‘Dickinson‘ is a historical comedy-drama series that revolves around the wonderfully bizarre exploits of a teenaged Emily Dickinson, who went on to become one of the most prolific poets of American literature. Set in the 1800s in Amherst, Massachusetts, the show is a fantastically weird and hilarious coalescence of contemporary and period sensibilities. Teens dressed from head to toe in historically on-point gowns and breeches go around talking in modern slang, such as “What up, babe” (my personal favorite is when a 19th-century young lady claims “Emerson is canceled”).
While the first season deals with Emily’s forbidden romance with her brother’s fiancee and her drive to become a published poet, the second season, a slightly more austere and complex installment, sees her reluctant to seek the fame that publishing would certainly bring. Sue wants Emily to let Sam Bowles, the editor of a daily newspaper, publish her poems in his paper, but Emily has reservations. If you’re looking for more insight into the ending of episode 3, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a short recap of the episode, followed by an explanation of the spooky ending. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Dickinson Season 2 Episode 3 Recap
After a rather sexist church sermon, Ship tells Lavinia that she would make the perfect wife: prim, proper, and obedient. He also tells her about his “wild child” ex-girlfriend, Lola Montez, who had even shot him once. Elsewhere, Emily is unable to confide her doubts in Sue because Sue has a social engagement to attend. Emily and Lavinia decide they need spiritual guidance… from the spirits themselves.
The Dickinson girls decide to host a séance with Austin’s household help, Hattie, serving as the medium. While looking for candles, Emily walks in on Henry and Betty arguing about something. It turns out that Henry is anonymously writing an abolitionist paper, ‘The Political Power of Slave Masters,’ but he makes Emily promise she won’t tell anyone. Emily asks Henry if he could publish freely under his name, would he? He responds with, “who wouldn’t?”
Jane and her clique arrive for the spirit-calling party. As the girls club (plus Toshiaki) prepare the queries they have for the spirits, Emily invites Clara and Anna to join in, telling them that the clairvoyant energy in young girls is higher. Meanwhile, at Austin’s, Austin and Ship whine about their respective girl problems. The séance turns spooky when seemingly real spirits take over, and Emily has an encounter with “Nobody” again. The next day, Emily reaches a decision about whether to publish her poems or not.
Dickinson Season 2 Episode 3 Ending: Are There Actual Ghosts in the Dickinson House?
The show never really makes it clear if there are actual spirits inside the Dickinson house or if it’s just a shared hallucination between all the séancers. While something spooky is definitely happening, the episode does not shed more light on this facet of the climax. There is no interaction with the so-called spirits, apart from Emily’s encounter with “Nobody” (who we already know is not a ghost).
“Nobody” is a figment of Emily’s imagination, a manifestation of her fear of fame and preference for anonymity that no one else can see. The main thing to remember is that this is a show with Wiz Khalifa as the personification of Death, a giant talking bee, and a wild, wild imagination. The only difference is that this time, it’s not just Emily who imagines or experiences the supernatural. The others feel it too. Maybe their séance did summon actual spirits, or maybe the show is just leaning into its own absurdity.
Why is Sam Bowles’ Reaction to Emily’s Submission Lukewarm?
Spurred on by her latest face-to-face with “Nobody,” Emily decides she does not want to shun fame and embrace anonymity. The very next morning, she goes to Sue to tell her this and finds that Samuel Bowles is already there. She gives him a poem which he does not read right away and just keeps it on the seat next to him, telling her that he’ll put it at the top of his submissions pile. Sam also tells Emily that the poem will first need to get accepted for publication before they can print it. When Emily asks him how long that would take, Sam dismissively tells her that he’ll keep her posted.
This lukewarm reaction from Sam is unexpected, to say the least. Earlier, he was all but chasing Emily to let him publish her poems, but now, he is acting suspiciously evasive. This could be because he really has tons of submitted material to look at (pretty believable since he’s a newspaper editor). Or this could mean that Sam has already moved on and is not interested in Emily’s poetry anymore. Earlier in the story, Sue tells Emily that Sam is known for his short attention span. At this point, all we know is what history tells us – that Emily Dickinson remained largely unpublished until after her death.
Read More: Is Dickinson Based on a True Story?