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dickinson 2.1.1
Photo: Apple TV+

Television

‘Dickinson’ S 2 E 1-3 review: 19th century millennial fun

Emily struggles with her love growing distant and selling out.

Though they may not be as popular as other streaming services, Apple TV+ boasts an eclectic and enjoyable roster of original programming. Amongst its shows are the animated Central Park, the feel good Ted Lasso, and the suspenseful Servant. Also included is the historical comedy/drama, Dickinson, which cleverly blends the modern issues and millennial lifestyle with a young Emily Dickinson in the nineteenth century. The series recently returned for its second season.

Much has changed since last season. Austin and Sue’s wedding and subsequent new home came at great cost for the Dickinsons and the family is having financial issues. Sue is settling in with her new found wealth and has become well known on the socialite scene. Some even consider her an “influencer”. All the schmoozing takes her away from Emily and the poet struggles creatively without having the input from her main muse/critic.

The new season of Dickinson continues similar young adult period appropriate hijinks. The first three episodes cover a variety of events and happenings including Sue’s high society parties, a baking competition during the Amherst Cattle Show, and a séance. They all retain the stylistic filming and trendy, contemporary soundtrack.

In addition, the Dickinson siblings exhibit growth and maturation. A new suitor causes Lavinia to find herself and long to be more than a traditional housewife, which is a stark contrast to her first season aspirations. The married Austin is ready for kids but must be respectful to his wife’s apprehensions (he doesn’t know of her previous pregnancy or loss of the child).

dickinson 2.1.2
Photo: Apple Tv+

Speaking of Sue, who is now officially in the family, it seems she’s ready to move on romantically from Emily. Though she’s still the supportive and encouraging friend, trying to connect Emily with the media mogul, Samuel Bowles (Finn Jones), who is looking to publish talented female writers in his newspaper. Maybe if her friend is too busy with her burgeoning writing career, she’ll be too occupied to always ask for Sue’s attention.  

Despite Sue’s urging, Emily is still conflicted about sharing her poems to the public. There are her obvious father’s objections, though he’s taken a greater interest in them which is sweet, but would she be selling out? She’s so torn that she’s haunted by a ghost warning her that Samuel doesn’t have her best interest at heart. It’s a real shame because she’s become quite smitten with him.

The amiable cast all create a fun environment for the show incorporating the 21st century sensibilities to the setting. For the more bro-ish tendencies, they don’t even bother adjusting the dialog. They all balance the silliness and more serious moments of reflection well. Steinfeld and Jones also develop a nice chemistry so early on and their characters have an interesting dynamic although that may change after she receives a glimpse past the surface.

These early episodes of Dickinson do a good job of balancing multiple subplots by gradually introducing certain elements so they occur organically. Sometimes they tie in with other narratives on different levels. For example, Henry is organizing the other free African Americans and creates a newspaper that criticizes slavery. Not only does the storyline reflect some of the current social issues but Henry’s work as a writer serves as a parallel to Emily and as another thing the two can relate to.

Episodes 1-3 of the new season of Dickinson retain many enjoyable aspects of the first season while maturing and growing the main characters presenting them with new, but relatable situations for any young adult.

New episodes of Dickinson are released Fridays on Apple TV+.

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