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[The following story contains spoilers from the seventh episode of Dickinson‘s third season, “The Future never spoke.”]
In the seventh episode of the third and final season of Apple TV+’s Dickinson, Hailee Steinfeld’s Emily and her sister Lavinia (Anna Baryshnikov) travel to 1955 via a magical gazebo. There they meet a college-age Sylvia Plath (Chloe Fineman), who is a huge fan of the “great American poet Emily Dickinson.”
Yet after being excited to see that Emily is now a published author, the sisters find themselves confused and offended as they learn how Emily is being characterized.
“Emily Dickinson was the original sad girl,” Fineman’s Sylvia says as she tells the sisters, who Sylvia believes are Smith College students, about the “morbidly depressed” poet with whom she feels a “kinship.”
Sylvia explains that it’s “common knowledge” that Emily was a lonely, “miserable, dried-up spinster” who wore white and cried.
Increasingly frustrated, Emily and Lavinia insist that what Sylvia says is not true, but Sylvia remains convinced.
“Emily does get to see that in the future she is a published author,” Smith tells The Hollywood Reporter. “However, she is also confronted with the fact that as such she is deeply misunderstood and mischaracterized within this myth, that of course our show has been about breaking apart and dismantling, that Emily was this depressive spinster who wasted away out of unrequited love for a man.”
While Sylvia Plath is, according to Smith, “probably the most important American poet of the 20th century,” Smith wanted to have her version of Emily Dickinson meet her not just because they’re both literary greats.
“I felt that there’s this misconstrual of Emily being someone just like Sylvia who was probably suicidal and died young, but none of that is true about Emily,” Smith says. “Emily actually lived a long, contented life and created this phenomenal body of work and passed away as we all do when the time comes.”
After being confronted with lies about who Emily is, Lavinia says the future, “wasn’t really what we expected.”
Smith explains that the sisters’ journey is “the world’s most underwhelming trip to the future.”
“They only get to 1955, and it turns out that things there pretty much suck,” Smith says.
And in the episode, Sylvia decrees “the future never comes for women.”
Despite Emily’s disappointment about who people believe her to be, the trip to 1955 is significant with respect to her legacy, Steinfeld says.
“We got to see inside Emily’s legacy that she left behind,” Steinfeld says. “It was so cool to play through that moment where, in season two we contemplated the entire season whether fame was something Emily Dickinson really wanted or not, and so to have this moment where she actually sees her name on multiple books in her own room in the future in a museum that is her own home that she grew up in that is known because of who she is, was a very fun and surreal thing.”
The trip to the future also seems to bring Emily and Lavinia closer together, a bond that does seem borne out by history.
“We know from the history that Emily felt so seen and understood by Lavinia,” Baryshnikov told THR and a group of reporters on a visit to the Dickinson set this summer. “One of the things that we have a great time exploring this season is the ways that that was specific to their relationship. There’s something about Emily and Lavinia where Emily doesn’t need anything from Lavinia and she doesn’t expect anything from Lavinia. They can just co-exist as sisters. I think that creates a lot of ease and a lot of fun in the scenes I have with Hailee. There is more of a comfort that you have in a non-contentious sibling relationship.”
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