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Post Mortems

The Gilded Age Finale: Morgan Spector Weighs In on the Russells' Victory, What It Could Mean for Season 2

The Gilded Age Finale

We’re happy to report that no dinner trays were harmed in the making of Monday’s Gilded Age finale, which finally brought Old and New New York together at the Russells’ ball — by any means necessary.

When Bertha learned that Mrs. Astor wasn’t planning to attend the soiree, her solution was simply to cut Mrs. Astor’s daughter from the dance, a petty move that ultimately proved quite effective. In fact, Bertha was able to convince Mrs. Astor to leverage her considerable influence to get everyone under the Russells’ roof, including noted parlor hermit Agnes van Rhijn.

Elsewhere in the finale, Marian broke things off with Tom (and got flirty with Larry) after learning that Tom would rather find a wealthy wife; Peggy learned that her son is alive, and her mother is going to help her find him; and the Russells’ “French” chef was revealed to be, well, quite American.

Read on for Morgan Spector‘s thoughts on The Gilded Age‘s Season 1 ender, including what those final developments could mean for the show’s future:

TVLINE | First of all, congratulations on Season 2. Where were you when you got the news?
Thank you, it’s very exciting. I was in my home upstate. We were really waiting, like, “When are we going to find out?” As much as everyone thought, “Of course you’ll get a second season — it’s Julian Fellowes and HBO,” I’ve heard that before, and I’ve never been on a show that’s gotten a second season. I was fairly convinced that I was the one ruining it for people on prior shows, but I’m glad to say I didn’t do it on this one.

TVLINE | It’s always good to know you aren’t cursed. And neither are the Russells! They really ended Season 1 on top.
Yeah! Don’t bet against the Russells. I’m sure they’ll see their share of ups and downs, but Bertha is an unstoppable force in a certain way. So, yeah, we came out OK. We got where we wanted to go. They have a wonderful partnership, and that sustains them in their various campaigns against fellow ruthless robber barons and society ladies.

TVLINE | I didn’t know much about robber barons before watching this show, but now I feel like I kind of get it?
Obviously people can be evil and do evil things, but a lot of the time people are just maximizing their own self interest. When you look at robber barons, these people are just trying to keep their firms alive and dominate the market place. If you’re disgusted by what you see, I think your problem is with capitalism more than with any individual robber baron.

TVLINE | Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Indeed.

TVLINE | To that end, the look of smug satisfaction on the Russells’ faces when the Astors showed up was just perfect. Even I did a Grinch smile. I think I’ve been rooting for them more than I realized.
That’s really nice to hear. I think the show sets that up, because as much as you might think that robber barons are so dark and exploitative, the social strata that they’re replacing is even worse. It’s much more vile, those generations of inherited wealth just attenuating in their virtue over time. There’s almost nothing worse than those people. It’s hard to root for them.

TVLINE | And that party — people were leaving in broad daylight! I didn’t realize they raged all night.
Oh, yeah. They had dinner in the middle of the night. They absolutely raged… and then served breakfast! They would have spent the equivalent of $10 million on these parties. At that kind of price point, you’re going to squeeze every penny out that you can.

TVLINE | George was told that he’s “no gentleman” this week. Do you agree with that?
I think George has a standard of conduct to which he tries to adhere. It may not be the same standard that everyone else in this society abides by, but George is a gentleman by his own standards. He doesn’t break his own code.

TVLINE | Since we’re getting a second season, what are you hoping to explore?
I’m personally interested in the labor history of the era, and you can’t really avoid that. That has to be one of the central conflicts that George and people like him are dealing with at that time. I also love the sheer eccentricity of this group of people — Mamie Fish and her outlandish parties, the way these people are always trying to top each other in terms of extravagance. In some ways, you can’t go too far, and that opens up some insane possibilities for our show.

TVLINE | And now that new money and old money are mingling, are you hoping for scenes with people like Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon?
Yes! Hell yes. We’ve been silo’d off, and I would love to do more with them, with Denae [Benton], with so many people in different areas. I wonder how much I’ll actually get to, though because that’ll still be Bertha’s world. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Your thoughts on The Gilded Age‘s first season? The finale itself? Weigh in via our polls below, then drop a comment with your hopes for Season 2.