While it's certainly painful to watch Anne (Suranne Jones) dive back into her past, unraveling her feelings for Mariana (Lydia Leonard) was always an inevitability. By all accounts (aka the thriving lesbian inner circle they have yet to welcome Miss Walker into), Mariana was the first great love of Anne's life. They spent years as a couple and for a long time anticipated a life together. Even after Mariana's marriage, they couldn't let one another go. But now Anne wants to move on and with Anne Walker (Sophie Rundle) she's found someone she can love enough to envision a new future. But the past won't be so easily left behind so there was never any possibility of moving on without returning to Mariana first — and better now than 20 years into the Lister-Walker marriage. Just as the wince-worthy title promises, "I'm Not The Other Woman, She Is" is an opportunity for Anne to confront her ex and face her past head-on before really taking a stab at a happy future with Ann.
SPOILERS for season 2 episode 4 of "Gentleman Jack" are below.
"Secrets and lies… Isn't life sordid and banal?"
Mariana Lawton has made herself awfully difficult to dislike. Between her glamorous fashion sense, overdramatic tendencies, and ability to match Anne's wit with ease, it's an absolute delight whenever Suranne Jones and Lydia Leonard share the screen — even though it usually spells bad news for the show's central couple. The fourth episode picks up right where the last left off, with Anne and Mariana having it out over dinner ("I waited for you for nearly twenty years — did you really think I wouldn't move on?" "But… her! What is she even?"). This argument essentially takes them through Miss Lister's entire visit. They have brief moments of relief — where Mariana can almost pretend Anne hasn't married another woman while Anne tricks herself into thinking their relationship remains unchanged — but for the most part, neither of them can be free of their bitterness. Even reminiscing about old times has a way of turning sour on them: recalling a blissful night of sex in Scarborough reminds Anne that Mariana always doubted her and refused to take a chance on her — which in turn reminds Mariana that Anne didn't even try to fit in when they were together. Plus, she always pretends she had a choice in marrying Charles when she obviously didn't.
Speaking of Charles, a piece of Wonder Bread so utterly boring that we forgot to pay him any mind, it turns out he's absolutely despicable, which explains why Mariana has been so wretched. Along with revealing that an affair from several years ago left him with a bastard child who now works in their servant's quarters, Mariana shares a harrowing story about a girl in the village who Charles has been sexually harassing. None of which is very well hidden, meaning people know and Mariana is very embarrassed. (Embarrassment hardly seems like the big takeaway here but okay then.) Having Anne around is a comfort because it means she isn't entirely alone, but also serves to make Mariana more miserable and bitter — because Anne is just visiting, only to return home to a life that Mariana isn't part of.
The rift between them is layered: as much as Mariana resents Anne for moving on and however much Anne continues to love her, neither of them can deny that all the things keeping them apart remain true. All the old arguments have a way of rearing their heads — like Anne's inability to appear ladylike and Mariana's refusal to believe in her. The other issue is that Mariana sees Anne's marriage as no different from her own: Ann is the other woman, as she so deftly summarizes. Ann is a marriage of convenience, for comfort and money, not for love, just like Charles is for her. Except that we and Anne both know that to be untrue. Mariana might know it too, but refuses to admit it — and she's only proven "right" later in the episode when Anne does what she tried so hard not to — she breaks her vows and spends a night with Mariana.
Cheaters Never Prosper
This was always the fear, right? Spending a few days at your ex's house is just inviting trouble — and it certainly doesn't help that Mariana would knock on her door at night for a friendly visit that had some very clear sordid intentions. While Anne successfully turned her down on the first night, she later complained that Mariana didn't stop by for their usual morning chitchat — which we all know means pillow talk except, apparently, Anne who thinks their relationship can resume as usual (sans the intimate bits). But despite all her talk about vows and oaths and loyalty, this might be another thing Anne needed to get out of her system because once the backslide is over, the shame and regret set in. While Mariana spends the rest of the episode glowing with smugness, Anne looks to be on a death march.
Before Anne returns home, Miss Walker spends a few days alone at Shibden Hall. She's certainly not unhappy, and is warmly welcomed by Marian, Captain Lister, and Aunt Anne — but she does seem considerably less comfortable without Miss Lister's presence. She's less talkative at dinner but then again, Ann has a way of surprising the people around her and opens up after the arrival of an unexpected visitor.
Would ya look at that, Mr. James Ingham (of Blake Hall! In Muirfield!) is not just a figment of Mrs. Priestly's imagination but an actual man who arrives to ruin romance! Except that Ann won't let him, because contrary to the beliefs of all the irritating people who keep referring to her as "timid" and "insipid," she has a will of her own and has become more and more confident in her ability to prove it. When Mr. Ingham arrives to propose marriage, she spends approximately 90% of their time together bragging about her wife and happy life at Shibden Hall, and the other 10% is spent shutting Mr. Ingham down. Ann is happy where she is and is no longer willing to bend to pressure from her family.
'I Just Hope Miss Walker Is Enough For Her'
The question everyone keeps posing is whether or not Miss Walker is enough for Anne. Mariana dubs her a "dutiful schoolgirl," and Anne friends have dismissed her as "simple" or just a source of money for Anne, but anyone who has truly seen them together knows better. Anne herself knows better, as she keeps telling Mariana — Ann is full of surprises and depth that she hasn't had the chance to show the entire world. But Anne has seen all she needs to know how much she loves her. Of course, this relationship is different than what she had with Mariana, but how can such a thing be measured?
Luckily, Anne doesn't spend all her time cheating on her wife this week — she also takes a break to remind us of her elitist politics by making a child cry. All around, a pretty rough week for fans of Anne Lister: one of Thomas Howes' daughters was sent to work in Mariana's kitchens and isn't thriving because the work doesn't suit her. Also, she's homesick and might prefer a reality where she's allowed to get an education and pursue another line of work, but none of this matters because she's just a girl of absolutely no means. Anne gives a grand speech about accepting your lot in life and working hard and sounds an awful lot like Kim Kardashian, which is not a comparison I ever thought I'd make.
When at last she leaves the Lawton house of horrors, Anne warns Mariana to be careful in her letters (which she always shows to her wife) and arrives home to tenderly reunite with Ann. The joy of seeing them together again is almost enough to snuff out everything that followed, but judging by the way Ann pauses when they embrace, Mariana isn't in the rearview just yet. Mariana coming to visit feels like an inevitability that on one hand, is a terrifying bump in the road that could derail this relationship … but on the other hand, what delicious drama such an occasion promises.
I Almost Forgot! Anne gets her name in this episode! At long last, someone has dropped the title — Gentleman Jack. And it shakes her. We don't often see words get to Anne, who has developed a very thick skin over the years, but she seems very troubled by this threat.
Give Ann Her Flowers. While lashing out at Mariana, Anne points out that one of the things that makes Ann so wonderful is that she's never asked her to change. Ann has never been embarrassed by the way she dresses or acts, only amazed. Sure enough, when James Ingham stops by to call Anne eccentric, Miss Walker dismisses this: "I've never found her so. I've always just found her to be very clever and very interesting."
Keep This In Mind. John Abbott has returned and once again, Anne doesn't have the time of day for him. Marian once imagined a future with Mr. Abbott and given she still brings him up at every other meal, is still hoping for a proposal — but Anne was never a fan. While we'd like to imagine that Anne will support her sister's potential happiness, her views on anyone in the lower class have been made abundantly clear. Good luck to Marian if she keeps floating this possibility.
Pull It Together, Anne! The only thing worse than cheating on your wife (with the ex-girlfriend that she so graciously lets you visit) is following that up by recreating your wedding ceremony with said ex. What fresh hell is this?
And They Were Roommates. As the night winds down, Mariana and Anne abandon the dinner party to head upstairs and COMMIT ADULTERY. Because they're besties.
Best Dressed. With mild bitterness, I must award this to Mariana and her gorgeous dinner party dress. When not sabotaging Anne's relationship, she is delivering (as the poets say) great gowns, beautiful gowns.
Do Ladies Do That? "Of course she does like younger ladies, as well. But… in a different way. Obviously."
The Marian Lister Award For Fantastic Facial Expressions. Whatever the hell is happening to Captain Lister on the couch at Aunt Ann's is either ridiculously funny or cause for sincere medical concern. Or… both?
Of Wit And Wisdom. "I've never liked Mrs. Lawton. She's used Anne so much over the years and Ms. Walker's so devoted to her." Thanks, Marian. If only Anne could hear you…
Words From The Heart. "I would have conquered empires for you." Ouch.
Questions For Next Time: Are we gearing up for Ann Walker to tell off the Priestleys? She's very decisive and certain when chatting with Mr. Ingham, and also quite irritated when she realizes that the Priestleys are at it again. And after standing up for herself against them, might she also have some words for Anne, given the whole Mariana situation?
New episodes of "Gentleman Jack" debut Sundays on HBO Max.
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