The first season of Dickinson was such a nice surprise. A blend of comedy and modernism in a time period piece, something that is often attempted but not often done well. Dickinson from the very first second of its pilot has an identity, a voice, a way of speaking that is so distinct and so important to the show. It never tried to be anything other than itself. Emily Dickinson was brilliant, before her time, so it is just that the show that would explore her younger years would be as brilliant as the woman who inspires it. Dickinson doesn’t know how to slow down, going a thousand miles per hour, its mind always running as fast as the mind of its main character, going through storylines and ideas like no other show. And that’s okay because it does it in such a way that it never feels too much. Dickinson has a purpose, a way of living that makes sense, it knows what it is and is so much better for it. The second season continues in that vein, Dickinson’s sophomore season might just be one of the best follow-up seasons that I have had the privilege to watch. Dickinson isn’t afraid to take risks, isn’t afraid to bend its genre and differentiate itself from other period pieces, instead it’s a genre-bending comedy that isn’t afraid to tell you out loud that it will never follow your expectations and instead be in a category of its own. And for those reasons, Dickinson might just be a freaking masterpiece.
Emily Dickinson had only been published a handful of times in her lifetime, most of the time anonymously. And it is evident that the show would have to eventually address this fact. If the first season was all about acceptance for Emily, the second season is very much so about fame. After all, the whole first season Emily had been asking her father to let her be published, wanting him to finally accept her, to see her as the poet that she is. And now he does, so what happens next? This season does everything in its power to address this question or at least touch upon it. Fame and recognition are at the center of the second season, especially with the introduction of Finn Jones’ Samuel Holmes, an editor for a newspaper that sets his eyes on Emily and her poems. Jones, best known for his role on Marvel’s Iron Fist, blends himself with the already established cast and creates this aura around his character that makes everyone gravitate to him. You want to hate him and yet his charming ways get to you. He is the epitome of the type of guy who says he is a feminist and yet does things that contradict that. And that is why Dickinson works so well because it finds a way to blend today’s issues with a comedy set in the 1800s.
But Sue and Emily’s relationship has always been the beating heart of this show, just as much as Emily and her poetry. Sure, this season Sue and Emily spend their time mostly separated but that doesn’t mean they truly are. Everything they do is for the other one whether or not they know it. This season Emily and Sue must grow apart before they can find each other again and just to ease everyone, these two together are fireworks. I thought that Hailee Steinfeld and Ella Hunt were fantastic during the first season, but this season they both took it to another level. There are two scenes in particular that I couldn’t stop thinking about after I finished watching all the episodes, two scenes that had me holding my breath with goosebumps. Two scenes that showcase not only the talent that Hunt and Steinfeld have but also how intricate the relationship between Sue and Emily is, how both of them need each other more than they care or want to admit. I don’t know if words are enough to describe them, describe how perfect these two moments are for both the characters and the audience. One scene takes place in the opera episode while the other is in the last episode. I don’t want to give anything away because they are some of the most incredible moments between Sue and Emily, rivalling, and even surpassing, that wonderful volcano moment from the first season.
The first season spent most of its time exploring Emily, and Sue by default, so the other Dickinson siblings were mostly there to help expand her story or even to show how different she was from them. But now, this has been established and Dickinson is free to explore Lavinia and Austin more. Giving them their own storylines and being able to showcase the immense talent of Anna Baryshnikov and Adrian Enscoe. In the first season, Lavinia was mostly there to be the opposite of Emily, the one that wanted to get married and get the attention that Emily got. This season, Lavinia becomes her own woman, becoming this modern woman, this woman that is so reminiscing of our time. And Baryshnikov might just be the scene-stealer of the show, an honour that I didn’t think could be taken away from the great Jane Krakowski. Her comedic timing is just impeccable and she turns what was a very one-sided character into a complicated woman whose independence becomes her main goal. And then there’s Austin, in the first season Austin was mostly there to be in the way of Emily and Sue. He was a fine character but one that I just didn’t have any real attachment to. And just like Lavinia, Austin gets a lot more depth to him this season. Just like the first season, the Civil War looms over everyone’s head and Austin’s storyline is weaved into this topic. A man that wants to prove himself to his family but wants to do it for what he believes in. But Austin never becomes the center of this storyline, the focus always being on its black characters. He is the money and wants to help but it’s never about him.
By the end of the season, it is clear that the world of Dickinson is about to change. Not only for the characters and their lives but for the whole of America with the Civil War finally arriving. Dickinson is and always will be about Emily and her poetry but the show finds always finds a way to create storylines that merge our time and theirs so perfectly. This season it was done brilliantly through the sexual awakening of Lavinia and Austin’s quest to help with the Civil War. Both those stories weaved in brilliantly storylines of the Me Too Movements and Black Lives Matter Movements, keeping lighthearted but also making it painfully real. Just like everything else Dickinson is capable of creating a world like no other, one where Wiz Khalifa can play death and make you laugh nonstop while making you think about our world and how painfully similar we are to the 1800s. It’s a hard feat to accomplish but they do it so brilliantly, it’s even a little bit annoying.
The second season of Dickinson could have gone in many directions, after all not a lot is known about Emily’s life beyond her brother’s marriage to Sue. But they decide to keep with the show’s spirit while also expanding on everything else. And it works, works so well that in the end, you find yourself with a season that is stronger and better for it. Dickinson is this weird little niche show about an American Poet that we all had to study in class but makes it somehow cool and hip. I can’t even describe the love I have for this show, instead, I just will end this by telling you that if you haven’t watched it yet, go, it’s worth it, I promise. And now, I will return to watch it again because that’s how good it is.
(Just before I leave, I would like to say thank you to whoever decided that Wiz Khalifa was perfect for the role of Death. I am truly obsessed and I will need him to get his own show with him going around time picking up famous dead people. I simply want more of him, I need more of him. Thank you.)