallen down a bit thus far.
An improvement, then, if only a minor one. But “Oh Is That What You Call It?” was at least suggestive of a more exciting and surprising future for HBO’s show, and after a fairly shaky start I’ll definitely take that. Anne Lister herself seemed so proudly daring that it’s only right her show embodies the same quality.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.