‘Dickinson’ Cast & Creator on an ‘Icon of Privacy’s Struggles With Fame & More Season 2 Details
She’s baaaack. Amherst’s baddest 19th-century poet, Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld), returns for Season 2 of Apple TV+’s smart comedy Dickinson beginning January 8 (the first three installments drop at once, with single episodes arriving each Friday).
In the time since fans last saw Emily, mourning the loss of her access to love Sue (Ella Hunt) who wed her brother Austin (Adrian Blake Enscoe) in the Season 1 finale, she’s had a little time to grow. Things are moving quickly when Season 2 kicks off, as “media and technology has sped up,” showrunner and creator Alena Smith notes. “We are edging ever closer to the actual brink and explosion of the Civil War, and this is kind of the event horizon that’s coming for all of these characters.”
Whether Emily can keep up is the big question of Season 2. It’s been nearly a year since we visited the Dickinson set as they filmed the final two installments. While the wait for Season 2’s arrival has seemed endless, Emily’s continued journey leaves viewers wanting more.
Behind the scenes, Smith, Steinfeld, and some others gave us a window into what this chapter has in store. “I think this whole season is her not having it figured out, and watching her go through all of these internal struggles,” says Steinfeld. “She is more open to guidance and help. She’s really going through it, this season”
“I think, before she was a bit more closed off, and knew exactly what she wanted, and how to get it… she’s still very much that way, but she’s lacking a lot of help and guidance.” As fans who devoured Season 1 would know, Emily often confides in Sue for such guidance, but that’s about to change.
“The core emotional relationship that was being negotiated in Season 1 was Emily and her dad,” Smith explains. “In Season 2, it is Emily and Sue (known by fans as EmiSue). And the show becomes like a bit of an erotic psychological thriller.” Let’s just say, Smith’s last three words sum up the eye-opening predicaments Emily finds herself in throughout this latest chapter.
“Emily has become completely devoted to her poetry, the depth of her poetry, and wanting to share that with Sue,” says Hunt. “Sue isn’t in an emotional place where she wants to do that.” There to step in? Finn Jones‘ Samuel Bowles, who readily takes up the role as Emily’s poetic confidante.
“Sam Bowles is a real person from history, who was this young, progressive, disruptive editor of the Springfield Republican, in which Emily Dickinson was published, but anonymously,” elaborates Smith. Sue introduces Emily to him at one of her many parties at The Evergreens, Sue and Austin’s ostentatious new crib. “Unlike Emily’s father, who has been opposed to women publishing, Sam says that he’s all for it. But her encounter with Sam is very fraught with confusion and danger because Emily doesn’t quite know whether or not she can trust him.”
This new character and arrangement forces a wedge between the women. “I think at the heart of it, Sue’s pushing Emily towards publishing because she can’t deal with the love she has for Emily,” Hunt explains. “It’s a season of a lot of separation between the two of them, and kind of that constant feeling that they want to be together.”
While apart, they’ll deal with their own challenges, particularly Emily’s attitude towards fame, a status which Samuel Bowles promises she’ll obtain in exchange for new poems. “I think that if Emily Dickinson is an icon for anything she’s an icon of privacy,” Smith says simply. “So, it’s very interesting to look at what motivated her to choose a different path and to try, in some ways, to be a nobody herself.”
Not so much iconic as it is ironic, Emily Dickinson is so famous today that viewers are watching a series about her struggling with the concept. If that proves anything, it’s that this heroine was years ahead of her time, but it could also just be a reflection of how Dickinson, as a show, holds a mirror up to our own world.
Viewers see that in Sue’s lavish parties and clothing, which reflect shindigs and rotating wardrobes reminiscent of today’s biggest influencers. Emily’s sister Lavinia (Anna Baryshnikov), meanwhile, continues to discover herself as a woman. “We can expect Lavinia to reclaim herself in much weirder ways than you would ever imagine,” teases Baryshnikov.
Pico Alexander’s Ship Shipley, a friend of Austin’s who begins boarding at the Dickinson household, puts a wrench in Lavinia’s flourish. He “totally throws Lavinia out of whack. And while she’s normally the one used to pursuing things with a degree of seriousness and earnestness… suddenly Ship is all in very quickly and Lavinia has to negotiate whether or not that’s something she’s actually interested in.”
“He’s like a bit of a dum-dum,” Alexander says on set. “He’s this college dropout and he comes back to Amherst to try to get his life in order…. Ship is the vehicle for the old patriarchal way of thinking.” Also dealing with relationship struggles is Austin, who tries his best to find common ground with wife Sue.
“They don’t really communicate very well. They definitely don’t have the same set of goals and they don’t see eye to eye on the nature of what their relationship is,” Enscoe laments. “Austin is really struggling because he promised Sue that he wouldn’t ever ask her to have children, but his biological clock is really ticking.”
Season 2 has plenty of other great moments, stories, and revelations in store and like Emily’s poems in the show, episodes will provide some answers and clarity fans are looking for. Follow Emily’s inner-conflict on fame as Smith says, “taken from Dickinson’s own work, and her own very evident struggle to figure out whether she wanted to be seen and noticed for her work, or whether it was somehow more powerful for her as an artist to withhold that from the world.”
Dickinson, Season 2 Premiere, Friday, January 8, Apple TV+ (new episodes every Friday)