The Gilded Age Episode 7 Review: Irresistible Change

Thomas Edison lights up New York as The Gilded Age prepares to enter into a new era altogether.

Carrie Coon, Nathan Lane, and Kelli O'Hara in The Gilded Age episode 7
Photo: HBO

This The Gilded Age review contains spoilers.

The Gilded Age Episode 7

Episode 7 of The Gilded Age is clearly gearing up for the major events bound to occur in the season finale on March 21. Thomas Edison switching on electric power for the first time in New York City is the symbolic backdrop for the characters who are resisting change and those who are seizing the opportunities a changing society will bring. Before Edison shows our cast the wonders of what we take for granted, however, there’s quite a bit of drama to sort through.

George incorporates electricity into his display model for the new “Union Central Station”. His model is a hybrid of the old Penn Station and the first iteration of Grand Central Terminal exteriors. The investors and workers are definitely impressed by his plans but there are a few bumps in the road ahead before the station can be built. First of all, Larry doesn’t want to train as the next CEO of the railroad. He wants to train under Mr. White the architect instead. White attempts to smooth things over by saying he can learn how to design things useful for the railroad but Larry wants the full-on battle with his father. Will Larry be able to change George’s mind?

The second major bump in the road for George is the investigation into the train derailment. Dickson, the man in charge of installing the faulty train axles, is claiming he has a memo from George asking to do whatever is necessary to trim the budget. George’s lawyer brings up that there’s missing money from his budget which can be used as evidence Dickson is full of crap in court. Either way, George is ready for the worst as it’s highly likely public opinion will turn towards vilifying a rich man. He could get off or face jail time for manslaughter by negligence and only time will tell how that goes.  

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Last but not least, Bertha’s single focus on her grand entrance to society is irritating George to no end. He knows deep down she supports him but at this point, all she can talk about are her plans for Edison’s electricity display and Gladys’ debutante ball. The speeding up of the planning takes Gladys by surprise as only a little while ago Bertha was dead set against it. It’s safe to assume Gladys’ debut will be the penultimate or the last episode of the season.  

Elsewhere, Turner’s luck has run out. Agnes is completely convinced Oscar and Turner are having an illicit affair and poor Marian has to be the messenger for this fanfiction. She doesn’t know about Turner’s repeated attempts to convince George that she would be the best mistress ever but she can tell the vibes are off. Turner is fired with a promise of a reference but her goodbye has a touch of sinister to it because she asks about the railroad case. What does that have to do with fixing Bertha’s hair? After she leaves, Turner manages to meet Oscar to tell him the odds of success with Gladys are improving. He’s OK with the fanfiction about the affair at least as a way to distract Agnes from discovering John. Could Turner collaborate with Dickson to prove negligent manslaughter or will she claim something else happened with George?

Across the street, Agnes is still pressed about Bannister helping out with Bertha’s luncheon. She has turned up the passive-aggressiveness to eleven and refuses to directly address him. Bannister doesn’t have a checking account yet so he can’t be comforted by his windfall. Marian also tries to make some headway towards convincing the aunts that Mr. Raikes isn’t a fortune hunter but Agnes remains unmoved. 

Everyone has a plan to see Edison switch on the lights except Marian and the Aunts. Agnes has no interest in seeing a world-changing event. Peggy is going with Fortune to represent the Globe. Not only is this an important public interest story, but both of them also want to see Edison fully credit Black inventor Louis Latimer for inventing carbon filaments for light bulbs.  

Marian can’t fit in with Bertha’s carriage party as Raikes and others are taking up seats. George is going as a dignitary guest of Edison. Marian has some simmering jealousy but she has decided to make the best of it. Her meeting with Raikes at Mrs. Chamberlains did end with a kiss and some strengthened resolve towards defying the odds. 

The Gilded Age is correct on everything about Edison switching on the lights and overall public reaction except the location. Edison’s Pearl Street Station in downtown Manhattan really was powered up on September 4, 1882. The episode moved the New York Times headquarters from close to the power plant further north to Park Avenue. 

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There are sparks coming from places other than Thomas Edison’s electric circuits. Fortune seems a little too familiar to be anything other than Peggy’s boss. While they’re successful with harvesting “man on the street” interviews, Edison doesn’t say anything about Latimer’s work. Meanwhile, at the carriage picnic, Mr. Raikes seems to be hitting it off with Aurora Fain’s friend. She’s talking about visiting Newport and all the fun things to do there. Mr. McAllister chimes in with how wonderful it is up there and that Mrs. McAllister refuses to leave enjoying the sea air. (There goes the queer coding theory from earlier on….)  Will Mr. Raikes still feel committed to Marian after meeting all of these new women who may have more money than her?

Bertha’s last line “we must go where history takes us” is symbolic of the entire era. Those with money and power will be the ones to shape history. In turn, the characters must decide where their own paths will take them. Will Marian fully commit to marrying Raikes? Can Peggy become the in-universe Ida B. Wells? Can George set a precedent for corporate negligence? Will Glady’s debutante ball also come with an invitation to the Four Hundred list? Hopefully, next week’s The Gilded Age will answer all of these questions. 


4 out of 5