Gentleman Jack S2E2: Two Jacks, A Walker, and A Lot of Drama

Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) and Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) hiking in the Alps.

The following contains spoilers from Gentleman Jack S2E2, “Two Jacks Don’t Suit” (written by Sally Wainwright and directed by Edward Hall)

Gentleman Jack taught me a lot last week. I learned that Anne Lister really needs to reexamine her bedside manner, that Ann Walker is still pretty “in a certain light”, and it’s really important that lower thirds don’t end up on the cutting room floor. That last one proved extra important since the HBO airing failed to tell audiences here in America the vital information of exactly how long had it been between seasons.

This is not the first time little bits have been cut from here or there in Gentleman Jack’s episodes. The reason for it is because of the way the US and the UK release their video. The United States airs its programs at 60 fps (frames per second) which means smoother motion since there are more images involved. The UK airs theirs at 25 fps which means things look to be sped up because there are fewer images to work with. By converting 25 fps to 60fps you are adding more information causing the timing of the episode to extend. In order to keep it at its hour run time, cuts end up needing to be made. What usually falls to the floor are moments in a scene that play too long. Sometimes though, there are the cuts that tend to toss out important information.

It seems that this time HBO had decided to shave off a few frames at the start of the episode, but in doing so trimmed off an important detail for viewers… that S2E1 picked up 4 weeks after the events of the Season 1 finale. I say this because I would like for everyone who reads to understand that going forward, the episodes I’m reviewing are the versions being shown here in the United States. So if there is something I miss, please let us know, but be kind about it.

Now that the official business has been taken care of, onto why you have come!

Walker and Lister share a moment.

After a quick, hectic trip home to Halifax, the Ann(e)s have finally found themselves able to escape to Paris for their honeymoon! Between the entries of Lister’s diary and the numerous letters that have been found sent by the couple to their loved ones back in Halifax, the Ann(e)s journey around France and up into the Swiss Alps has heavily been documented. 

In one letter that was written from the two to Lister’s Aunt Anne (and possibly to be given to Aunt Ann Walker) from July 22, 1834, Walker enthusiastically goes into the details of their lodgings: “Anne has told you our route over the mountains, but I find she has not given you any description of the magnificent hotels we met with. At Mottets we slept between the cows and the hay loft, and at the village des Ferret there were two rooms, for us, guides, George, and the poor widow with eight children.” She had never been traveling till this point (going to Scotland doesn’t count since it’s the same island) and even within this small passage, you can tell she was very excited to let her family know every single detail. 

It’s in this that I believe we can all relate to Ann Walker. How many of us have gone to new places and wanted to take a photo every five seconds because we were experiencing something new? I remember moving down to New York from Massachusetts and getting gas in New Jersey for the first time. I had not known that you are not allowed to pump your own gas so when it happened I was completely baffled that I ended up immediately calling my mother to tell her what had just happened. She thought I was nuts that I found this so exciting but what can I say, I’ve lived a sheltered existence and am easily humored. Every time I go to a new town I find myself gawking at the buildings and wanting to take in every single detail of the area around me. So Ann Walker, don’t ever change! I get you!

I don’t know if Sally Wainwright revisited the script for this episode once the discovery of Ann Walker’s diary occurred in October of 2020, or if Sophie Rundle was able to view them in order to build on her performance but one of the enjoyable things that shines through “Two Jacks Don’t Suit” is seeing Ann Walker discover Anne Lister: World Traveler Extraordinaire! In Season 1, when the two first meet, Lister spends hours telling Walker stories of her time in Paris where she “dissected a baby once”. As a viewer watching, there was definitely an energy that radiated through the screen coming from Ann Walker. She suddenly became the physical representation of the heart-eyed emoji.

That same warmth struck a few times in this episode. Once when they arrive at their lodgings for the night, which fits the description the real Ann Walker had sent in the letter above. Lister (Suranne Jones) is glowing as she asks Walker (Sophie Rundle) if she’s ever experienced anything like this and Walker goes on to express how she’s never seen Anne so full of life. At this point in their journey, they had made their way well into the Alps where Lister was hoping to concur Mont Blanc (historic spoiler alert, she sadly wouldn’t due to poor weather conditions) but as you watch, you begin to realize that Walker has never physically seen this side of Lister till now. The look of awe she gives Anne in that tiny room is the same look she gave her in the previous episode when Lister is getting business done as the head of Shibden and prepares a pistol to shoot a troubling employee that she had just fired. It’s the look of “Yup, that’s my wife!”

The other time we get to experience this radiating warmth from Walker is actually at the beginning of the episode when the two are in a restaurant in Paris. They are having dinner and Lister is recounting a museum trip she was on with her former “close friend” Vere Hobart (Jodi May) and Hobart’s family. Anne is nothing if not a natural-born storyteller. She’s fully engaging in her recount of the events and Walker is eating up every single second of it.

Tib (Joanna Scanlan) talks to Anne Lister (Suranne Jones).

This opening scene also provides us with the overdue introduction to the one, the only Isabella “Tib” Norcliffe. For the many who may not know, Tib is one of Anne Lister’s long-time best friends having met when Anne was attending Manor School in York. She also likes to dress very masculine and, like Anne, prefers the company of women. 

Poor Tib, though. If life played by the rules of the romantic comedy, then Tib fully inhabited the “just friends” trope. This poor woman pined after Lister by sending her gifts and yet, there Lister was openly falling in love with Mariana. After Mariana married Charles it seemed that fortune was finally on Tib’s side and yet Lister still couldn’t bring herself to take a chance on her. On June 17, 1817, Lister wrote in her diary, “Ah my Isabel, you have indeed loved me truly and after all perhaps it may be fate that you and I shall get together at last. But on this subject, I dare not think.” Then on July 11, 1817, she wrote, “I almost wished to persuade myself I could so manage her temper as to be happy with her.” A big part of what played in Lister’s decision not to consider Norcliffe as a lover is the fact that Tib had an awful drinking problem that led to many other questionable behaviors.

Even in her introduction, the character of Tib (Joanna Scanlan) has her arriving and completely takes over the moment. She is loud and dominating as she admits to the couple that she is “on the sauce” (drunk). When she asks Ann to introduce herself she suddenly loses focus because she spots a woman across the way. It seems this unapologetic loudness that could easily be seen as passive and rude actually occurred. Ann Walker in her diary of the meeting recalled that she “complained excessively of the heat” while Lister wrote, “drank a tumberler full of our Bea[u]ne wine without water but would eat nothing Miss Walker tired and left us tête à tête the last ½ hour — talked over Miss Walker”.

I had been excited about Tib’s introduction since Joanna Scanlan’s casting was announced! Tib is such an important person in Lister’s life outside of Aunt Anne and Mariana. I am sad that a character so important was only on-screen so briefly. At the same time, from a storyteller’s viewpoint, it’s important to know that Tib’s role is to bring the focus to how much Ann Walker doesn’t know of the woman she’s agreed to live with. This seems to be the growing theme with this season. When Gentleman Jack started, Sally Wainwright set out to create an Anne Lister that both we as an audience and Ann Walker could fall in love with. We saw the headstrong woman who wouldn’t be run by the men around her, and the hopeless romantic that made her pain and passion heard loudly.

Since Walker is now part of Lister’s world she needs to begin learning that the woman she was presented with within their courtship is only one side of this whole being. Sadly for Anne Lister, that means unearthing a lot of the little fibs she told throughout Season 1. Tib really acts like a wrecking ball to the wall Lister put up between her past and her future with Walker. Within seconds of being with the couple Tib brings up Mrs. Lawton, and Walker finds herself completely thrown for a loop as to why she is so significant to Lister other than being Steph’s (her doctor) sister.

Tib’s mention of Mariana doesn’t seem to affect Walker at the time and nor should it. It was a harmless side note. What does end up raising Walker’s curiosity is when the next day, while the Ann(e)s find themselves at the Louvre, she runs into Tib’s sister Charlotte and Mariana’s sister Miss Mills. Miss Mills makes the comment to Charlotte, “Mariana would not be too pleased if she saw her successor.” Up till this point, Ann Walker completely believed that she was the first person to have done the things she’s done with Anne Lister. Back when the two were at the beginning of their relationship and Walker was still warming up to being relaxed with her, she asked if Anne had done anything like this before and Lister told her no.

Folks, it’s never a good thing to start a relationship off with a lie. Especially when the person who is receiving this information already has poor self-esteem and has been treated as a child for most of her life. One of the things that drew Walker to Lister is the fact that she was being heard for the first time. She felt that she had someone on her side. Ann Walker isn’t stupid, and it’s a thing I feel I will be saying quite a lot this season. I do admire that she is willing to tell Lister that she wants to be in the know about things so as to not feel stupid. It’s much better than her usual method of bottling it up and it goes back to what I said last week about the growth she’s done within this short time.

Walker and Lister (Sophie Rundle and Suranne Jones) cuddle in bed together.

As Lister’s past begins to rear its head, it’s becoming more and more noticeable to Walker how little she actually knows of the woman. Are there any underlying details in the stories she’s been told that she should fear? If she is considered Mariana’s “replacement” how many other Mariana’s have there been in Lister’s life, and if there are more how long is it till Anne decides to leave her? More importantly, can she love this other side of Ann that she is beginning to learn about?

If the struggles of the past being revealed couldn’t be hard enough to deal with, poor Ann Walker once again has to handle her arch-enemy of this season… her family’s hold on her mental health.

Once they arrive back in Halifax, the Ann(e)s arrange for a visit to Walker’s Aunt. Unbeknownst to them, she’s been having private discussions with the rest of the Walker tribe regarding their closeness. They all agree that Anne Lister is toxic to her reputation and think of ways to pull Ann away from her. 

During this visit, Ann has to watch as her Aunt refuses to hide her disapproval of Lister. Although she is first strong in not letting it hurt her and talks excitedly about their trip, that disapproval begins to wear. When someone suffers massive anxiety of any sort, they can try all the coping mechanisms in the world but the second those feelings hit, they hit strongly and usually begins the downward spiral that is hard to come out of. The moment Ann gets pushed into that spiral happens when she asks her aunt if she’s going to sit down and when she doesn’t Walker squeaks out, “Please sit down.” The look on her face speaks volumes about how triggering this moment is for her. All gleam has faded into a grey sadness that becomes equally visible to Lister as their visit continues. 

The meeting goes from a downward spiral to plummeting endless pit when Aunt Ann pulls out the guilt card. First, she brings up how someone had said that Lister was overheard talking about how she didn’t want anything to do with “Walker’s troublesome friends”. She tells her that Walker wouldn’t need to worry because no one would call on her over at Shibden. It’s then followed by Aunt Ann announcing how Walker’s cousin was really there to live with her, a request that Ann had put in years prior. In Aunt Ann’s eyes what she’s doing is punishing Ann Walker. She thinks that if this works, Ann will quickly change her mind, forget Lister, and come running back to the Walkers. This type of emotional manipulation is something I know all too well because I’ve had it done to me by my family some time ago. It’s a cycle with them, the second you come back they just begin treating you as they had before. Ann Walker is stronger now though! She knows the games her Aunt is playing, even if it’s cruel and hitting her. She knows not to give her Aunt the benefit of seeing her hurt.

She instead waits till they make their next stop at Crow Nest to decide what she was bringing to Shibden. It’s here for the first time Ann Walker can put into words the thought process that many of us with massive anxiety go through. “It’s like I’ve sabotaged my own head with a thousand angry thoughts that eat away into my brain and won’t go away… It doesn’t matter how much you try to rationalize it, it doesn’t go away. It just goes round and round.” This moment is perhaps one of my favorites because it gives Ann Walker’s anxiety disorder an actual name so that she wasn’t as crazy as her family would assume she is because they are small-minded. All too often I find myself struggling to put into words the way my mind works, and with this, I feel like I finally have a tool to show people.

It’s just sad to think, here is Ann Walker constantly at war in her own head over the decisions she makes, and had she lived today there are medications that could help her. There would be an onslaught of people jumping through hoops to tell her that she doesn’t need her toxic family in her life and that the Listers are her found family!

Marian (Gemma Whelan) and Aunt Anne (Gemma Jones) at the dinner table.

Last season introduced us to the Lister family consisting of Aunt Anne (Gemma Jones), Anne’s father Jeremy (Timothy West), and sister Marian (Gemma Whelan). We saw the dynamic between the four of them and how Jeremy and Aunt Anne took a back seat to run things around Shibden. Marian was the one usually left in charge of keeping the house and its workers running smoothly. 

With Anne’s personality and spirit being the way they are, one must think that it’s hard being related to her. She speaks her mind, doesn’t take easy criticism, and is constantly thinking her standards of living are far higher than they actually are (which has led to some money problems). For the entire first season, we got to see Anne storm back into the lives of her family after one mishap or another, but this season really allows us to see what happens as a repercussion of the choices Anne makes.

Anne Lister has gone into the fine details of how she had to “rise above” the hate that people have thrown at her. It’s this same advice that she continues to give Ann Walker. She’s not the only one who’s had to deal with people talking about her behind her back though. As we witness in “Two Jacks Don’t Suit” Marian has also been dealing with this type of behavior.

Marian Lister may not be as vocally witty or appear not as tough as her older sister but she’s one tough cookie in her own way. While Anne’s off traveling around France with Ann Walker, Marian has been caring for their Aunt and father. She’s also been taking messages over to Walker’s Aunt Ann. Hate seems to have no boundaries when Aunt Ann openly calls her naive when she thinks “worldly behavior” means talking politics.

It’s not fully said if Marian fully knew her sister’s love life but Anne has asked for her opinion on both Mariana Lawton and Ann Walker in the past. So, to some extent, she knew what’s been occurring with Anne. Her comment to Aunt Ann Walker denying anything, and even her playing dumb to the Presleys later on, shows that she’s pretty smart when it comes to fooling people. 

Unlike Anne, who might have thought of some witty comeback at the remarks made by both Aunt Ann Walker and the Presleys, Marian chooses to stay silent. This silence may give the appearance of her being naive, but really it stresses how much she loves her sister. She won’t let her personal feelings cause her to put Anne in danger.

Instead, she expresses her worries about Anne to their Aunt, who is the most supportive person in both of their lives. We really all deserve an Aunt Anne! She is not only there to hear problems and give advice, but the fact that she is so openly supportive of everything Anne does makes her one heck of an ally. “If any of these people had a fraction of her talent, happiness, her friendship, her passion for life, people and the world and everything in it– then they would have something else to talk about. Most people are mundane and narrow. And Anne? She’s just got too much about her for this world.”

I believe that this is what Marian tries to emulate because some part of her understands that her sister is very different in all the best ways. She gets that Anne is constantly the subject of both negative and positive discussions. She may not have the strength to be vocal about it but she understands that Anne still needs all the allies she can get. It also shows how deep the love for her sister actually is, even though the two may often be at one another’s throats for one reason or another.

I’m really enjoying the dynamic that having more of the Lister family brings to Gentleman Jack. I feel that by using her family as a mirror we are able to find the real Anne Lister. It’s at home with them that she puts her guards down and she’s her true self. As we’ve seen with how she’s presented herself to Walker, there are many versions she’s put on. When she’s around her servants or collecting the rents, she’s the intimidating landowner. When she’s with any of the women she cares about she suddenly turns into Casanova and changes her demeanor with each one. 

Ann Walker (Sophia Rundle) hesitates holding Lister's hand.

I don’t think she’s fully comprehended yet that she can’t have Mariana and Walker. In the past, she would still meet up with Mariana and go through the whole “we can be together when Charles dies” charade. Her relationship with Mariana is young love. It’s the kind you fall blindly in and act without thinking. They constantly circle in playing these little games with one another which she openly does in the final moments of the episode when she writes to Lister to say, “Mary has loved you dearly, fondly, and faithfully and she loves you no less at present, but she loves you too well to be a source of discomfort to you.”

Meanwhile, what she has with Walker is the responsibility and a still-forming love that may not be as passionate as Lister’s relationship with Mariana, but it’s more mature. She has the certainty in knowing that at the end of the day she can go home and Ann will be there. 

If there is one thing romance films have taught me it’s that trying to have the best of two relationships at once can not end well. One, both, or all three parties can end up in bad spots. That’s certainly not my hope with Gentleman Jack, but the natural progression of events is certainly leading to this being a potential outcome. I understand that history tells me the Ann(e)s outcome but a relationship takes work and it’s not all roses and glee. There are tough times, there are times when a couple can’t stand one another. What’s important is how they decide to go forth, alone or together?

Mariana (Lydia Leonard) crying at a window.
Photograph by Aimee Spinks/HBO

Sally Wainwright created an entire side plot last season about the young Suzzanah Washington (Amy James Kelly) and Thomas Sowden (Tom Lewis) falling in love and eventually getting married. It felt as though it was used as a way to parallel the fact that the Ann(e)s were going through the same thing but had to keep theirs secret. Many fans would have minded not seeing the couple return, or revisiting that whole plotline where Thomas murdered his father and fed him to the pigs. Unfortunately, we do and I feel it really throws off the momentum of the episode. Really, if HBO wanted to trim the episode anywhere it could have been with this plotline.

When pulled out of context and looked at, it once again provides a parallel to the Ann(e)s who are navigating what happens after you put the ring on the finger. Where Ann Walker and Anne Lister are navigating their lives at Shibden, Suzannah is having issues with being the only educated one at the Sowden house. No one wants to learn. She is chased after with a pig’s head by Thomas’s younger brother and has to deal with rude remarks being said to her by his uncle. The times we see her and Thomas show that the love they had for one another that made them adorable last season has faded. She now wants to come home because she finds it is not what she imagined. This plays into how marriage is always a working process that doesn’t stop at saying “I do.”

It’s still hard to imagine where this season is going to take us. Season 2 certainly feels as though it is working into being more of a character study of its players instead of an overarching story like Season 1. If this is the case, it will be fun to watch how living at Shibden will affect Walker. How can Lister come to terms with the end of Mariana’s romantic relationship with her? How will Lister’s decisions affect those around her? Most importantly, what will all of this lead to?

Written by Katie Bienvenue

Katie is a writer, cosplayer, craftswoman, and Barista. When she isn't talking about Chainmaille she is usually found discussing some television series, film, or how to properly make one's latte.

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