After many hours of denial, contemplation, and the drying of tears over the past few days, it seems now is the right time to talk about (in its entirety, but relatively spoiler free) the modern masterpiece that is the AppleTV+ comedy series, Dickinson, which concluded it’s third and final season on December 24th. The show follows the life, love, and poetry of Emily Dickinson, portrayed stunningly by Hailee Steinfeld. Anyone who has caught a glimpse of this series, for even a second, will recognise that the show itself is pure poetry.
AppleTV+ has seen great success in just the few years it has functioned as a streaming platform. Whilst the likes of The Morning Show and Ted Lasso have received both critical praise and raked in award nominations, Dickinson has remained something of a ‘hidden gem’. Although the Dickinson fanbase is large, committed, and passionate, the show has seemed to have gone largely unnoticed when it comes to awards seasons and the larger conversations around the truly great television that has been released over the last couple of years. However, as the series has now sadly come to an end, it is easy to see the many things that make Dickinson so wonderful and the many reasons that you should grab that AppleTV+ free trial just to watch this show alone.
First of all, the ensemble cast gives such a brilliant performance, both individually and as a collective. The series is also a complete star vehicle for its young actors. Whilst Hailee Steinfeld is already an Academy Award nominee, who recently debuted as Kate Bishop in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Hawkeye, Dickinson shows her abilities as a performer like never before. The duality of her performance as Emily, portraying such strength whilst also allowing her vulnerability in 1850s society to surface, is done with such care and sensitivity to the real Emily Dickinson. Ella Hunt, who portrays the role of Sue Gilbert, perfectly balances the character’s emotions, portraying the grief and loneliness she experiences from the loss of her family, as well as the deep passionate love she has for Emily and cannot express to the outer world. Anna Baryshnikov, as Lavinia Dickinson, is an absolute scene stealer, providing not only the main comedic body of work on screen, but a nuanced performance of a young woman trying to find her place in the world whilst living largely in her sister’s shadow. The rest of the ensemble, which includes Adrian Blake Enscoe, Toby Huss, Gus Birney, Sophie Zucker, Chinaza Uche and comedy legend Jane Krakowski, perfectly fill out the scenes which help ground the audience in the reality of Emily’s life.
Drum & Lace, and Ian Hultquist provide an immaculate score which sits beautifully behind each scene and helps to push every actor’s performance to new emotional heights. For their work at it’s best, see the season two episode, Split the Lark, which takes place at the opera and signals a turning point in Emily’s life as a poet as well as her relationship with Sue.
Series creator Alena Smith, and the entire writing team, craft such incredible dialogue that serves so many purposes. Whilst the integration of Emily’s poetry and language spoken by the adults in series remains consistent with that of the mid 1800s, the younger characters use a much more modern lexis. Although this is used to present the generational divide and highlight the connections to today’s society, neither form of dialogue ever feels out of place within the story.
Dickinson mirrors both Emily’s life and her poetry with it’s gorgeous costuming, visuals, score, and performances whilst also managing to carry the emotional weight of each piece of her work that is drawn upon as inspiration for each episode. What is maybe the most special thing about the show is how it affords Emily the chance to fully express her emotions, as a woman, and her love for Sue, in a way in which she was not permitted to in her own life, and it’s beautiful to see.
If you want to experience the magic of Dickinson, and get ahead on what is sure to be a show that only grows in popularity, all three seasons are now streaming on AppleTV+.