In the debut season of The Gilded Age, Bertha Russell, portrayed by Carrie Coon, made a triumphant entrance into New York City’s high society. Her coup was solidified when Mrs. Astor, played by Donna Murphy, attended Gladys Russell’s debutante ball, a momentous event. Despite this victory, Bertha still finds herself excluded from certain privileges and faces a fresh challenge against the established elite families.
As time has passed since the conclusion of season 1, significant developments have unfolded for the main characters. Peggy Scott, portrayed by Denée Benton, grapples with a heart-wrenching revelation. Marian Brook, played by Louisa Jacobson, is endeavoring to overcome heartbreak, while George Russell, portrayed by Morgan Spector, contends with labor union issues.
Easter Sunday Service is a pivotal event where all don their finest pastel attire for various church services. A new rector, Luke, introduces himself, and while his pleasant demeanor charms some, it fails to impress Agnes van Rhijn. However, Ada Brook seems quite taken by him. Meanwhile, Marian copes with the news of her former suitor’s impending marriage.
Oscar van Rhijn, played by Blake Ritson, experiences a harrowing incident after seeking solace in a bar. An intended encounter leads to a violent altercation, leaving him battered and robbed. Oscar downplays the details when he returns home, avoiding involving the police.
Oscar confides in his former partner, John Adams, portrayed by Claybourne Elder, about the ordeal. They agree that it’s time for Oscar to embrace a more mature lifestyle. For Oscar, this entails a more guarded existence and the pursuit of a suitable woman for marriage to carry on the van Rhijn legacy. Despite Gladys not responding to his letters, he remains fixated on her.
In Philadelphia, a somber atmosphere prevails at a church service attended by Peggy and her parents. The service commemorates Peggy’s late son Thomas and his adoptive mother, who recently succumbed to scarlet fever. While the Scotts are welcomed into this community, Peggy and her mother, Dorothy, are furious at Mr. Scott’s concealed truths that prevented a reunion before it was too late.
Peggy believes her father’s remorse is genuine but acknowledges that it doesn’t change the past. She resolves to reclaim her former position at the van Rhijn household, viewing their trio as ensnared in a cycle of regret.
While George grapples with union turmoil at his Pittsburgh steel mill, Bertha travels to Newport to showcase her opulent new mansion to Mr. McAllister. This visit also serves another purpose: Bertha seeks to secure a coveted box at The Academy of Music, a request repeatedly denied. She suspects Mrs. Astor’s involvement in this decision.
Bertha is determined not to wait or be at Mrs. Astor’s beck and call. Unlike McAllister, she is unafraid to make waves. Additionally, she seizes the opportunity to spotlight her son Larry’s architectural achievements in their home renovation project.
Aurora assists Oscar in his plan to woo Gladys by organizing a luncheon for her cousin Dashiell. This event offers Oscar the chance to engage Gladys in conversation, introducing himself as a widower with a teenage daughter. The scheme is successful, and Oscar discovers that Gladys never received his letters.
Another revelation surfaces: Marian works as an art teacher at a local girls’ school, where Frances is one of her students. Agnes is appalled by this revelation and Marian’s decision to keep it a secret. Marian defends her choice and resists her aunt’s pressure to quit her job.
Bertha orchestrates an event for opera enthusiasts to express her stance on the rivalry between The Academy and the Met. The evening features a surprise performance by the renowned Christina Nilsson. Despite a non-opera-related revelation during the dinner, Bertha emerges victorious in this initial battle. The question remains: does she have what it takes to face off against Mrs. Astor?