Gentleman Jack Ep1

My analysis of television series’ episodes use Story Grid’s 5 Commandments of a Scene. I hope that this analysis will help writers make better scenes for themselves. Additionally, I will cover the 6 Questions Every Editor Asks, also from the Shawn Coyne’s book The Story Grid.

The 5 Commandments of Gentleman Jack: Episode 1

These are the 5 Commandments of Storytelling as outlined by Shawn Coyne in his book The Story Grid: What good Editors Know.

Inciting Incident:

Anne Lister’s lover, Vere Hobart, leaves her for a man

This specific incident frees Anne Lister to return to her ancestral home of Shibden where she takes over management. Though this is not revealed till 25 minutes into the episode (almost halfway), we see the breakup in a flashback, so this happens before she returns to Shibden.  It’s important to note that because I think this is a Love Story, the 5 Commandments should turn on the Love to Hate measuring stick.  This is love betrayed.

Progressive Complications:

There are a number of small Progressive complications that build over the episode:

  • The carriage driver has an accident and Anne must drive the carriage
  • The rent collector for her family is sick and can’t collect rent so Anne must do
  • Collecting rent is a man’s job and Anne causes a scandal by doing it
  • Anne finds out her family’s land is rich in coal

However, since I’ve decided that the Global Genre is a Love Story, the Progressive Complication needs to turn on Love – Hate, so I think the Progressive Complication for this episode is when Lister meets Ann Walker near the end.


Will Anne stay and pursue Ann Walker, or leave and pursue her love for travel


Ann Lister decides to stay


Lister proclaims what she will try and make Ms. Walker her wife

Love Story Value Shift:

-/+ loveless to potential love interest
Lister has returned after a hard breakup in the beginning of the episode, and at the end she has her sights on making Walker her wife

Society Value Shift:

-/+ failure to success
At the beginning, the rents aren’t being collected and by the end Lister has collected rents and removed non-paying tenants. Also, she has discovered coal deposit on her property that other miners might be stealing, and she has hired someone to help her manage her coal interests.

Obligatory Scenes and Conventions for a Love Story

Lovers Meet – Lister and Walker meet for the first time
Opposing Forces – Society does not accept gay relationships; society does not accept women in financial power
External Need – Lister has a need to be financial and sexually free

Obligatory Scenes and Conventions for a Status Story

An inciting Opportunity or Challenge – Lister sees managing her families affairs as a challenge
Big Social Problem – society is not accepting of gays or powerful women

Spoiler Alert – Some Predictions

Given the current love story, I assume we’ll see some of the following things in the upcoming episodes:

a love triangle – there is the question of whether Lister might return to the arms of her previous lover at some time in the series, or a new lover if spurned by Walker. And, of course, Walker could also stray.
First intimate connection or kiss – I assume that will come in the next episode, though they may delay the kiss to increase anticipation of the watchers.
I assume the lovers will have a break up at some point – however, since this is based on a true story, if they were happy in real life, maybe this doesn’t happen.
It’s difficult to see who the helpers/ harmers are yet. Some of the servants, definitely Lister’s sister disapproves of Lister, the other women of status in the area.

Given the Current Status Story, I assume we’ll see some of the following things in the upcoming episodes:

More opposing forces, maybe at a local level, maybe in the form of other women or a group of women
At this point, Vere Hobart, Lister’s ex-lover, appears to be the sell out (fellow striver sells out) – we’ll see (selling out to gayhood by marrying a man)
Lister is making plans for managing the coal on her property, this seems like a good opportunity for her ‘initial strategy to fail’ and then she will have to change tactics.
Lister relies on old habits and humiliates herself – this could take the form of her strong arm tactics not working and she might have to ‘appear’ weak like a woman later to ultimately win

More Story Analysis

If you want to see more applications of the Story Grid methodology, below are links to my analysis of various novels and television shows in blog posts and podcasts:

Story Grid Showrunners Podcast – Parul, Melanie, and I analyze hit TV series using the Story Grid methodology.

My blog posts analyzing other Television series – my person take using the Story grid 5 Commandments to look at my favorite TV series – Jack Ryan, Batgirl, For All Mankind, Hanna, and more.

Novel analysis – I analyze some of my favorite books using the Story Grid 5 Commandments and 6 core questions – First Blood, Old Man’s War, Waylander, and more to come!

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