Gentleman Jack Proves The Pen Is Mightier In 'What's All That Got To Do With Jesus Though?'

Don't ever let anyone tell you that "Gentleman Jack" isn't a comedy. In case the comedic genius of Gemma Whelan's every facial expression wasn't proof enough, and you somehow missed the hilarity of Suranne Jones holding up a person-sized thermometer, then "What's All That Got to Do With Jesus Though?" is all the evidence you need: this show is a comedy gold-mine. Sure, most of the plot revolves around the heartwrenching reality of two women loving one another in 19th-century England, but when they aren't worrying about the opinions of the public or vehemently fighting to retain their ... coal pits? Property? Substantial inheritance? When all of that isn't in contention and frankly, even when it is, there's always time for absolute absurdity and Sally Wainwright knows exactly how to weave it in. The penultimate episode of the season has no shortage of dramatic tension but also happens to include some of the funniest moments yet.

SPOILERS for season 2 episode 7 of "Gentleman Jack" are below.

Back To School

You know who probably isn't laughing at the start of episode 7? Ann Walker's (Sophie Rundle) terrible cousins, the Priestleys, because their day school has just been evicted from Ann's property. Despite the fact that they treat her terribly and have poured endless amounts of energy into trying to destroy her happiness with Anne, this isn't something Miss Walker has done for the sake of being mean. It's all part of her attempt to divide the estate with her sister Elizabeth, and the eviction notice itself was the work of Captain Sutherland. When Ann hears about the Priestleys' outrage, she actually feels pretty bad. But then Miss Lister (Suranne Jones) comes up with a brilliant idea to make sure those 40 children are still attended to: Ann should open up a school of her own at Lightcliff! And why the hell not start school? It's not like they have anything else going on ...

The wives not only find time in their own schedules but recruit Mr. Washington in running the day school. And so begins a sequence that is easily the highlight of the episode, where the three of them use varying teaching styles to impart some wisdom to the youth of Halifax. Mr. Washington is both animated and boring, based on the blank stares of the school girls — but the wives are a little better received. Ann inspires some foul language and like all the best teachers, doesn't even reprimand the student. Meanwhile, Anne essentially tosses the Sunday school curriculum out the window and brings passion to the classroom by teaching the girls about algebra. This is where the episode gets its title when one plucky girl dares to ask: "What's all that got to do with Jesus though?" Anne responds with a spirited rant where she concludes: "Mathematics is the basis of everything in creation. Isn't that extraordinary?"

All in all, it's a great time for the wives, especially when you recall last week's discussion of children: by no means is this a replacement, but a reminder of exactly the point Anne made. Having children themselves isn't the only thing to look forward to in life — and judging by Ann's smile, running this school (and the rest of her property) is yet another source of joy to count on.

Anne Digs A Deeper Hole

Running a school isn't all fun and games, though. It's quite an undertaking and pulls them away from Shibden for a few hours, which is more than enough time for absolute anarchy to ensue — and by anarchy, I mean poor judgment. Matthew (Leo Flanagan) and Eugenie (Albane Courtois) choose that time to slip away into the woods for a quickie. It's actually something they've been doing throughout the season and honestly, I couldn't tell if it was just a random running joke or something that would eventually have consequences. The time for answers has arrived!

The shagging servants are caught in the act by the wives. Miss Walker basically laughs it off — to be specific, she squeals and then bursts out laughing. But Anne? Not so much. Miss Lister hates the idea of having an improper house and they're killing her very serious vibe, so she fires Eugenie. Doing the same to Matthew would be fair and reasonable but it took ages to hire him in the first place, and having a footman around to look after her father is a necessity. The double standard of it all isn't lost on Eugenie, but what can she do? Well, she gets to brainstorming and tries to fool Anne into believing that she intends to marry Matthew, so Miss Lister rescinds the 1 month's notice — even though she can see right through this plan. Only time will tell if they actually have to go through with this proposed wedding but for Matthew's sake, I hope not — he looks absolutely terrified of both women.

Maybe all of this is so upsetting to Anne because despite all the work she puts into her business, no one is taking her seriously. She continues doubling down on her plans to construct a new section of town, and while the mathematics of 19th-century construction costs is lost on me, I do understand how absolutely stunned her lawyer looks when she asks for yet another loan, of €4500. Even though he tries to warn her AGAIN about how terribly risky this is, she plans to sell her navigation shares — something that won't go over super well after her elegant speech to the other investors about believing in the industry. If it ends up failing and everyone takes a loss but her, Anne will be in major trouble. Plus, for any of this to work, she may need sign-off from Christopher Rawson, aka her arch-nemesis. Captain Lister makes his concern crystal clear when Anne tries to get the family hyped about her big construction plans. Hell, even Aunt Anne has some hesitations and she's always been a never-ending source of support for Anne. With all these warning signs, it's starting to feel like Anne is hurtling towards financial ruin. Good thing she married up, amirite?

Walker Vs Sutherland

Ann Walker isn't just teaching schoolchildren this week, she also has an important lesson for TV viewers: you need not share a screen with someone to go head-to-head in an all-out war. Captain Sutherland and Ann Walker have been viciously engaged in battle via parchment for nearly the entire season, ever since she declared her desire to officially divide the estate with her sister and get her half of their inheritance. At first, this move baffled Sutherland; the Ann he remembers was weak and easy to push around. He nearly manipulated her into a marriage with his relative and suddenly she's speaking up for herself? Making demands? Something must be afoot.

Much like the Priestley's, he's finally found an answer that makes sense: this isn't Ann Walker at all. It's the nefarious Anne Lister taking advantage of her! Watching him get up on her high horse about how terrible it is for Ann to be swindled out of her fortune is hilarious, given it's exactly what he's done to his wife. In reality, he just never imagined he would be contested in seizing the entire Walker fortune for himself. Funnily enough, there is some truth to his theory, but he's too dumb to understand the complexities: Ann Walker has indeed been influenced by Anne. Miss Lister has brought out her strength and pushed her to take more from the relatives who spent years pushing her around. Even watching Anne make risky business moves is inspiring to Ann, who wants to make her land and fortune work too. She may use Anne's dictation to actually write to Sutherland, but it's Miss Walker's own will that's driving her. Which is something Sutherland may soon learn for himself.

Letter writing has always been pretty damn significant in this show — when Anne has the pen, it's often an intimate act. But there's no tenderness when Ann and Sutherland are communicating. "Gentleman Jack" makes their exchanges feel like a goddamn action thriller. At this point, it would be less dramatic if they whipped out swords and fought things out the old-fashioned way! When the episode comes to a close, it's with a surprising promise: for once, we don't end on the face of Anne Lister or her dear wife. We end with Captain Sutherland, whose furious to learn that the deeds for Crows Nest are residing at Shibden Hall. Although by this point he's agreed to divide the estate, he now plans to put things on hold until he can make it to Shibden himself and see exactly what's going on.

Stray Thoughts

  • One episode left. While we anxiously await news on whether or not "Gentleman Jack" will return for a third season, we can at least focus our energies on the second season finale because there's a lot to think about. Sutherland's visit is clearly in the books for episode 8, along with the ceremony to celebrate the construction of Anne's new properties. While things are much better between the wives, the Mariana of it all may have faded into the background but isn't quite over. The truth still has to come out at some point, whether Anne likes it or not.
  • I Almost Forgot. Anne meets a nice architect, and he might be here to stay! Mr. Harper is the suitably eccentric man who's been hired to draw up plans for the casino, bank, houses, hotel and whatever the hell else Anne is dead set on building. He stops by to chat about business and sing the praises of Shibden Hall which he says has "true character" and suits Anne well. He's absolutely lovely — jumpy, excitable, and apparently brilliant. Also, he forgets to eat sometimes so Anne drags him into a chair (literally) and basically force-feeds him some tea and toast. He's more golden retriever than man and oddly, makes a great partner for Miss Lister.
  • Keep This In Mind. While Anne was dazzling the students, Eliza whispered to her classmate: 'Me and Henry Hardcastle once saw her snogging Miss Walker.' The rumor mill continues, even amongst the kids of Halifax.
  • Three Cheers For The Listers! Can we take a moment to appreciate Shibden and their tiny little round dining table? It's quite small and very cozy, especially now that Ann has joined the family, but it has routinely been the site of the heartwarming moments, hilarious subplots, and even great sadness for the family. The consistency of the Lister family as a welcoming space for Anne and Ann is one of the show's greatest details.
  • Best Dressed. Can I award a ponytail, simply for existing? Anne's low pony is the MVP of this show but fine, let's focus on the clothes. Ann is joyfully dressed when the duo goes shopping; it actually feels like they're both embracing the very best of themselves, Anne in her classic black top hat and waistcoat and Ann in a big, bright, frilly dress. It's a shame to see their joy ruined by the very rude Rawsons, but a comfort to know that they ventured out while being so unabashedly themselves.
  • Do Ladies Do That? Speak of Euclid and I dunno, understand math?! Probably not, but Anne does it anyway and she makes a point of teaching other young ladies to do the same. What a brilliant role model.
  • Of Wit And Wisdom. "Don't ever leave Shibden, Miss Lister. Your better friends' houses may be less drafty and more convenient but this has true character and that's priceless. And it suits you."
  • The Marian Lister Award For Fantastic Facial Expressions. Eugenie's face when Anne suggests she marry Matthew is pure gold, but Ann is the indisputable winner. She has not one, but three incredible reactions. First off, her response to Matthew and Eugenie sneaking in a quickie behind the barn is absolutely priceless, but so is her stunned triple take when one of the Sunday school girl's dears utters the word "bastard." Also in the running is more shock from Ann who witnesses Miss Lister snapping at Matthew to fasten his buttons (did he dare to slip away for another sex sesh or is he just that bad at dressing himself?) Let's just call it a day and say she wins for all three!
  • Words From The Heart. I might be breaking my own rules, but this one is less about the words and more about the moment: as another day winds down and the wives plan their trip to London, Ann's face glows with excitement at the idea of meeting lords and ladies. It's nice to see her so happy, and Anne agrees: "It'll be the perfect tonic. You've had too much tiresome nonsense to bother with." Don't we all just live to see Ann Walker's happiness?
  • Questions For Next Time: Whatever happened to Mr. Abbott? Is Marian still upset about the proposal — and has she made a decision? Will Aunt Ann be okay? It's hard to track the passage of time with all the furious letter writing, but surely she's through the worst of her sickness? Also, with each passing episode that we don't see Thomas Sowden, i become more and more convinced that he has killed his entire family and fed them to his pigs so, like, are they still kicking or what?

New episodes of "Gentleman Jack" debut Sundays on HBO Max.

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