What They Say:
S01 E02 – “I have never seen ‘Volcanoes’” – Women are forbidden at Amherst, so Emily and Sue get creative to attend a lecture.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The opening installment of Dickinson clicked pretty well for me with how it was presented, from the touches of modern to make it accessible and play with the ideas a bit more to the visual design of it. While it has all the usual hallmarks of the period there were some really strong moments, from the kiss sequences to Wiz Khalifa in his outfit as Death. Everything largely feels period-authentic in how it unfolds and that makes the other moments all the more striking and fun, especially with how Hailee Steinfeld just keeps her presence felt across the screen when she’s there, which is the bulk of the time. Everyone is putting in a fantastic performance.
One of the things that really works in its favor is that with Steinfeld’s background in both acting and music she’s able to bring something really lyrical to the poetry as she recites it and as the words slide across the screen. The time between her and Susan in bed is a delight to watch as well as we see just how much Susan means to her, the kinds of desires there are with the closeness and how Susan also brings a layer of peace and calmness to Emily. That works well enough until the new maid, Maggie (played by Darlene Hunt), causes a bit of trouble downstairs with a small fire and generally just not what one expects from a maid. Amusingly, Emily’s mother keeps trying to get Emily to do things as a proper daughter but that has her pulling on Maggie to do that – which frustrates both of Emily’s parents. And Edward is still quite miffed with his daughter.
There are some struggles to be had in this episode that are interesting to watch. Mrs. Dickinson is frustrated by Edward in that they have a maid now, which makes her feel like she’s not worthwhile as she sees all her value in running the household. And she sees it as Edward indulging in his daughter again, which doesn’t help her. Emily’s intent on finding a way to sneak into Amherst for a lecture she wants to hear and is trying to get Sue to go along with her on it. The track that people’s lives are on are pretty clear and distinct and most tend to just go along, no matter the age. Emily’s doing her best to find ways to learn and getting into trouble for it while her brother has every opportunity and isn’t all that interested in any of it. It’s fun to watch as she struggles against all of this and the way Sue even plays up to it a bit, encouraging it in her own way – while also trying to keep her under control in other ways.
While they do the whole very fun dressing up as men montage, the idea that it’ll allow them to sneak onto campus hinges on the universal concept of boys are stupid. Of course, George sees right through it but they’re able to actually make it into the lecture hall and watch as it plays out. It has a great build to it that you practically expect it to turn into a big musical moment as George works the makeshift volcano as the subject of the lecture. The fallout from it all is intriguing, though moreso for the way her mother admonishes her because unlike Emily she doesn’t spend all this time trying to express herself. It can be interpreted so many different ways, each valid, that it’s a powerful statement. And it does make an impact on Emily; she doesn’t need to reduce how she is in truth but she needs to complement it with more things so that she can be a part of the world, and to make the right kind of connections with her mother.
With a final sequence before the credits that takes us further into the language of volcanoes, the second episode of Dickinson delivers. It’s operating the same as the first but explores and builds upon it in a really engaging way that most second episodes often don’t take the opportunity to do. The exploration of more of the “lanes” that everyone exists in is always a fascinating subject and one that we’re dealing with today for many people in many ways. Emily’s engaging with those close to her in her lives from a distance, though with Sue it’s incredibly intimate in a way she can’t replicate with others. But we see her starting to build some bridges toward her parents here, or at least come to a little understanding, and that’s critical. Blending that in with some really fun montage sequences and the entire Amherst excursion provides for another packed episode.
Streamed By: Apple TV+