Gentleman Jack Recap: That Didn’t Go Particularly Well Did It? Poison Pen

3.5

Summary

“Let’s Have Another Look At Your Past Perfect” kept Anne’s usual successes to a refreshing minimum, allowing us to see what might happen when things finally don’t go her way.

This Gentleman Jack episode 5 recap for the episode titled “Let’s Have Another Look At Your Past Perfect” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.


The reason this episode of HBO’s Gentleman Jack worked is that, for once, it suggested that perhaps famous lesbian diarist Anne Lister can’t get everything she wants just be being smarter and more capable than literally everyone that she meets. It does, admittedly, take a while to get there, and on its way “Let’s Have Another Look At Your Past Perfect” is one of the worst offenders of the season thus far when it comes to surrounding Anne almost exclusively with idiots. But eventually — thanks, fittingly, in large part to ever-present patriarchal systems — reality becomes too awkward for even a woman of her means to navigate, and we leave the episode with her bloodied, if not entirely broken.

You’ll recall that at the end of last week’s episode Anne had a bee in her bonnet about the sinister machinations of rapist clergyman Mr. Ainsworth, who arrives in “Let’s Have Another Look At Your Past Perfect” to further pursue Ann, whom he has already sexually assaulted and now would like to marry, this sort of business being quite standard in Halifax, then and now. He’s not a particularly threatening fellow — he’s actually a bit of weasel if I’m honest — though I suppose that’s part and parcel of being a predator; you blend into your environment. Either way, Anne is very much unimpressed and guides other Ann in the writing of off-putting correspondence, which is always my favorite way of dealing with anyone.

Unfortunately, Ann Without the E is still hounded by her own guilt at having spoken about Mr. Ainsworth’s assault in the first place and terrified at the prospect of her family and neighbors knowing she’s queer. This isn’t a reputational thing, either; she’s genuinely worried about being executed for it and left to burn in Hell for all eternity, especially once Anne explains that she’d quite like to marry her in the eyes of God. God in this show — often as in real life — is mostly only brought up to reinforce someone’s opinion, as seen here in “Let’s Have Another Look At Your Past Perfect” in Anne evoking His name to assure Ann of the sacredness of their union, and by homophobes to assure Ann of the ungodliness of her conduct. All very convenient, isn’t it?

Nevertheless, it’s altogether too much for Ann, who decides to settle for her abuser rather than risk it, and thus basically dumps Anne, adding further insult to injury by offering to still lend her money, implying that’s all Anne was interested in anyway. Which is true, of course, or at the very least was true, though it’s difficult to tell if Anne takes such an exception to it because she’s been caught red-handed or because — this in a bit of a whisper — her feelings for Ann have become very genuine indeed.

To make matters worse, “Let’s Have Another Look At Your Past Perfect” ends with Anne being ambushed and assaulted by a hired thug over the price of coal, further proving another thing about being the smartest woman in the room: Sometimes, even that isn’t enough if a man has it out for you.

Jonathon Wilson

Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.

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