The characters in season two of Dickinson explore fame, self-worth and purpose, while the writers figure out the balance between biography and fiction. The first season introduced us to Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld), the off-beat, non-adherent young poet, her family and life in Amherst, Massachusetts. The show gained popularity for its modern sensibility and wicked humour with contemporary music playing in the background, as the characters use everyday lingo to communicate with each other.
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Much of this is evident in the second season in an even more intense and chaotic fashion, but we will not spoil that too much for you. Fans of the poet would find many of her poems and verses featured in the show, as part of the narration and dialogues, rightfully paying homage to Emily Dickinson. While some might argue that the portrayal of the historical figures are more fictional than factual, the show is definitely more entertaining for it.
In the first season, Emily spends most of her time pursuing her passion for poetry when she is not professing her love for Sue Gilbert (Ella Hunt), Emily’s best friend who later becomes her sister-in-law. She is in awe of the world that exists outside the confines of her home where her father intends on keeping her. She yearns for knowledge and recognition, both of which her father disapproves of. The new season brings internal conflicts and doubts to Emily, and all the opportunity and hope she was once desperate for now seems under-whelming and confusing.
Emily’s relationship with Sue is messy and turbulent, but rooted in their mutual love and understanding of each other. Sue Gilbert goes from being Emily’s best friend, secret lover and the sole admirer of her poems, to hostess of luxurious soirées who develops a taste for the lavish lifestyle. She, too, explores fame and recognition while facing constant pressure from her spouse over her duties as a wife. Lavinia’s (Anna Baryshnikov) plotline is by far the most entertaining. With Henry Shipley (Pico Alexander) on her tail constantly asking for her hand in marriage, Lavinia tries to wake the rebel inside of her.
Austin Dickinson (Adrian Enscoe) is now a partner in his father’s business and yearns to become a family man. After moving right next door to his childhood home, Austin tries hard to convince Sue to expand their family. He faces resistance from Sue which causes a riff between the pair. Austin also creates a cause for concern for his father who is worried that he might have overestimated his son’s dexterity as a businessman. Meanwhile, Edward Dickinson (Toby Huss) and Emily Norcross (Jane Krakowski) too face marriage issues.
In this modern re-telling of a queer poet’s story, where almost all the characters are white, Henry’s storyline gives the audience much to look forward to. Introduced as the Dickinson’s hired hand, Henry’s journey addresses racism in a way that is not only historically accurate but (sadly) relevant to the modern day. Adding to Emily’s bewilderment is Samuel Bowles, the editor of the Springfield Republican , who shows interest in Emily’s poetry and plays fast and loose with her.
The show also brags of witty humour unrestricted by the characters’ relevance or importance to the scenes. Irish house help Maggie is quick with her hilarious remarks making her presence absolutely delightful. Dickinson also has its own version of the Mean Girls ! Yes, they are a trio. And yes, they are clichéd, but also insanely entertaining.
The first four episodes in the second season show great promise of being just as entertaining as the first instalment of the series, if not more. The quirky title sequences, upbeat music, and modern-day parlance ensure an extremely entertaining 30 minutes, leaving the audience wanting more.
Dickinson is funny, insightful, and unabashedly wild, but also confusing at times. The sub-plots peak at intensity, only to end abruptly, leaving us wanting a closure. Yet, it manages to hold the viewers’ attention through the trials and tribulations of finding its tone.
Season 2 of Dickinson is currently streaming on Apple TV+ with new episodes every Friday