Review by Sean Boelman
Positioned as one of the flagship series for last year’s launch of the Apple TV+ streaming service, the anachronistic historical comedy Dickinson captured viewers’ attention with its unabashedly vivacious nature. And the show seems to have found its footing even more heading into its second season, a funnier, more mature expansion of the characters.
The new season of the series follows then-unknown poet Emily Dickinson as her desire to express herself puts her at odds with her high-society family. This certainly wasn’t the first project to juxtapose a period piece with modern-day aesthetic influences, and the creators seem to have embraced the fact that their perception of novelty is false, allowing them to make something more out of it.
The first season played out like an entertaining fanfiction thanks to its focus on Dickinson’s personal life, and while some of this soapiness is definitely still present, this season also seems to have a lot more to say. More emphasis is put on Dickinson’s role as a female poet in a male-dominated role as opposed to a young girl going against the wishes of her father.
The characterization here is mostly a continuation of what was established in season one. There really aren’t that many new characters introduced, and those few aren’t particularly memorable. The new love interest this season is far less interesting than those that were involved in the first.
It also feels like Hailee Steinfeld has really come into the character in an interesting way. Last season, it felt like she was playing the character very similarly to a lot of the other teen roles she has done in the past, but this version of the character is a lot more nuanced. The supporting cast is also strong, especially Adrian Enscoe and Jane Krakowski.
In the first season, a lot of the humor of the series came from the anachronisms, but there is only so much comedy that can be milked out of seeing historical figures acting wild. The writers seem to have recognized this, as there is a much larger focus on wittiness and satire in the dialogue rather than the raunchiness that was most of the first season.
On a technical level, the series is pretty exceptional. The directors who helmed this set of episodes did a great job of contrasting an intense level of period detail in the costuming and settings with the modern flair of the soundtrack and humor. It’s an ambitious goal, and it consistently delivers unlike the first season, which had a few uneven moments.
The first season of Dickinson suggested that it would be a good series, and this second season shows that it can be a great one. This may not be the first anachronistic historical comedy, but it’s one of the most enjoyable and successful.
Dickinson streams on Apple TV+ beginning January 8 with new episodes released subsequent Fridays. All ten episodes reviewed.