On Screen: “The Gilded Age: Season 2”

The Gilded Age: Season 2

The second season of Julian Fellowes’ genteel, rococo soap opera known as “The Gilded Age” finds ambitious 19th century NYC aristocrats dressed in bustles and top hats. Ambition meets its match as traditional customs collide with innovative schemes, proving that when the old rules don’t bend, something has to break.

And since much of the filming took place in and around New York and Rhode Island, more than 60 of Broadway’s brightest musical stars comprise the cast, giving it a frivolous upstairs-downstairs aura — like ‘Downton Abbey Lite.’

Season 2 begins on Easter morning, 1883, with the news that snobbish Mrs. Caroline Astor (Donna Murphy) has rejected nouveau riche Bertha Russell’s (Carrie Coon) request for a box at the prestigious Academy of Music, despite Bertha’s new champion, busybody Ward McAllister (Nathan Lane).

In retaliation, Bertha ruthlessly challenges Society’s Old Guard by sponsoring the new Metropolitan Opera, while her railroad tycoon husband George (Morgan Spector) tackles the threat of labor unions at his Pittsburgh steel plant. (Although she’s not named, Bertha’s character is obviously based on Alva Vanderbilt.)

Among spectators at Newport’s lawn tennis, Bertha’s Harvard-educated architect son Larry (Harry Richardson) becomes scandalously infatuated with older, widowed Mrs. Susan Blane (Laura Benanti). Returning to New York, he learns who really designed the engineering for the just-opened Brooklyn Bridge.

Across East 61st Street at the Brook House, acerbic Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) discovers to her chagrin that her niece Marian (Louisa Jacobson, Meryl Streep’s youngest daughter) is teaching art at a girls’ school and that her sister Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon), aided by Aurora Fane (Kelli O’Hara), may no longer be a lonely spinster.

Meanwhile in Brooklyn, melodrama reigns supreme as grieving Dorothy Scott (Audra McDonald) learns that her intrepid daughter Peggy (Denee Benton) has become an activist-journalist at the Black-owned New York Globe.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Gilded Age: Season 2” is a sumptuous, sudsy 7, streaming on HBO MAX.


Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures. Her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M.

As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O’Brien, and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism.

During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie and drama critic, syndicating her reviews and articles around the world, including Video Librarian. She has appeared on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies. In 2017, her book 150 Timeless Movies was published by Hannacroix Creek Books. Her website is www.susangranger.com.

Also in Weston Today...