An Apple TV+ Original, ‘Dickinson’ is a historical comedy-drama that tells the story of one of the greatest, most esteemed poets of American literature – Emily Dickinson. But it doesn’t depict Emily (an author who gained fame only after her death and did not publish much during her lifetime) like the somber, anti-social, white-clad recluse that she became in later life. Instead, ‘Dickinson’s’ Emily is delightfully weird, hilariously irreverent, unflinchingly bold, and wonderfully comedic and tragic at the same time. She is simply a genius who is aware of her genius. And because the show revolves around a teenage Emily, it gives her room to be childish at times.
Season 1 of ‘Dickinson‘ centers on Emily’s dynamic with her family— her mother’s annoyingly pushy ways, her father’s patriarchal outlook, her sister’s airheaded flirtatiousness, and her brother’s simple-minded ignorance, all form the crux of the highly enjoyable show. But the relationship that is central to the show’s plot – and Emily’s life – is her equation with her best friend/secret lover, Sue Gilbert. The end of the epic first season sees Sue walking down the aisle with Emily’s brother, Austin, and Emily standing up to her father, Edward, to declare that she will be a great poet and there is nothing he can do to dissuade her. Now, let’s recap and review the season 2 premiere of ‘Dickinson.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
Dickinson Season 2 Episode 1 Recap
The second season begins with a voice-over telling us that Emily Dickinson’s life up to Austin’s and Sue’s wedding is pretty well-recorded, but the facts are almost non-existent for the obscure years after that. A handful of letters from that period (the year 1859) and interpretations of Emily’s poems are the only sources that can shed light on what occurred in the author’s life at that time. We are reacquainted with Emily as she is diagnosed with myopia, sees a ghost on the train back home, and writes up a storm for Sue.
Edward is worried about the family’s finances in the wake of the failed railroad investment and the construction of Austin’s lavish home. He asks Mrs. Dickinson to let out a room to a boarder to help with the tight pockets. The boarder they accept is Henry “Ship” Shipley, a college dropout and classmate of Austin’s. Ship is all consumed in his hypermasculinity and insists that Lavinia become his wife because he believes that Vinnie will make a meek, submissive, and dutiful wife.
Meanwhile, Sue has become something of a snobbish social influencer and delights in hosting lavish soirees where the intellectual and fashionable polite society gathers to discuss the latest ongoings. To one such event, Sue stresses that Emily must make an appearance because she has also invited a big-time newspaper editor, Samuel Bowles. Sue wants Emily to recite a poem for Bowles, but Emily loses her nerves at the sight of the ghost again.
Dickinson Season 2 Episode 1 Review
The season 2 premiere of ‘Dickinson’ does not disappoint in the slightest. The show found its wackiness in the first season, and it’s still holding it close. Episode 1 of season 2 is as fun, marvelously weird, and darkly humorous as the previous episodes. The sets and the costumes are historically accurate and as exquisitely detailed as ever. ‘Dickinson’ retains its trademark quality of mixing modern and period sensibilities, with the 19th-century characters constantly spouting contemporary slang, as some Wiz Khalifa-approved pop song plays in the background.
But the story feels more complex this season, more morbid somehow, with an ominous air that gains and maintains momentum. The appearance of “Nobody” as the ghost, most likely a manifestation of Emily’s fear of anonymity, is sudden and unsettling. Hailee Steinfeld as Emily is compelling, luminous, funny, and enthralling, even if not entirely relatable. The thing is, she’s not supposed to be relatable because Emily Dickinson was a mind that operated on a different level than others around her. You don’t completely understand her; her thoughts are mostly a mystery, but she’s enchanting all the same.
What is relatable, however, is her unexpected bout of stage fright when she is unable to recite one of her poems at the party. What’s also believable is how Emily seems to have forgiven Austin for shouting at her and uninviting her from his wedding last season. That’s how real sibling relationships work, at least for the ones who are close (like Austin and Emily). Big, ugly fights happen but are soon forgotten, and grudges are short-lived.
Lavinia is coming into her own, and that’s encouraging for her arc this season. More alarming, though, is Sue’s off-putting snobbery, which may just be a coping mechanism for her since she lost the baby (a secret that only Emily is privy to). But her sudden interest in partying with the fashionable society may end up widening the gap between her and Emily, who we know from history will increasingly recede into seclusion. Overall, the ‘Dickinson’ season 2 premiere is an exciting, dramatic, and appropriately strange start to a hopefully entertaining season.
Read More: Is Dickinson Based on a True Story?