Before I got my eye put out – | Review Score – 3/5
Fame is a fickle food – | Review Score – 3/5
The only Ghost I ever saw – | Review Score – 3/5
The Daisy follows soft the Sun
Forbidden Fruit a flavor has
Split the lark
Forever – is composed of Nows
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
I like a Look of Agony
You cannot put a Fire out
Like ham and pineapple on pizza or marmite on toast, you’ll know pretty quickly whether Dickinson is a show for you. Arguably the least vanilla entry on Apple TV, the anachronistic blend of modern slang and period drama instantly hooked some while instantly turning away others. Depending on which side of the debate you fall, you’ll either absolutely love or absolutely loathe season 2 making for a very polarizing series and a difficult one to review.
The story this time takes place around a year or so after the events of season 1. Emily is a thriving poet, at least in her bedroom anyway, occupying most of her time with whimsical poetry for her neighbour and love interest, Sue Gilbert. Of course, things are complicated by the fact she’s married to her brother Austin.
To add some spiciness to proceedings is local publisher and editor for the Springfield Republican, Samuel Bowles. He’s immediately suave and cool, complete with his own hilarious musical motif every time he rocks up on screen. Thanks to Sue’s influence, he sets his sights on Emily and intends to help get her poetry published. Only, Emily’s afraid to take the plunge and isn’t sure how she’ll deal with the fame that’ll inevitably come with that.
This is ultimately the main crux of drama that occupies this season as Emily is confronted by her inner and outer (more on that in a second) demons. The former is obvious, mixed up with her moody, poetical words dotted throughout the season courtesy of wisps of handwritten writing on screen. The latter however, comes in the form of the returning Death and a new ghost dubbed “Nobody” who tries to guide Emily into making the right decision.
Ultimately though the real hook here is the romance between Sue and Emily. It bubbles up constantly through the season with numerous intense stares and musical montages that finally blossoms into a wholly satisfying conclusion during the finale. No spoilers here of course, but this is ultimately the real stand-out element of a show that’s otherwise a conflicted medley of ideas.
The supporting players all chip in with their own sub-plots here too. Lavinia Dickinson winds up stifled in an overly masculine relationship with a guy called “Ship”, although the latter’s personality borders on caricature at times so it’s hard to take him seriously.
There’s also Anna and Clara who pop up to cause more grief, feeling like a more bratty and spoilt version of the twins in The Shining. A conflicted Mrs. Dickinson juggles the headache of dealing with these two with an exploration of her role in this world, with a couple of intimate scenes early on where she explores her own sexuality.
Edward meanwhile is one of the more intriguing male characters here as he starts to question his own role in this world. All of these characters combine with all the familiar faces from season 1, integrated into episodic romps that produce a wholly satisfying period drama – if you were a fan of the first season.
And that is ultimately the big stumbling block here. Given the completely polarizing feel of the first season, Dickinson will appease those who loved the first while simultaneously doing nothing of note to reel in those lost. The story beats are nice and the romance is certainly a plus but there’s also a constant feel of this show missing the mark tonally.
I get that the whole idea around this is to accentuate the class and age gap between adults and children but it still feels jarring to hear kids throw colloqualistic slang terms around while simultaneously getting excited about indoor toilets and cattle drives. It takes away some of the setting and ideas that’s only accentuated by the sound design.
The modern music feels so alienating against the period drama setting – especially in those scenes that actually feature a brass band or piano players at a party in the background. For all of its faults, Bridgerton at least managed to nail this balance by having modern pop songs reimagined as classical pieces. Personally, it would have been nice to see that here too.
Then again fans of the show won’t care one iota whether this plays by the rules or not. Dickinson has its own established fan-base and season 2 has enough romance, drama and political and societal commentary to please fans that have stuck with this one. For everyone else though, Dickinson is unlikely to reel you back in despite a crackling romance at the heart of this one.