The Gilded Age review – New HBO show proves period dramas belong in England

Posted on 31 January 2022
By Tess Penman
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The Gilded Age debuted this month with a star-studded cast and from the pen of Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellows, so expectations were high.

Just like HBO’s other show of the moment Euphoria, episodes are released weekly, so to all the bingers out there, you have to hang tight with this one.

The drama is set in the Gilded Age of USA; a time during the 1860-90’s where there was huge economic growth and an increase in immigration from overseas.

America was progressing faster than Europe, and many left their homeland to live the American dream.

Was there anything dreamy about this pilot though? The cast, yes. That’s about it. But there is a lot to be said about the cast, so let’s start there.

The cast has more Broadway talent than it’s famous theatres could house! Amongst the crew, there are 39 Tony nominations and 21 winners.

The iconic Audra McDonald even makes a short appearance in the first episode.

For 90 minutes, I expected to feel romantic pangs about a period way beyond my time, just like I felt watching Bridgerton and Belgravia. Yet, something about Gilded Age felt off. Maybe it’s because I’m used to British period dramas.

For a pilot episode to last an hour and a half, I can name two things that happened. Marian moves to New York to live with her estranged aunts after her father died.

Bertha is new to 5th Avenue and keen to make an impression but the New York socialites are not interested. Anything else? I would have to rack my mind.

It is right to note how Fellows writing is historically accurate, especially when it comes to society’s treatment of black people.

Although perhaps watching period dramas as a black person must be challenging – to see yourself represented either as a slave or being badly mistreated.

This is why Bridgerton was so refreshing to watch because, regardless of it being set in the Regency era, they had black characters as part of the elite.

Some might argue that history should not be erased or altered because it is uncomfortable to watch. I get that. But whether the show is historically correct or not, it is still… boring.

I hope episode 2 proves me wrong and if you’re interested in entering the Gilded Age for an hour every Monday then tune into Sky Atlantic or HBO Max.