Emily wonders about her place in the world during the Civil War, and the poet gets a little help from some colleagues – while the Dickinsons get fleas and Henry gets a new job.
We have a rich week ahead of us Dickinson, the feminist fantasy of Apple TV +. And, as usual, the simplest answer is often the right one.
Dickinson review: ‘This is my letter to the world’
Emily (played by Hailee Steinfeld) wrote to Colonel Thomas Higginson (Gabriel Ebert), whom Henry (Chinaza Uche) had come to look for work. Emily wants advice on whether to be a poet in such terrible times. Can she be helpful as a nurse?
Higginson wants Henry to help him show that the soldiers in the black regiment he commands are completely equal to their white counterparts. And to that end, he needs Henry to teach everyone to read and write. All the recruits are natives of the Gulah and are not kind to Henry’s educated attitude from Massachusetts. They need weapons and money more than they think they need to read and write. This will take him even more time, which means he won’t be writing Betty (Amanda Warren) any time soon.
Problems at home
Meanwhile, Mr. Dickinson (Toby Huss) is sick of hearing about the war because he believes the conflict has fundamentally diminished the value of life. He is upset that the newspapers write about only half of those killed in the war. In addition, his brother’s house in Atlanta was looted.
Of course, there are more reasons to be angry than that. Lavinia (Anna Baryshnikov), who slept in a barn as part of an experiment in suffering the torments experienced by soldiers, brought fleas into the house, infecting both him and Mrs. Dickinson (Jane Krakowski). Sue (Ella Hunt) and Austin (Adrian Enscoe) are still in conflict. Austin hadn’t thought he was a father for a while and had been rubbing Sue the wrong way for weeks.
A lesson from Walt Whitman
Emily reads Leaves of Grass from Walt Whitman (Billy Eichner) and then goes in search of him (metaphorically speaking) to a New York Polish hospital where he volunteers. There’s also Louisa May Alcott (Zosia Mamet) looking for details for her work, which is a witty writer’s joke. (It reminds me of a comic by David Byrne and Paul Simon meeting in Africa in search of new sounds.)
Emily realizes in “visiting” Whitman that he is more concerned about life than she is, and that he doesn’t need to worry about the best way to influence. Indulging in experience and many life tragedies can make it disgusting. But he did not write Leaves of Grass thinking too much about his place in the world. Emily also realizes she was putting Sue on the ice and it’s time to admit he loves her.
I can’t see with my hands
Rachael Holder is directing this week’s episode Dickinson, and she really puts everything in focus. Holder acts with montages in the show with aplomb, from a series of Emily’s traveling letters, through a later one showing gifts arriving at Suin’s doorstep, to presenting Gullah soldiers without dialogue.
This episode is simply full of great pictures and ideas. The show is always beautiful (Tim Orr is filming it anyway), but it’s not always so rich for the experience. After a very strong opening, it is good to see that the show remains at its best despite other wrong steps. I liked the scene at Pfaff’s bar where Walt Whitman drinks Emily. (Beth Ditto shows up as a singer at the bar; she’s always welcome.)
As I suspected, things about Sojourner Truth from last week can’t be found anywhere, which makes its look a bit rough. But that will always be a problem in this show. Or it will be in the next six weeks.
This week in millennial speech
Higgins and Henry praise abolitionist John Brown, concluding by the first loudly declaring: “Let him rest in power. Can I have an amen, my brother ?! ” He asks if Henry has “bandwidth” for his job and says his regiment acts as a “safe space”. The whole scene with Higginson should be horror and shame, so it’s justified that he speaks horrible, deliberate language that changes codes.
Look Dickinson season 3 on Apple TV +
New episodes Dickinson arrives on Apple TV + on Friday.
Look at: Apple TV +
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of a long-running series of video essays The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He wrote for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books i Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.
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