On your marks, get set, cook! Apple’s vibrant witty “Dickinson” sets in the sweetness and spice of fame


“Fame is a bee. When Emily Dickinson wrote this, she couldn’t have imagined Instagram and Tik Tok, let alone television. All of these mediums have broken down the doors that once excluded the ordinary populace from the realm of fame. Some would say that it makes the notion of celebrity less special. But each of these social media platforms is defined by the temporary appeal of a performance. The works that take off are short viral hits that make the buzz soon after disappearing into obscurity.
Even in the 19th century, when newspapers were the primary arbiter of who or what was worth knowing, Dickinson understood the impermanence of fame and the risks and wages involved in its pursuit.

Fame is a bee.

He has a song –

He has a sting –

Ah too, he has a wing.

“Dickinson” rises to a crescendo of its own song in a confident second season, continuing the anachronistic charms established in its premiere and buzzing even more vividly with a brilliant mind. Hailee Steinfeld’s poet may have emerged from mourning a love that was not meant to be but is still obsessed with death; she sees the ending as a friend and advice.

Series creator Alena Smith deepens this aspect of Dickinson’s reputation by making Death a recurring character (played by a smartly dressed Wiz Khalifa), and now that they know each other well, he cryptically encourages her to understand the difference. between fame and immortality, and decide what she really wants.

Emily Dickinson’s real defining quirk outside of her poetry was her introversion; she rarely left her room in the last years of her life, preferring to assess the human condition through verse. She would be a model for self-imposed isolation and a practical figure for these times if one never saw Emily de Steinfeld, a lively but aggressively private young woman whose ambition clashes with the oppressive patriarchal standards of her day.

Emily’s first brushstroke with fame doesn’t come through the publication of a poem, but through a baking contest at the annual Cattle Show. And his approach to the challenge is devoid of the ethereal sweetness of his writing.

“I’m going to give this town a chewy, sticky, and generously spicy ass!” she screams after her black cake passes her family’s taste test. . . and true to her word, she does. This victory is part of Dickinson’s story; otherwise, there is no sense in including it in the plot. Either way, writer Rachel Axler prepares her own, generously spiced version of the circumstances surrounding her victory in the episode “Fame Is Fickle Food” by showing how Emily handles fame overnight on a limited level.

Suddenly the nasty town gossip is eager to claim her, all because her recipe is going to be published in the local newspaper. Last year’s winner is the trash! Best cake ever! But none of this matters to Emily because cakes, like fame, are temporary delicacies that are soon devoured, digested and forgotten. Great ideas can live in the world forever. . . but is she prepared to abandon the paper which contains them?

Much of this new season of “Dickinson” feels more lively and humorous than her excellent premiere while maintaining the tension that makes her heroine real to us. With Emily and her father Edward (Toby Huss) having achieved a certain version of relaxation when it comes to her calling, Huss seems more relaxed in her role, emphasizing the affection that father and daughter share, instead of the way they clashed with.

With Jane Krakowski’s graceful comedic performance as the mother of poet Emily Norcross Dickinson, the pair add a wonderful layer of down-to-earth realism to the fantasy of a 19th-century America stricken with slang and abundance. of needle drops. (LunchMoney Lewis’ “Make that Cake” is a memorable choice to mark Emily’s triumph as the best in the series, for example.)

The modern tailoring of “Dickinson” throughout her scripts is one of her great strengths, and as the poet weaves her way through the minefield of fame and understands what it means to be famous, the series nods to the most frivolous debates that run through our day to illustrate its conflict. When someone in his social orbit suggests starting a book club and floating Ralph Waldo Emerson as a possibility, another laughs: “Emerson is canceled.” It’s good for a laugh, and it also warns Emily about how quickly fans turn into haters.

Lingering romantic feelings for her best friend Sue (Ella Hunt) deepen this season despite Sue’s marriage to brother Emily Austin (Adrian Enscoe), and their extravagant spending to show off their marital bliss take their subplot and the Emily’s career in a new direction: the newlyweds transform their home into a social center, hosting trade shows and shows.

One of those is the entry point for taste creation editor Sam Bowles, which Finn Jones (“Game of Thrones”) achieves with an appropriate mix of poise and smarm. Mr. Bowles finds Emily’s poetry fascinating, and Emily herself even more so, and it goes without saying that it’s probably a bad idea to crack. But then, grief is the fodder of the best poetry. (On that note, one of the literary figures appearing this season is Edgar Allen Poe, played by Nick Kroll, who has quite an act to follow after John Mulaney’s portrayal of Henry David Thoreau as a spoiled man-child. )

Where Emily Dickinson’s work has reached literary eternity by evoking vast and powerful imagery through an economy of words, “Dickinson” flourishes with its sumptuous sets, costumes and sets. There are aspects of this new arc that probably only work because Steinfeld is skilled enough at selling them, such as a recurring manifestation of a haunting figure that only she can see (Will Pullen), a ghostly portrayal of her poem. “I’m Nobody! Who are you? ”

It is a visual representation of the choice she faces in coming out of her shelter and putting her word before the world, subjecting it to consumption, praise and judgment, but there are times when the he appearance of this spirit borders on overuse.

“Dickinson” is also straining its efforts to recognize the burgeoning abolitionist movement taking place among the family, in part because of the series’ blurring of racial boundaries among its elites. Giving comedian Ayo Edebiri enough screen time in the balance helps alleviate some of the subplot’s situational improprieties; Furthermore, this subplot adds some perspective to Emily’s personal conundrum. Fame is a Privilege Black writers forced to work anonymously would like to take advantage of it but were denied at the time or their lives would be in danger.

That’s it, and “Dickinson” isn’t claiming it’s not history. But the rest is a sweet wonder with an emphasis on sincerity and the funny, inviting us to delicately and reverently bond with a self-proclaimed Nobody, and love how this augmented version of his story makes loneliness and loneliness. fabulous anonymity.

The first three episodes of “Dickinson” Season 2 are currently airing on Apple TV +, with new episodes starting on Fridays.


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