Gentleman Jack Season 2 Finale: Queer Happy Endings Do Exist!

This Gentleman Jack season 2 finale recap contains spoilers. 

The Walker-Listers have arrived in London, as planned, and ooooh Ann Walker is surly! Having learned absolutely nothing from the last time she was in London with Mariana Lawton, Anne has decided to visit all her fancy friends on her own and leave her companion back at the hotel. Ann huffs and tells her wife she looks ridiculous with her hair up in curls and crosses her arms and scowls and grits her teeth and slumps down in her chair and tells Anne to pour her own feckin’ tea. The only thing keeping her from making a complete scene is that there’s no one else around. She tells Anne that she promised, from the very beginning of their courtship, to introduce her to the all the aristocratic women she’s been wooing and teaching from the inside of a whale carcass all these years, and now that the time has come, she’s leaving her here in this hotel to rot. Anne says it’s for her own good, due to her being nervous when she’s under scrutiny, and of course that makes it even worse.

Gentleman Jack Season 2 Finale: Ann Walker scowls as Anne Lister touches her shoulder

no talk me i angy

And honestly, Ann Walker could have completely handled this dinner! It seems much less stressful than a dinner at Shibden, with business guys running in and out of the room to do calculations and estimations with Anne the entire time, and her dad insulting her, and Marian desperately trying to be heard, and endless talk of Ann Walker’s petty little relatives. This is tame by comparison. Plus it includes Ann Walker’s favorite thing: Anne Lister charming the stockings off of everyone with her stories of conquered mountains, and seaside shanties with pirates, and the wood witches she met in the pursuit of the Fountain of Truth, and whatever else she’s been up to since the last time they saw her. The only thing Ann would have had a problem with is Vere Hobart finally being shaken free from the clutches of compulsory heterosexuality, realizing her husband is a dolt who only wants her to pop out babies, and asking Anne to stay close and longer. Anne says children are a blessing, shocking everyone, including herself.

Ann W’s consternation gets even more consternated when they visit a prestigious school to interview a headmaster the next day, because obviously Anne Lister does all the talking. Ann W’s starting to worry that her wife thinks she’s incompetent, and so now everyone around them is starting to think she’s helpless too. It’s a fair concern, of course, especially because her family’s been treating her like a petulant child for her entire adult life. Anne swerves and asks if Adney would like to give a small speech when they lay the ceremonial stone at the Lister Northgate Halifax Hotel and Casino. Anne is flummoxed and flattered! She asks if Anne thinks she can really give a speech, and Anne says of course she can! And, for the moment, their tentative marital bliss seems more secure.

Anne Lister listens to Vere Hobart

Oh, having a husband is terrible? Who would have guessed?

Alas! In the carriage on the way back home, as Anne does their traveling expense calculations, she’s reminded that her bride is paying for literally everything and it can’t go on like this.

Anne Lister: Okay but we did talk about the fact that I was going to have some cash flow… complications for a minute as I build a town within the town of Halifax.

Ann Walker: Yeah and who’s paying for that too?

Anne Lister: Me! With money I borrowed from the bank! Not with money I borrowed from you!

Ann Walker: And who’s gonna end up paying off those loans if your shopping mall fails, hmm? What if no one wants to visit your zoo? Or your permanent parking lot carnival?

Anne Lister: That’s ridiculous; in addition to the roller coasters, you’ll be able to play games where you win tickets that can be redeemed for prizes, such as stuffed animals and slap bracelets! And anyway, if it fails, which it won’t, I’ll sell Shibden and live under a rock, whatever, I can survive anywhere, I’m like a mountain goat.

Ann Walker: Well, I can’t! My petticoats are way too fluffy to fit under a damn rock! You are freaking me out!

Anne Lister: Well you are freaking me out because you still haven’t made provision in your will—

Ann Walker: OH HERE WE GO.

Anne Lister: Yes, here we go! You promised—

Ann Walker: —like you promised to introduce me to kings and queens! I think we should break-up. You’re being a jerk and also potentially muff-munching is actually a sin, I’m still not settled on the issue.

Anne Lister: : Fine.

Ann Walker: FINE.

Gentleman Jack Season 2 Finale: Anne Lister and Ann Walker face opposite directions in bed

This bed is too small to be angry-sleeping in!

They go to bed and face opposite directions and don’t touch and don’t sleep and it’s awful. The next morning, Anne asks if they can stop at this church she visited one time that has a memorial to a child who died, and things get EVEN SADDER. There’s a marble statue of this little girl who passed away a few days before Anne was born, and the inscription says she had towering intellect and unquenchable ambition, and so Anne has somehow convinced herself that she is this child reincarnated, or that this child was meant to be her child, because nothing else in her entire life has ever explained why she is the way she is. Not the lesbian thing; that’s clearly a gift directly from God’s hand — but why… everything else? Why was she born a genius without the means to pursue her grand schemes? Why was she born so charismatic without the social connections to advance her place in society? Why was she born with such huge aspirations and such a tiny purse? Why was she born with the GAYEST EYEBROWS ON EARTH if no woman will STAY MARRIED TO HER?

Ann W doesn’t really know what to say. She’s moved by Anne’s vulnerability, and shocked because Anne almost never opens up like this, but also… it’s a little too woo-woo for her to wrap her head around.

Marian looks sad

Well, at least you treated me better than my mom on Killing Eve.

Dinner back at Shibden is bleak. Ann gets plastered on tiny cups of wine, Captain Lister says he’s not coming to the casino groundbreaking because he’s too old to be laughed at, Aunt Ann can’t come because she’s not well, Marian’s wishy-washy about the whole thing and frankly overwhelmed with trying to manage this household and their secret sexcapades, and Matthew cannot keep his goddamn vest buttoned up! COME ON, MAN! Anne helps her wife up to bed, where she promptly yarfs, and that’s when Anne decides she wants to be single again (no, she doesn’t).

Before the casino groundbreaking, Marian interrupts Anne, who looks like the prince of the entire world in an embroidered black coat (was Suranne Jones literally born to play this role??), which she’s gently caressing while she stares at herself in the mirror and does her daily pep talk: “If you were a man, you’d be Prime Minister, but you’re not, so instead you’ll charm your way to power, fame, and fortune!” Marian says she’s not coming to the groundbreaking and also she’s moving back to town, because, see, the thing is, Mr. Abbott broke it off with her because of the rumors of Anne being Gentleman Jack after dark, and the whole county’s talking, and Marian doesn’t want to get any tomatoes or bananas thrown at her. They’re already feeding rich people to the pigs down in Halifax, she doesn’t need to be painted with the same debauched brush as her sister. She doesn’t have Anne’s talent for talking her way out of things.

Captain Sutherland tries to coerce Ann

We heard you bought a Tobin Heath jersey, okay? We heard you’ve started skipping straight to the Personal Life section when you read a Wikipedia entry.

The whole time this is going on, Captain Sutherland and Elizabeth are making their way south, and Sutherland is meeting with every man under the sun to accuse Anne Lister of having an UNNATURAL HOLD over his sister-in-law. Every one of these guys is like, “Do you mean, like, odd? Like Ann Walker’s wearing top hats now too?” And, “‘Unnatural’ as in ‘too competent’… or?” And, “Are you saying she’s ‘unnatural’ as in ‘queer’ and ‘queer’ as in ‘kooky?'” And, every time, Sutherland’s like NO I MEAN QUEER AS IN LESBIANS! Most of the men are like, “Oh shoot, does this mean I’m going to hell by association?” But not Mr. Grey! Mr. Grey goes, “Look, I know you mean ‘unnatural’ as in ‘gym teacher’ and I’m here to tell you that even if that’s true, it’s not illegal, much like taking your thermometer with you on holiday, and if you keep up these accusations, I hope you have a cool 10K handy because that’s what it cost the last person in Halifax who made these kind of rumbles against a pair of women in trousers.”

So Sutherland turns his bullying directly onto Ann, demanding the deeds to her land, grabbing at her, making scissoring motions with his fingers, saying “my dear” in the most condescending way imaginable, spitting out the name “Lister” like it’s poison on his tongue, and lying out of his whole entire butt about everything. He finally comes clomping into Shibden Hall screeching his little Scottish head off, and the Anne(s) tag-team until Elizabeth finally cracks and says this is all lies and manipulation and actually he’s the predator and money-grabber and Ann Walker should have what’s hers.

Gentleman Jack Season 2 Finale: Anne Lister and Ann Walker stand together and look into another room

He said I had more plaid than a Scottish sheep farmer.

“We may both be landlords, but I’m living rent-free in your head, Sutherland,” Anne says, before saluting little Sackville and striding off.

The casino ceremony goes off without a hitch.

Anne has mostly felt immortal her whole life, but she’s finally having a reckoning, in large part because dear beautiful perfect perfect perfect Tib’s amazing mother has passed away. She went in her sleep, surrounded by her children, and her only unmet wish was that Anne Lister be counted amongst them. Oh, she loved that little gay girl who swept her own softball-tossin’ Tib right off her feet. Tib cries, Anne cries, Marian sits at the table and tries to figure out a joke someone told yesterday.

Anne Lister and Ann Walker look affectionately at each other in the carriage

You’re paying for brunch, right? JUST KIDDING!

Anne goes to Crow’s Nest in her carriage to pick up her wife, who is glowing and grinning because Sutherland finally signed the papers. Her sister says she doesn’t know when they’ll see each other again, and the real answer is: never. Sometimes the cost of being too competent is, well, everything. Anne Lister helps Ann Walker into the carriage, and once they’re on the road, Ann says she does want to go to York and do their wills. Anne asks if she’s sure, and Ann says that she is.

They know it won’t be easy, they’re the only people in the entire world who want them to be together, but they’ve made it this far, haven’t they? And you’re not really living, are you, without taking the odd risk every now and then? And aren’t we lucky to be alive? Aren’t we lucky to have life? Isn’t every tiny moment an inexplicable delight packed with potential?


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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1489 articles for us.

23 Comments

  1. so I tried and I just can’t stand watching this show, but I am positively delighted by Heather’s recaps and read them all. the joy of them is infectious and “We heard you’ve started skipping straight to the Personal Life section when you read a Wikipedia entry” had me *dying* at the accuracy. love the end of this one, and am sad the season is over!

    • I am so sad that Season 2, ended this fast. Anne L & Ann W are still alive. I don’t know, if any such shows might have discussed this large, like G Jack. Their memory breaks my heart, whenever I think about these powerful lovely ladies. You both never vanish.

  2. Just quickly stopped in to HIGHLY recommend this book, re the Scottish “lesbians sue for libel” case referred to in this ep (and yes, it WAS the inspiration for “The Children’s Hour” of BYG infamy. Note that in the real case, no one hanged herself!)

    Reading Lillian Faderman’s lesbian herstory is always a delight.

    • OK, OK, but what about Anne-with-E (apparently?) burning Ann-no-E’s letter, and leaping into bed w/ another woman? (I’m guessing someone who emphatically FAR below a LISTER!!!! on the social scale? Sex worker? Worker worker?).

      I get it, that her tiff w/ Ann-no-E is making Anne Lister consider the delights of singledom again, but that scene totally shocked me (esp since, were I in the same sitch, I have to admit I’d probably be more about RECEIVING a Big O than, ala Anne-with-E, giving one).

  3. I’m so glad to see Ann Walker find her voice!! It’s what I was waiting for the whole damn season long!! Miss Lister finally showed her that she actually respected her!

    Relatedly, I cheered when Elizabeth finally got up the courage to contradict her awful husband.

  4. I absolutely love this show! I think Miss Lister is using Miss Walker for financial gain. Her stunt by stopping to see a statue of a dead girl was just another ploy to draw Miss Walker in; to show her “compassion” and “softer”side. Of course, Miss Walker keeps crawling up the same spider web oblivious to the danger that surrounds her. I was happy to see a spark of sassiness in her, it’s about time! Looking forward to the next season!

    • THANK YOU! This recap is driving me nuts bc it completely overlooks the post that it seems like Lister was setting Walker up to lose EVERYTHING! The entire episode Walker has the right instincts on how to handle the will and Lister gives her the exact opposite advice. If it wasn’t for the gardener guy sharing a name with the lawyer Walker wouldn’t have anything!

  5. Amazing recap. Emotional to learn that IRL, that was the last time Elizabeth and Ann saw each other. It was so wonderful to watch the finale in community on the discord, thank you everyone for that!

  6. I normally really enjoy your recaps, but I feel like you skipped a lot of the episode to suit the narrative of a happy ending. Not mentioning Lister imagining Marianne in bed with her, not mentioning the only reason Walker kept her money and freedom was a dues ex machina of the gardener and lawyer having the same last name, and not mentioning the fact that somehow the competent businesswoman Lister gives Walker ALL the wrong advice on how to handle the documents for the will. I want a happy ending too, but I just don’t see it.

    I know you only have a limited amount of time to write articles, but if you could explain your reasoning, I’d really appreciate it.

    • Sure, I’ll explain my reasoning for leaving the Mariana dream scene out of the recap: I forgot about it. I have a cognitive disability caused by Covid and exacerbated by my inability to sleep, which is caused by the recent death of my mother, the cancer treatment I have been undergoing, and the appointments I’ve been having to schedule a double mastectomy to reduce my risk of more cancer in the future. I usually watch the episodes and make a lot of notes because of how my brain now functions, but for the finale, I chose instead to watch and chat along with our A+ community, so I didn’t have any notes. I also didn’t have time to rewatch the episode because of doctor’s appointments. All of this because I am a human being writing about a TV show, one that I love very much, for a community I love very much. I am not a robot or a professor engaging in longform character studies on these women.

      • Heather, I’m sorry that all of this is happening to you at once. It sounds like a lot and I cannot even put into words how incredibly tough this must be. I am wishing you all the best for these hard and difficult times.
        Also as a reply to Rrr, Heather does not owe us anything and does need to justify herself. A review cannot touch upon everything and satisfy every reader’s priorities about an episode.

  7. Great recap as always. I haven’t seen this episode yet of putting it off knowing you were right after we a whole year for another season. I will say I feel like this season was significantly lacking compared to the last one, there wasn’t as much fun spice or originality. I felt like the leads were not given a chance to shine as often and the side plots bogged down way too much also what happened to the pig farm? I also was really hoping we would get to see more of Anne’s past or more of an idea of how she lived her life when she wasn’t with Ann, or just more about how it was to be gay back then in high society. I also don’t hate Mariana and actually wish we could see more of her.

    There is a switch a annes also in this that really confused
    me-

    Anne swerves and asks if Adney would like to give a small speech when they lay the ceremonial stone at the Lister Northgate Halifax Hotel and Casino. Anne is flummoxed and flattered! She asks if Anne thinks she can really give a speech, and Anne says of course she can! And, for the moment, their tentative marital bliss seems more secure.

  8. This show has had so many complicated threads to follow this season (coal, elections, canals, pigs, wills and deeds, guineas vs. pounds, nice aunts, mean aunts, a boy named Sackville, fast carriages, extremely tall hats and even taller eyebrows, scratchy pens and letters folded up twenty times, casino architecture etc. etc!), not to mention two main characters named Anne and Ann with Anne also having an Aunt Anne and a sister named Marian and an ex named Mariana YET you managed to write recaps that not only untangled all the threads but were so very FUNNY while also perfectly catching the the tone and spirit of the show and its main character. I really hope you enjoyed writing these as much as I did reading them.

  9. I loved your reviews. The season, I didn’t like. I think Anne Lister was such a jerk to her wife and couldn’t get passed this. I feel like season one used the diaries and diverged from the historical events in a great way by focusing on building a dramatized and romantic love story with Ann Walker. I loved the creativity there. Season two goes back to the diaries to focus on Anne Lister, the historical figure. I appreciate her legacy but I was mainly excited in season one about the potential of what you can do with the diaries to develop romantic melodrama and also show how Lister was ahead of her time. In season two, I felt that the richness of the creative romantic story was killed off in service of the historical figure of Lister. I wasn’t really watching this series to see that she was such a jerk to her wife. Like I knew it from reading about her before the series began and was fine with it ( her true love was Marianne, Walker was for convenience, probably for both of them). But season one led me on. It created a new story. One where Ann Walker was moving, and beautiful, and brave enough to overcome her mental health challenges, and also, courageous to challenge her family and society for love, and for herself. And more importantly, one where Anne Lister saw that, thought about Ann Walker in separation, missed her and loved her for all of it. In season one, the Showrunner ignored the diaries to develop a beautiful love story and I for one, loved it and felt swept away in the romanticism. In season two, the Showrunner went back to historical accuracy and gave a huge blow to the season one love story she had created in each episode of season two. To me it wasn’t happy queer love story ending. Just a queer marriage of convenience. Nothing wrong with that. Just not that exciting to watch. Nor to look forward to. I’m good with the series ending here. I’m not interested in seeing what’s coming next for both of them. Historically, it’s pretty depressing. I’m good with reading the documentary.

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