The Gilded Age Season 1 Ending Explained: What Was Really Going On With Mr. Raikes And Other Major Moments

Harry Richardson, Louisa Jacobson, and Taissa Farmiga on The Gilded Age
(Image credit: HBO)

Warning: spoilers for Season 1 of HBO’s The Gilded Age are in play. Should you want to remain unspoiled, the rules of society dictate you should head out to our twist-free coverage at CinemaBlend. 

With writer/creator Julian Fellowes’ The Gilded Age ending its first season, the foundation has been laid out for the road ahead. After nine episodes, the HBO series has concluded its initial arc in what the trailers suggested to be “the American Downton Abbey While there are certainly similarities between the two, the differences are stark between Fellowes’ previous series and this spiritual prequel, originally earmarked to be a part of NBC’s drama lineup

Now a cable TV hit, The Gilded Age has made a name for itself, and woven a story that’s had fans guessing to its resolution. That is especially true considering the captivating plotline involving the characters of Mr. Raikes and Marian Brook. Consider this the last call for spoilers, as we’re about to dive into the greater details of Season 1 finale of The Gilded Age, and what the future could potentially hold in the wake of the major moments that transpired. 

Thomas Cocquerel and Louisa Jacobson look longingly at each other in The Gilded Age.

(Image credit: Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO)

What Was Really Going On With Mr. Raikes?

Upon meeting Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson), lawyer Tom Raikes (Thomas Cocquerel) seems to have a crush on the young woman heading off to New York City. Originally the man hired to settle her recently deceased father’s estate, he eventually follows her lead and relocates to New York. Partially in the name of business, but also because of his fondness for her, the big move leads the young pair to begin a flirtation that almost ends in marriage. 

“Almost” is the key term here, as The Gilded Age season finale sees Tom choosing money over love at the last possible second. Standing up Marian, with whom he arranged to elope, Mr. Raikes admits that he is to marry Cissie Bingham (Katherine Romans), a rich heiress that he’s spotted with in public the night before. Breaking Marian Brook’s heart, Tom Raikes proclaims he truly loves her; but as Marian highlights in parting remarks, love is not enough. 

Harry Richardson stands in the drawing room, with notes in his hand in The Gilded Age.

(Image credit: Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO)

Marian Brook’s Potential New Suitor

The Gilded Age’s first season closer puts Marian Brook into a position of great heartbreak. Succumbing to the charms of Tom Raikes, which she resisted as long as she could, their break up was all the more painful, though not as insidious as some would have thought. Whether the two will see each other again in the future is unknown, but just as Marian ran into her newly ex-fiancee at the society ball thrown by Mrs. Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon), a new suitor seemed to make himself known: her son, Larry (Harry Richardson).

Instrumental to Marian’s carefully laid plan to originally marry Tom, Larry Russell had the key duty of delivering the note of explanation to Aunt Agnes (Christine Baranski) and Aunt Ada (Cynthia Nixon). A last minute interception of Larry saw Marian avoid a huge scene with her aunts, and indebted her to Mr. Russell to the sum of one waltz at the ball. That agreement would be cashed in at Marian Brook’s greatest time of need, leading to a night that these young folks, and New York Society, would never forget.

Carrie Coon and Donna Murphy standing together at the ball in The Gilded Age.

(Image credit: Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO)

Mrs. Russell Vs. Mrs. Astor: The War Of New And Old Money

Throughout Season 1 of The Gilded Age, one of the major conflicts was the period appropriate battlefield of old money and new money fighting for power and influence. In the world of tradition and “standards,” Mrs. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor (Donna Murphy) ruled the roost of the Old Money social scene. Consistently snubbing Mrs. Bertha Russell, the de facto champion of New Money, Mrs. Astor ultimately sees her efforts turned against her at a pivotal moment.

With the debutante ball set to officially introduce her daughter Gladys (Taissa Farmiga) to the dating pool of New York society, Bertha uninvites Caroline’s daughter Carrie (Amy Forsyth) days before it’s to be held. Her reasoning is due to a perceived slight by Mrs. Astor, who seems to turn her away while accepting other company. Through pressure exerted by herself and her husband George (Morgan Spector), all of the movers and shakers of The Gilded Age, including Aunt Agnes and Aunt Ada, show up for a good time. Promising a fruitful friendship, should she choose it, Bertha Russell may have shown Caroline Astor that she belongs with the in crowd after all. 

Blake Ritson holds a drink with concern in The Gilded Age.

(Image credit: Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO)

Oscar Van Rhijn’s Complicated Relationship

Now that Gladys Russell is finally out and on the market for marriage, the plans of Oscar Van Rhijn (Blake Ritson) can now move ahead. Cousin to Marian Brook, and son of Aunt Agnes, Oscar has been scheming to get himself into Gladys’s good graces. While he is motivated by marrying into a life of wealthy comfort, Mr. Van Rhijn does pursue Gladys with a fondness intact. Though his romantic life is way more complicated under the surface. 

Oscar Van Rhijn is secretly in a relationship with John Adams (Claybourne Elder), the young man that he truly loves. However, at this point in American society, that sort of romance is taboo; with Van Rhijn planning to marry for appearances, but still see Adams on the side. Initially, John had intended to complicate matters for Oscar, but The Gilded Age’s big finale sees the lovers at a supposed impasse. How long that truce will last remains to be seen, but for now, Oscar Van Rhijn seems to be the winner. 

Audra McDonald and Denée Benton leave the drawing room in The Gilded Age.

(Image credit: Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO)

The Truth About Peggy Scott’s Child, Revealed

Outside of the societal dramas of The Gilded Age, the friendship between Marian Brook and Peggy Scott (Denée Benton) has been a crucial thread to both women’s journeys from Doylestown to New York. In the final episodes of the first season, we’ve learned a lot more about Peggy’s past life and how it will affect her future. It all comes to a head when Ms. Scott and her mother Dorothy (Audra McDonald) learn that the son she thought she’d lost in childbirth is alive and well.

Hidden by her father Arthur (John Douglas Thompson), the boy was put up for adoption without her knowledge. It was all in a bid to avoid scandal, which Mr. Scott still tries to maintain when he refuses to help his wife and daughter reunite their family. With the clues pointing to the Philadelphia area, Dorothy and Peggy prepare to set out on their own, so that this child may know his mother.

So much has been laid out for The Gilded Age to follow up with in the recently greenlit Season 2, and beyond if these threads lead to even more intriguing outcomes. Whether you’ve read through this rundown without seeing Season 1, or want to revisit Julian Fellowes’ new society saga from the first episode, all nine episodes are now a part of the best HBO Max shows offered on the platform. 

Though if you’re ready to venture into uncharted waters, check out the 2022 TV premiere dates to see what new shows are on deck to debut in the winter/spring seasons. Just keep one thing in mind before you head back to the world of modernity: that potential Downton Abbey crossover Julian Fellowes addressed recently isn’t any closer to happening just yet. So your patience connected to that matter will be required until further notice.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.