The Gilded Age: Julian Fellowes Says Peggy ‘s Dangerous Trip South Changes Everything

Sullivan Jones, Amber Gray, and Denée Benton in

Peggy Scott (Denée Benton) experienced a life-threatening moment in The Gilded Age Season 2 Episode 5.

[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Gilded Age Season 2 Episode 5, “Close Enough to Touch.”]
Sullivan Jones and Denée Benton in 'The Gilded Age' Season 2 Episode 5
The Gilded Age: Julian Fellowes Says Peggy ‘s Dangerous Trip South Changes Everything
A run-in with aggressive, drunk white men in a Tuskegee restaurant forced Peggy and T. Thomas Fortune (Sullivan Jones) to flee the Alabama town.

Booker T. Washington (Michael Braugher) and his wife, Fannie Washington (Brittany Bradford), helped them sneak out of the town in a wagon and hid them in a barn. As they waited in fear, an angry mob of white men with torches hunted them down, and their intentions were lethal.

Thankfully, Peggy and Thomas’ whereabouts remained hidden, and the danger passed. The intensity of the moment led to a passionate kiss in the hay between Peggy and the married Thomas, which will have to be addressed in future episodes. Series creator/writer Julian Fellowes tells TV Insider that her experiences in Tuskegee, which marked her first time in the American south, will change the course of Peggy’s journalism career.

Peggy, born free in the north and raised in New York, had a more optimistic view of the plight of Black people post-slavery than her colleague at the newspaper. Thomas was born into slavery but is now free. And that experience informs how he covers stories like that of the Tuskegee Institute. This close brush with danger in Episode 5 reminded Peggy how much progress is still to be won. And showed her just how different life is for the Black elite in her hometown of Brooklyn.

The Gilded Age: Julian Fellowes Says Peggy 's Dangerous Trip South Changes Everything
The Gilded Age: Julian Fellowes Says Peggy ‘s Dangerous Trip South Changes Everything
Despite 1883 New York being safer than Alabama, racism is still pervasive above the Mason-Dixon line.

Fellowes says this Tuskegee assignment has caused a shift in Peggy that will reverberate through all future episodes and place her at the forefront of Black women writers in this time.

“Writing about how they were treated in Tuskegee and everything, which is very vivid,” changes Peggy, Fellowes explains. “The idea that a young woman should have been exposed to that kind of danger is very shocking. All of that, I think, is an incentive for her to keep writing and keep going. Which if we have a third series, we would take even further.”

“There were, I mean, not numerous. But there were some Black women writers getting published by this time and publishing novels and all the rest of it. Fellowes continues. “And we want to put her into the vanguard of that development. Her shocking experiences in Tuskegee, as well as her informative bits of it as well, are taking her forward down that road.”

Peggy will use her platform at the newspaper as an activist tool in future episodes. And her parents, Arthur and Dorothy Scott (John Douglas Thompson and Audra McDonald), will join her in those efforts.

Episode 5 was a memorable installation because of Peggy’s experience, but also because of Ada Brook’s (Cynthia Nixon) story. Ada is a spinster no more. As the episode saw her wed Reverend Luke Forte (Robert Sean Leonard) in a charming ceremony at his church. Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) protested the union. As Ada leaving their home felt like a betrayal, and she nearly didn’t attend her sister’s wedding. But she showed up in the end. Making a grand entrance walking down the aisle after the bride in typical melodramatic fashion.

Elsewhere, Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon) successfully hosted the Duke of Buckingham (Ben Lamb) in Newport. Mrs. Winterton (Kelley Curran), seething with bitterness after Bertha poached the Duke, attempted to ruin the dinner by paying off two downstairs staff to ruin the food (a classic move the calls back to the downstairs-upstairs drama of Fellowes’ Downton Abbey). But Bertha can’t be beat. Mrs. Winterton’s plan was thwarted in the nick of time thanks to her loyal staff. Beating her in the opera war may prove to be just as difficult.

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Source: TV Insider

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