Dickinson delivers a perfect episode ahead of series finale

Dickinson season 3. Image Courtesy of Apple
Dickinson season 3. Image Courtesy of Apple /

Even though the Dickinson finale is still a week away, airing December 24 on AppleTV+, the penultimate episode of its final season showcased a stark evolution for each character of the series. An episode being “a love letter to fans,” is thrown around often, but “Grief is a Mouse,” genuinely embodied the phrase, acting as a perfect episode for devout Dickin-stans.

Tracking the evolution of Emily throughout the series has been a joy to watch; from Hailee Steinfeld’s stellar performances to the brilliant writing, Emily’s character arc is that of a poet born outside of her time, forcing the world to change around her. Her influence on every member of her family can be seen in this episode, especially with her mother, Mrs. Dickinson.

During a scene between the two, Emily allows her mother to truly mourn her sister, something the rest of the family hadn’t given her the time for until she simply shut down. Mrs. Dickinson’s dismissal of Emily’s poetry was a constant theme throughout the first season, and to see her heartache be soothed by her form of poetry was a true representation of how Emily and her words had affected her throughout the series.

The way she lit up at the idea of Emily writing her mouse analogy into a poem showed the respect she’s grown for both Emily and her poetry, allowing their mother/daughter relationship to finally thrive.

Aside from Mrs. Dickinson, Emily’s effect on Austin wasn’t absent from this episode either. His insistence to lock Emily away during the finale of season 1 found Austin trying to emulate his father, wishing she would remain in her place rather than challenge the bounds of gender and society the way Emily often did.

In this episode, though, he promises to break the cycle of systemic misogyny that doesn’t allow Emily or Lavinia to truly be independent, expressing his desire to be the opposite of Edward. Even his reasoning for dodging the draft comes down to wanting to raise the next generation of Dickinsons to be good men and to not simply follow the traditional societal pressures.

Lavinia’s evolution as an artist shouldn’t be overlooked, as this episode gives her the perfect sequel to her stand-out moment from the first season. During season 1 episode 9, Lavinia reclaimed both her body and her power by plastering self-drawn nudes on the easel of each member of her art class after Joseph Lyman passed them around the town.

Her stare-off with a sheep and eagerness to share her profound thoughts on death and life put her on an equal playing field with Emily during episode 9, both in terms of creativity and artistic merit, while also setting herself apart from her sister.

The evolution of Emily herself shines outside of the effect she has on her family as well. In the season 1 finale, Emily was left reeling after Ben’s death left her without a plan to survive the patriarchal society she lived in. Though she never truly loved Ben romantically, she did see herself marrying him, and allowing herself to find comfort in the safety of married life, much like Sue fell into during season 3. Ben was a safety net for Emily to have all the independence she wanted because she knew he would never seek to control her.

Episode 9 of season 3 finds Emily accepting her status as an unmarried woman still under her father’s care, but, with reassurance from Austin, finally allowing herself to step outside of her head and express her wants and desires freely. Both of those desires involve Sue in this episode; as she fulfills Emily’s want to change the world with her poetry by publishing her poem, as well as fulfills her want for true connection.

Sue herself has almost switched places with Emily throughout the third season, being the more liberated half of the two in contrast to her situation during season 1. She went from a realistic orphan to a liberated pseudo-wife, in stark contrast to her characterization from the first season.

While Sue was realistic in realizing she needed marriage to survive in the world, especially without any living family, the third season and her marriage to Austin allowed her to truly flourish in exploring her true feelings for Emily as well as her gender and role in society. It’s been so refreshing to watch as she has fully stepped into her own, underscored perfectly by Ella Hunt’s vulnerable portrayal.

In their shared relationship, episode 9’s love scene was the perfect answer to season 1 episode 2’s volcano scene, which is one of the defining moments of the series.

That scene is the soft, intimate, and respectful portrayal sapphic women deserve on screen, and, accompanied by “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski, it allowed Dickinson to lean into the importance of music and the Emily/Sue connection.

In its spiritual sequel, the love scene in episode 9 acts as the perfect evolution, allowing their love to progress from the exploratory nature of Sue showing Emily what volcanoes feel like to allowing the two to share in their utter devotion to one another. The escalation between the hesitance of that first scene to the extremely tasteful yet more involved scene between them allows the audience to truly grasp the devotion and depth of their relationship.

While one episode remains of the series, this episode truly felt like the culmination of three seasons all tied up in a perfect little bow. Even beyond just the Dickinson family, the stories of Henry and Betty thrived in this episode, delivering on the true change-makers during the Civil War.

Next week we will witness both the end of a brilliant series and the end of Emily’s youth, but for now, episode 9 of Dickinson serves as the perfect love letter to those who have enjoyed this show for its short-but-impactful run.

Related Story. Dickinson to end with third season on AppleTV+. light

Dickinson’s final episode airs December 24, 2021, only on AppleTV+.