Gentleman Jack S2E3: Tripe And Triangles

Walker and Lister (Sophie Rundle and Suranne Jones) happily sit talking to someone.
Photograph by Aimee Spinks/HBO

The following contains spoilers from Gentleman Jack S2E3, “Tripe All Over the Place, Presumably” (written by Sally Wainwright and directed by Edward Hall)


Humor me for a moment. You know when you boil water and it goes through its many different forms before it actually starts to bubble? First, it gets warm so you wouldn’t expect to hurt yourself if you put your hand in it. Yet, that warmth accumulates, and suddenly down at the bottom of the pot are little bubbles. It’s at this time when the water is simmering and you know that it’s not long before those bubbles start rising and eventually overflowing. What does this have to do with Gentleman Jack? Well, tonight’s episode, “Tripe All Over the Place, Presumably” is where our characters’ problems that have been stewing for some time start their ascent to the surface.

Up till this point, the Ann(e)s have been in a “Honeymoon State” or that period of time where their love still feels so new that it seems nothing will penetrate it. They could have anything thrown at them and it wouldn’t bother them. A large part of this is because up till now they’ve either been tucked away in York far from the influence of their families or off on their honeymoon for months in France. It’s during this time their dynamic (as it appears to us in the series) has them as equals. There doesn’t seem to be one party dominating over the other and “wearing the pants” as one would say. Sure, Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) is the one arranging everything but this trip is as much Ann Walker’s (Sophie Rundle) as it is hers. 

But as we all know, if you’ve gone on vacation, the second you return home is when reality starts to trickle back in. The reality is that Lister and Walker are two very different types of people who have major insecurities and present them in different ways. At the end of Season 1 during the Hilltop Scene, Anne confesses to Walker, “I’m not as strong as you may think. Well, I am obviously but, sometimes I’m not.” It really felt in this private moment, and other private moments we’ve seen the two share, that Lister is one who is constantly putting on a show. She understands she’s different and chooses to stay ahead of everyone in order to be on top of her own narrative. This is why I think she’s so dominating in the things she attempts to go after. Her successes draw away from her failures and allow her to be oblivious of them.

This counters Ann Walker, who has spent her entire life attacking her own mental well-being because she doesn’t know how to shield herself from hurt. She piles on guilt and takes every negative action as a personal vendetta against her. At the same time though, both of these women can and have begun to learn from one another. Anne Lister in small ways has softened her approach towards some things, like how she deals with her staff, while Walker has begun to grow into her own confidence. 

The problem arises once the two are placed back in their home environment. That passionate dynamic that was seen on their travels where they continuously motivated one another begins to give way to how the pair are before they had courted one another.

Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) receives a neck massage.

Anne Lister, hiding her insecurities by putting on a dominating, masculine persona finds herself being the “pants wearer” of the couple. She is the one who is deciding things like going around to the Walker tribe and trying to forcibly convince them that Walker living at Shibden is for the best. She is the one who begins to dominate the conversations with Walker’s relatives after she thinks Walker was taking too long at one stop. There doesn’t seem to be a discussion between the two anymore and instead, it’s Anne saying one thing and Walker “yes, and” -ing. This suddenly feels like Walker has become a chore for Lister instead of a partner. I can even go so far as to compare this to how a parent would act with their child. There is a moment when Walker is telling a cute story about how during their trip Anne had to use the men’s lavatory to clean up, the look on Anne’s face as she tells it is one that says, “Of all the stories, did you have to pick this one? We couldn’t pick one that won’t add to your family’s discomfort?” She takes the time to instead draw attention away from her by asking about the railroads. Some might want to chalk it up to their age difference, but the truth is Anne Lister is trying too hard to keep up a persona that Ann Walker just doesn’t fit into. 

This dynamic can really only go so far before the love and passion we’ve seen the two exhibit in Season 1 diminishes. That is what’s happening in “Tripe All Over the Place, Presumably”. Lister has long been presenting herself with this manly persona and because of that has fallen into the same pattern most men fall into… taking their wives for granted. Lister seems to be treating Walker more like a piece of property than her life partner. 

Truly Anne, I want to think better of you! Ann Walker did not come back from a major meltdown, marched her butt up a gigantic hill, and profess her love to you, only to have you treat her like something that you can use up and toss aside! She is your partner and a partner shouldn’t be thought of as just something to have around! They should be seen as an extension to you, like how Ann Walker used her strength, which was inspired by yours, in Scotland to tell her cousins how she was going to perceive leaving.  

Anyway, instead, we now have an Ann Walker who has begun to revert back to who she was before. “Why do people think they can ignore me? It’s as if I’m invisible.” This fear has also extended to Lister, “I was worried you were ignoring me today. In the carriage. You were so animated in the company and then in the carriage barely spoke.” When the two left the Rawsons, Walker was waiting, like a puppy, to have Anne reassure her with at least a “well done Adney (Lister’s pet name for her)” but all she was greeted with was Lister saying that they should go check out this new train contraption. How is Walker supposed to feel empowered when she’s shrugged off by those around her. She feels that she holds no control and yet, there’s Anne Lister effortlessly exerting so much of it. Even Washington refuses to help reach out to her sister regarding their estate when asked. “After he’d gone I thought, ‘well, first of all, if you’d ask him to do something like that he wouldn’t even question it.’” 

This attitude is not going to serve her well in the long run. In fact, it can prove to be harmful since it’s this feeling of not being heard that gives her the most anxiety. Since she’s been talked down to for the majority of her life, it takes a lot of courage to exert herself. If she’s discouraged then it will just make it harder for her to change this behavior. As someone who’s been there, being told you did well every once in a while is a fantastic motivator. This is probably why I found myself, many times, yelling at Lister for treating Walker the way she does in this episode.

The Ann(e)s dynamic change is only made more visible when you start to take note of Lister’s strong feelings towards a certain Mariana Lawton (Lydia Leonard) creeping back in. To Anne, Mariana is her safe zone. It’s the one relationship that she has constantly gone back to time and time again. It’s even gotten to the point where Mariana sees these other relationships as skirmishes, which is probably why she views Walker as just another phase. She refuses to take it seriously and yet is hurt when Lister attempts to set boundaries.

Mariana (Lydia Leonard) yells at Anne.

It’s important to understand that Mariana Lawton and Anne Lister have had over a two-decade-old relationship before Walker came into the picture. There is a bond that is between them that is hard to separate because of that history. Gentleman Jack may make Mariana out to be the homewrecker with her constant badgering of Anne through her letters, but it’s important to understand where that is coming from.

As Tib pointed out in the previous episode, “Did Mariana ever really have choices?” and the short answer is no. Mariana lived in a time where the main thing women were expected to do was to get married and have children. Her marriage would have to be able to continue her family’s climb up the social ladder that seemed to start with her father and his decision to change their last name to Belcombe (Mariana’s maiden name) in the first place. In order to be different one ran the risk of being completely abandoned by their family. Lister and Tib had the gumption not to care what their families thought.

Reading about Mariana and her family one could quickly gather that they would not be as forgiving had she run off with Anne. So instead, Mariana had to make her choice and she chose family duty over her heart. The problem with this is when your regret begins to settle in. For Mariana, I believe that hit the very second she read Anne’s first letter telling her that she was officially with Walker and that there had to be new boundaries between the two.

I feel that regret turned into resentment when she read Anne’s most recent letter telling her that she’s basically made her bed and now she had to sleep in it. It was sent after many letters were shared between the two where each attempted to crush the other’s heart with guilt. Mariana would declare how she only loved Lister. Anne would write back asking her why she had waited this long to actually declare it. Mariana would retaliate by sharing how she had actually passed Shibden and for the first time, that she could remember, didn’t stop. This retaliation continued between the two until Anne puts it as bluntly as one could possibly, “You have feared where no fear was. You have doubted where no doubt ought to have been, and why seek farther for a reason of our present position in regards to each other? Our happiness together has become too difficult.” 

The realization that she may have finally lost Lister coupled with her marriage becoming more intolerable moves Mariana into becoming that ball of resentment. Resentment for not taking the chances she ought to. Resentment in destroying the only true friendship she had, and resentment towards the woman who stole the life she should have had.

Gentleman Jack’s Mariana is not afraid to admit how envious she actually is of Ann Walker. To her, Walker is this inferior creature that is completely opposite from everything Lister is. She’s just “some insipid, little heiress” that she believes Anne only wants for her money. “You’re not in love with her. I know it. I can see it. I can hear it. I can read between the lines. The way you write about her in your letters. I know when you’re in love and this isn’t it.” Mariana deeply believes that if she can have the chance to get Lister alone she would be able to remind her of their passion and love for one another.

It’s with this that I can’t help but feel pity for Mariana. Living your life dwelling on “could be”s just ends up leaving you feeling incomplete. These are choices you made. These are the consequences you have to deal with. Wasting your life away on an unseen future event like “When Charles dies.” just cuts you off from living a full, rich life. Mariana may have been truly happy at one point, but now she’s become bitter, and it doesn’t look good on her.

This episode sets up the ultimate question, who does Anne Lister want to be with? History may have given us its answer but even within the fandom, this debate continues. I hear Mariana is too toxic for Anne. I hear Walker is just someone she settled for. The truth is that Anne Lister loved both of these women. If this was a perfect world, I bet Anne would have just continued seeing both Walker and Lawton. They might ever have all just lived at Shibden together, but we’re not in that perfect world and we can’t help who we come to have feelings for and when those feelings will appear.

There’s a reason the entertainment industry has created the “love triangle”. Look at Outlander. Claire, who is from the 1940s is happily married to Frank but then she falls through time and finds herself in 1700s Scotland. While there she meets Jamie Fraser and ends up falling in love with him. In the Hunger Games, Katniss starts out thinking she’s in love with Gale but once in the games she finds herself being drawn more to Peeta. In Pearl Harbor Evelyn loves Rafe but when he’s believed to be dead she begins a romance with his best friend Danny. We, as a society, eat this trope up and it’s because it’s one that we can say we’ve come close to experiencing ourselves.

Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) says goodbye to Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle)

What “Tripe All Over the Place, Presumably” does so well within its structure is set up the tug-o-war between Lawton and Walker. 

I don’t know about the real Ann Walker, but Gentleman Jack’s version is no fool. Up till now, she would “rather play second fiddle than not play in the band at all.” (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) She completely understands the pull Mariana has over Lister. She notices it with every letter, every mention, and every time her name comes out of Lister’s mouth. Ann understands what’s at stake when Lister asks permission to visit Mariana. In the eyes of Lister, all she is planning to do is to go and put Lawton in her place. Walker knows better. She knows if she were to say “no”, that little hole in their relationship where Mariana is concerned would continue to grow. If she were to say “yes” she runs the risk of Lister never returning or returning only to kick her out and move Mariana in.

Walker is willing to take that chance because as the saying goes, “If you love someone then set them free. If they come back, they were yours to begin with. If they don’t then it wasn’t meant to be.” Ann is hoping with every ounce of her being that Lister will return to her. It’s never more evident than when they are saying goodbye to one another. Ann is keeping her composure even though at any moment she could start crying. She asks Anne if she should send a message to Mariana and ends it with a heartbreaking, voice cracking, “Come back.”

Even Lister understands the sentiment behind her words because deep down she finds even herself wary of what this outcome might entail. She’s made a point, till now, telling everyone that she knows how to keep her emotions in check where Mariana is concerned but every time she does, it feels more like a way to reassure herself. So, when Anne leaves Walker with an “I love you.” both Walker and us are rooting for that outcome to be in her favor. 

After these last couple of weeks of seeing everything slowly build and build, I feel the Mariana/Anne Lister/Ann Walker love triangle is finally reaching its climax. We are left with Anne Lister off at Lawton Hall and the events that are about to occur during the dreadful Christmas of 1834.

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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  1. Fantastic breakdown, with eloquent observations that I enjoy. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on this season, and your exploration of character work.

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