“I Only Went There to Study Anatomy” displays a surer sense of self than the premiere, to enjoyable effect.
This Gentleman Jack Season 1 Episode 2 recap for the episode titled “I Just Went There to Study Anatomy” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The misadventures of everyone’s favorite 19th-Century lesbian diarist continue apace in “I Only Went There to Study Anatomy”, the second episode of HBO’s small-screen treatment of Anne Lister. And here we find the show displaying a somewhat surer sense of self, even if there are still altogether too many shots of the protagonist walking away from the camera while the theme music plays triumphantly in the background.
But there’s lots to be triumphant about, as Anne’s strictly selfish wooing of the well-to-do Ann Walker is going rather well indeed. They’re spending hours together and talking about all sorts, including Anne’s (this is getting confusing, isn’t it?) rather suspiciously enthusiastic hobby of anatomical study. (The episode’s title is derived from a trip to France, where she dissected a baby.) In a somewhat ill-advised development, Anne and Ann start planning romantic holidays together, which as we all know is a true test of a relationship that certainly shouldn’t be arranged the second or third time of meeting someone. Then again this is set in Halifax, so what can you do?
Speaking of which, there is the matter of coal in “I Only Went There to Study Anatomy”, which must be argued over at great length, since every weaselly businessman in the general vicinity wants to cheat Anne on the price of the stuff. This is where Suranne Jones really seems to be in her element with the character, and also where Gentleman Jack itself seems happiest. This is a double-edged sword, obviously, because when you can buy someone as a kind of savant arithmetical genius it’s a bit hard to buy them as a real person with real emotions. As a result, any attempts to have Anne show genuine emotion are still always short-lived and a bit forced.
Admittedly, “I Only Went There to Study Anatomy” does come pretty close to garnering sympathy for Anne, in a scene in which she attends the wedding (to a man, naturally) of her ex-lover. When she turns up in black it looks as though this whole thing is going to be played for laughs, but it actually strikes a subtle note of tragedy, with Anne for once relatively unsure of how to proceed. Gentleman Jack could use more of people thinking before they speak if only so we have an idea of what’s going through their mind beforehand. Come to think of it, life in general could probably stand to have more of that too.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.