The Gilded Age season 2 episode 7 recap: the opera wars heat up

 Taissa Farmiga and Carrie Coon in The Gilded Age.
Taissa Farmiga and Carrie Coon in The Gilded Age.

New York City is abuzz due to the Brooklyn Bridge's grand opening. While this is the big event of the week, the opera wars are still preoccupying Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon), and she receives an enticing offer. With George Russell (Morgan Spector) ending his work woes in Pittsburgh, he can offer advice.

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Not everyone is in a celebratory mood. Luke's (Robert Sean Leonard) illness is rapidly progressing and he wants to soak up every last moment with his new wife, Ada (Cynthia Nixon). Meanwhile, Ada's nephew Oscar (Blake Ritson) receives some unexpected terrible news that will impact the whole family.

Let's break down everything that happens in The Gilded Age season 2 episode 7, "Wonders Never Cease."

Making deals

George ordered his men to stand down against the striking workers as it appeared he lost his battle with the union. However, George has only given a temporary pay rise, hoping it divides workers further and causes tension between immigrants and those American-born. It's a devious plan that reminds us George is a robber baron.

In another offer, Mrs. Astor (Donna Murphy) finally gives Bertha what she wants: a box at the Academy. Bertha is flummoxed by this gesture, which has come very late in the game. She must consult with her husband first.

Later that night, Bertha tells George about her predicament with the Academy box that is suddenly available to them and the dilemma she now faces. George says Mrs. Astor is trying to buy her off and the new opera house has space for "the people who are making the city great." She remarks the goal was to get welcomed into the elite Academy crowd, but George thinks she is selling herself short. "At the Met, you'll be a founding member, and you can reign supreme. You don't need to be in Mrs. Astor's shadow," he says. It's a persuasive argument and highlights how strong this couple is together.

Meanwhile, the education board still plans on shutting down schools in Black communities, but the schools are not going down without a fight. Peggy (Denée Benton) attends a strategy meeting where her father Arthur (John Douglas Thompson) offers sound advice, suggesting they need white people to recommend the school (this is how his pharmacy got its start), and this means having white students and teachers. Thankfully, Peggy can turn to Marian (Louisa Jacobson) to use her connections to find some applicants.

Luke's predicament

Earlier, Marian is concerned that celebrating her engagement is insensitive, considering how ill Luke is, but she also seems to be convincing herself she wants to marry Daishell (David Furr). The wedding is the hot topic during lunch, but it's overshadowed when Luke collapses. Agnes (Christine Baranski) insists they call the doctor and he should stay there. While Luke does look a little better the following morning, his prognosis is not good.

Agnes insists her sister try to get some sleep. When Luke wakes to see his sister-in-law, he apologizes for his selfish choice to marry Ada. Agnes holds his hand and gently rebukes this, talking of how warm, cherished and loved Ada feels — a feeling she will carry for the rest of her life.

Another act of forgiveness occurs across the street when Flora (Rebecca Haden) visits her father, Watson (Michael Cerveris). Flora knew nothing of her husband’s attempt to get him to move to San Francisco, and when she did find out, she insisted Watson stay in New York. Not only that, but she wants to get to know Watson and set him up in an apartment.

Rejections and cons

Oscar tells Aurora (Kelli O'Hara) he plans on proposing to Maude Beaton (Nicole Brydon Bloom), but a conversation with George sets off alarm bells. George has not heard of the railway company in which Oscar has invested a great deal of money, and when Oscar returns to the office, he finds it empty. At the address where Maude lives, he finds a man who has never heard of her. When he confronts Aurora about how she met Maude, his cousin isn't sure. This smells a lot like a master con job.

"This is really thrilling," says Mrs. Fish (Ashlie Atkinson) about Oscar's meltdown and the spat that preceded it at Aurora's charity meeting.

Elsewhere, Mrs. Astor announces Bertha is taking an Academy box, even though Bertha has not confirmed this. Bertha is gracious but says she is sticking to the Met. Mrs. Astor tells her she will regret this choice, which sounds like a threat and a promise.

Fireworks and saying goodbye

Robert Leonard and Cynthia Nixon in The Gilded Age
Robert Leonard and Cynthia Nixon in The Gilded Age

The day of the Brooklyn Bridge opening, most of the city is at parties, waiting for the fireworks display. Peggy is at a rooftop bash in Brooklyn, catching up with friends. Her mother realizes she went to Tuskegee with the married Thomas (Sullivan Jones) and warns her to tread carefully.

The Russells have a prime spot at the residence of chief engineer Mr. Roebling, but when Larry (Harry Richardson) gives his speech, he credits Emily Roebling (Liz Wisan) for completing the project. It won't end up in newspapers, but he made sure the woman who made it was recognized. Mrs. Astor is also at this party with the Duke of Buckingham (Ben Lamb) as her guest, as Bertha realizes Mrs. Astor has paid the Duke to attend the Academy opening night instead.

There is a lot more to worry about than opera, though, at the van Rhijns. Luke is at peace during his last conversation with Ada, then dies in his sleep. Ada is crushed, but her big sister is waiting on the other side of the door to hug her.

Oscar finally shows up the following morning. His mother's fury at his absence grows when he tells her about the bad deal and that he has lost almost all of the van Rhijn fortune. This will not be an easy fix, particularly with only one episode to go in season 2.

The Gilded Age season 2 airs new episodes Sundays on HBO and Max in the US and Mondays on Sky Atlantic in the UK.