Emily Dickinson recently submitted a poem to publisher, Samuel Bowles, in hopes that it would appear in his newspaper. The anxiety from waiting for a response began to affect her creative process and she came down with a bout of writer’s block. In order to get out of her rut, she turned to fellow artist and landscaping architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, for some advice and inspiration. At the very end, she learns Bowles will publish her work.
[Slight Spoilers Ahead!]
Sue is holding another of her renowned high society parties and Emily is anticipating her upcoming fame from being published by practicing greeting her fans in the mirror. What’s odd is that she also imagines that Samuel is with her giving her a pep talk. At the event, she meets up with Bowles and the pair schmooze with the other guests. However, Emily catches wind of the gossip of how her friend uses the idea of being published to sleep with numerous aspiring women writers. This causes her to put her guard up but doesn’t prevent her from having fantasies.
The other Dickinson siblings have problems of their own. The newly engaged Lavinia is already dreading a boring married life and decides to introduce some The Scarlet Letter roleplay with her fiancée to spice things up. Austin’s adoption of the Newman sisters still irks Sue and she treats her new step children with contempt forcing her husband to reveal how they are paying for her lavish lifestyle. At least Austin can feel he’s making some sort of difference by helping fund Henry’s underground newspaper and purchasing him a new printing press.
After Finn Jones’ character was introduced, it seemed inevitable that a romantic angle would be played between him and Emily. There was Bowles early fawning over the poet’s talent and tendency to be overly touchy feely when with her, not to mention the on-screen chemistry between Jones and Steinfeld. The sketchy rumors about his intentions put their relationship in a different light and bring a whole creepy context to it.
Samuel can be charming and smooth as he hypes up Emily. The bit about her rightful place between the modern master, Charles Dickens, and the enlightened, Denis Diderot, would have even wooed me. Despite her reservations, all his game seems to be working since she’s having carnal thoughts about him. It’s fitting that the episode’s title is “Forbidden Fruit a flavor has” as the famous Dickinson has unseemly thoughts about her married friend.
The abolitionist movement storyline is developing nicely this season with Henry creating his own newspaper. The series find ways to incorporate it with the other characters so it doesn’t feel out of place like when Emily needed advice from a fellow writer or in this case, Austin purchasing the printing press. There are some interesting perspectives as Henry and Betty’s work is contrasted to former slave showman, Henry “Box” Brown. Though it still needs to be played out, this subplot is a clever way to address modern social issues with the backdrop of a period piece.
“Forbidden Fruit a flavor Has” provides a glimpse at the price of fame as she wrestles with gossip and her feelings for Samuel Bowles.
New episodes of Dickinson are released Fridays on Apple TV+.
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