It is only at first that this costumed series set in New York in the 1980s may seem like a historical version of a lazy housewife from Manhattan. “The Gilded Age” is one of those series where fictional characters and events are put into a real historical frame, and that historical frame is portrayed really fantastically here. HBO did not spare money for the series, which was conceived by the experienced Julian Fellowes, a Briton who began to break into the world of film in the 1970s as an actor, only to later switch to writing. And in this man is extremely successful, as evidenced by the Oscar for the screenplay of Altman’s “Gosford Park”, and his specialty is costumed drama period and is best known for the series “Downtown Abby”.
From early 20th-century Britain, the Fellowes have now moved to the northeastern United States in 1882. In an age that is remembered in history by the name of the series – The Gilded Age. We would literally translate this as the “Gilded Age,” and it refers to the period of American history from 1870 to 1900 when the United States experienced an incredible economic upswing and growth and industrialization. It is clear that such circumstances have led to a whole generation of new rich people, capable business people who practically got rich overnight and turned into the richest people in the world. The old American aristocracy, which got rich and gained a reputation in the previous wave at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries and later, found itself endangered, and it is clear that all these newly rich people decided to settle in the neighborhood of the old, elite parts of New York. .
And it is far from New York as we met in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York”. We see in “The Gilded Age” parts of the city where the characters from the legendary film were not allowed to stink, and the family of industrialist George Russell (Morgan Spector) moved to the most luxurious and largest building in Manhattan right at the beginning. This “robber baron”, as guys like him were called at the time, was unimaginably rich on the construction of the railway, and his wife Bertha (Carrie Coon) moved into the luxurious house with him, determined to move into elite circles thanks to her husband’s money, and their daughter Gladys (Taissa Farmiga) and son Larry (Harry Richardson).
The arrival of the new aristocracy will completely stir up the situation on that elite snobbish scene of the old aristocracy who does not want to have any contact with these new social climbers, ordinary plebeians who quickly got rich. A typical example of this old aristocracy is Agnes Van Rhijn (Christine Baranski), a stubborn and proud widow of a wealthy older generation with whom lives a slightly younger unmarried sister Ada (Cynthia Nixon) who depends on her sister’s alms. Their niece Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson) will move into their house right at the beginning and will leave for New York from Pennsylvania after the death of her father who drank all her inheritance.
Due to the force of circumstances, this naive and poor girl will end up with an aunt she has never seen before, and moving from the provinces to the big city will start to open some new horizons for her. Marian will find herself literally immersed in a world she doesn’t know at all, a world that has some rules of its own, a world ruled by unprecedented hypocrisy and a world where everyone is as rich as crazies. At least that’s how it seems at first, but we’ll see that few can match the wealth of the Russells who decided to buy a ticket to high society at any cost and buy a place among the social elite. It is a series that remarkably depicts time and place, historical circumstances, social situation. Simultaneously with Marian, a young black woman Peggy Scott (Denee Benton) will arrive in New York, hoping to become a journalist, and in her character we will mostly understand the position of not only blacks but also women at that time.
Although the houses of Russell and Van Rhijn are located across from each other, these two families and the two women will become the main rivals, and we will see what kind of intrigues people used to break through the social ladder. We will also see how it was an incredibly closed, extremely conservative and hypocritical society that was not exactly thrilled with the changes, the new way of life, technological discoveries and everything else that came with these new faces threatening their position. The attitude of the older ones who are feverishly trying to follow the old rules and the younger generations who are more aware that the weather is changing and looking for their place under the sun is also brilliantly shown. The first season of “The Gilded Age” proved to be extremely high quality and fully designed, rounded content, and I hope that the first nine episodes were also preparing the ground for the characters and the situation to play even more because this is a series that has the potential for longevity. Rating 8/10.
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