I recently watched BBC One period drama Gentleman Jack. Many period dramas have completely passed me by.
There is one big reason why I stuck with Gentleman Jack, namely the genius creator and writer behind it all Sally Wainwright.
Sally really is a storyteller of the highest calibre. Her Last Tango in Halifax was an exceptional piece of work, as well as Happy Valley being one of the greatest dramas to have graced our television screens in the last twenty years or more. I love how her dramas are completely different from one another.
Nevertheless, and this includes this first helping of Gentleman Jack, the basic ingredients are all the same. Great narrative, great acting and background music that creates a wonderful ambience.
Therefore, expectations were extremely high as Gentleman Jack started. Ten minutes down and I was almost reaching for the turn off button. I guess as with my first experience of watching foreign cinema, my senses felt somewhat overwhelmed. There was too much noise, too much action and dialogue that I found tricky to comprehend.
However, I stuck with it and I am so pleased that I did because the more I watched, then the easier it got to grasp. Before I knew it, the ending credits were rolling, and my final verdict of it was one of considerable enjoyment.
Set in 1832 in Halifax, England, Gentleman Jack stars Suranne Jones in the lead role as Anne Lister. We saw Anne return from a Hastings due to a breakdown in her lesbian relationship with Vere Hobart (Jodhi May). She is forthright, bold and seems like a woman on a mission. Furthermore, she is a landlord which means she is both respected and despised in the local community. There was plenty of evidence here yet again that Sally Wainwright is great at both creating and writing, brilliantly ballsy female characters.
Other narrative strands worth noting included Anne discovering that her land was rich in coal. Another, was Anne coming in contact again with the shy heiress Ann Walker, played by the always seemingly brilliant Sophie Rundle. Keep your eyes peeled here folks cos I’m strongly sensing some rather heavy romantic action is soon going to be happening between these two.
There was no massive cliffhanger at the end or anything, but this should not be levelled as a valid criticism of it because it is not a key convention of a period drama. Nevertheless, it had energy though. It ended on a positive upbeat note that made watching episode two feel like a very appealing prospect.
I enjoyed sticking with a period drama for the first time in my life. This show got better and better as it went on. Once again Gentleman Jack proved just what a storyteller extraordinaire Sally Wainwright really is!
- You can catch up on BBC iPlayer.