Emily and Sue. Sue and Emily. EmiSue.
After spending much of the season apart and at odds, these star-crossed lovers were finally able to overcome these outside forces keen on keeping them apart and reunite in one of the most breathtaking reconciliations of the year.
However, Dickinson Season 2 Episode 10 wasn't just about Emily and Sue finding their way back to each other; it was also a finale that capped the season.
Part of what makes writing this so difficult is having to separate my own feelings of delight over long-awaited confessions and beautifully executed and thoroughly sensual love scenes against the season's larger overarching storylines.
This episode is not just a standalone installment but also the season-ender, meaning it is the bookend to Dickinson Season 2 and has to be evaluated as such.
Sue: I could die happy right now.
Emily: Not me. I feel sorry for the dead today.
Sue: When I’m with you, that is the only time I feel alive.
Emily: That’s all I need. That’s all I’ve ever needed: to make you feel that way. I write for you, my Sue. I write for you. For you alone. That’s enough.
Sue: I will never let go of you again.
Going into this season, one of the things the writers had to contend with was figuring out to balance the show's version of Emily against her historical counterpart.
From history, we know that of Emily's nearly 1,800 poems, almost all of them were published posthumously.
This means that the show had to construct a reasonable explanation for why our Emily, an ambitious and intelligent rebel of a poet who declared at the end of Dickinson Season 1 Episode 10 her plans to be a published poet, would suddenly change her tune and decide to stay largely anonymous.
So what did it do? Well, it tried to create a plausible answer to this largely looming question.
However, it wasn't the answer that was problematic per se; it was the sheer amount of possible justifications that got in the way.
By the end of this installment alone, there are three discernible reasons why Emily would turn her back of fame and celebrity, and they all stem from disparate plot points.
Firstly was the ghost of Nobody.
After agonizing over his existence for most of the season, the reveal of Nobody's true identity and how he dies led Emily to believe that it may be better for her to be remembered as a nobody rather than a famous poet.
Nobody: You know who I am, and you know how I’m going to die.
Emily: Yes, in the war.
Nobody: In the war, seeking glory, seeking fame. I’ll leave my home and my family and go into battle.
Emily: Yes, and then the bullet will hit you like a bird.
Nobody: So Frazar Stearns will die to be remembered. Might have been better to be Nobody.
Emily: I understand, and I will not make the same mistake.
Nobody: You have wars to fight, Emily Dickinson, but you must fight them in secret, alone, unseen. You must give all the glory to yourself and ask for nothing from the world. You must be a nobody. The bravest, most brilliant nobody who ever existed.
While there is a certain cache that comes from being known, publishing her works means giving up some of her agency, as it allows everyone to comment on Emily and her works, even if it's not true.
And while it's not the best explanation, when coupled with her other conversations with the apparition and the insight she gleaned from the opera singer, it's a decent enough reason for us to accept.
Emily can still be a poet, even if she keeps her poems to herself.
Secondly, there was Emily's former editor Sam, a misogynistic and patronizing piece of shit who's more concerned with profits than people.
Sam has been leading Emily on from the very beginning, playing this cruel game of cat and mouse, where he makes her think he's interested in her in more than a professional sense, only to rip the carpet out from under her afterward.
It's manipulative as hell, and after discovering his affair with Sue, it's only natural that Emily would want her poems back from Sam.
His heartless and extremely childish response over refusing to return Emily's poems, along with his condescending remark about women always letting emotion get in the way of their careers, further demonstrated that Sam should not be Emily's publisher.
Furthermore, his actions demonstrated how ruthless the publishing world could be, so it wouldn't be that much of a stretch if Emily decided she never wanted to deal with the likes of Sam or any other editor again. And after everything Sam has put her through this season, it's a pretty good reason.
Thirdly and lastly, there was the Sue of it all.
Sue, who pushed Emily toward Sam because she couldn't handle what Emily made her feel. Sue, who slept with Sam when she no longer wanted to feel anything. Sue, who realized she only ever truly feels when she's with Emily. Sue, who is completely and totally in love with our favorite poet.
Sam: Hmmm, so this is about Sue?
Emily: I don’t know what you mean by that?
Sam: You know about us, don’t you? I see what’s going on here. You found out about me and Sue, and now you’re jealous. You thought I was flirting with you or something, leading you on. Well, I wasn’t, OK? I was only ever interested in your work, which is what you should be focused on too. Don’t let your emotions get in the way of your career. That is always what happens to women.
Emily: I need my poems.
Sam: No, Emily, you need me. See, a lot of people wouldn’t have even bothered with you, but I have because I understand you. You’re weird, and you’re warped, and you’re sick, and you’re strange, but I understand that, as a woman, your art comes from all of that. Now, it would sadly be easy for the whole world to ignore you, but I won’t let them. No one would pay attention to you if it wasn’t for me pointing them in your direction. Trust me. You have no power without me. One day, you will look back at all of this, and you will thank me.
Emily: I’m gonna ask you one more time, give me back my poems.
Taken as a whole, it's a very convoluted and roundabout way for Emily to realize that as long as she has Sue, that's enough.
She doesn't need fame, fortune, or celebrity; she can just write for Sue and Sue alone.
It's an explanation doused in saccharine sentiment, and on looking at this reasoning through the lens of the entire season, feels forced and tired.
The writers took such a long and arduous route to get to this reasoning, forcing us to believe that it makes sense, that it almost gets lost in itself.
So what exactly is its saving grace?
It's the ethereal chemistry between Hailee Steinfeld's Emily and Ella Hunt's Sue, the flawless cinematography of their love scenes, the beautifully written and heartbreaking dialogue where Emily and Sue fight before Sue confesses her undying love.
It's all of these things and more as Emisue's inevitable reconciliation builds to a crescendo and crashes with scenes our 'shipper hearts have been waiting all season for.
And while it doesn't erase the confounding storytelling of how we got here, in those glorious moments, it doesn't matter anymore.
All that matters is that Sue is saying she loves Emily. All that matters is them making love all over the Dickinson household. All that matters is Sue promising never to let Emily go again.
It's perfect in every way until you remember how painful it was for Emily to get here and how Sue was barely recognizable until this moment.
Sue: You’re right.
Emily: Right about what?
Sue: The only time I feel things is when I’m with you.
Emily: She dealt her pretty words like Blades. How glittering they shone.
Sue: I pushed you toward him because I wanted to escape what I was feeling, and I slept with him ‘cause I didn’t wanna feel it. There is so much that I don’t want to feel, Emily. And the biggest thing that I don’t want to feel…
Emily: Is what? Hmm, is what? What is it, Sue? Just say it.
Sue: Is that I’m in love with you.
Emily: I don’t believe you.
Sue: It’s true.
Emily: It’s not true. Nothing you say to me is true. You’re not even Sue anymore. You’re a new person, a fake person. I don’t even recognize you, and everything you say to me is a lie.
Sue: Emily, I love.
Emily: Stop lying to me.
Sue: I love you, and I felt you in the library because you’re always with me. I can’t escape from you because the only true thing I will ever feel is my love for you.
So does those hardships and confusion and head-scratching decisions on the writers' part make it all the sweeter?
Or do they serve as a reminder of what we could have had sooner had the writers not been so gung-ho about ensuring that Emily was repeatedly hit over the head with a hammer about why publishing her poems would only lead to disaster?
It's a tough thing to reconcile, but the point of great art is to make us think, and if it's one thing the season-ender has made me do is just that.
Some stray thoughts:
Lavinia and Ship broke up again. Color me surprised that this relationship wasn't built to last. Ship repeatedly claims to accept Lavinia as she is, not who he wants her to be, but he never actually means it.
And if he does, well, it doesn't last long. Had he accepted the woman his ex-fiancee is, he would have known that she would never leave her family to move to New Orleans on a whim. Lavinia stood her ground, though, and refused to move. I was so proud of her until that self-doubt started to creep back in.
Fortunately, it didn't last, and Lavinia made peace with her and Ship going their separate ways. The door is still open for a possible reconciliation, but I'm glad where they've left things.
Maggie is the best. We should all have someone like Maggie in our lives.
Austin has finally made peace with his marriage to Sue. He's accepted that though they're married, it's only on paper, and both are free to live their lives as they see fit.
For Austin, that may mean starting something with Jane, who isn't nearly as horrible as she was on Dickinson Season 1. He clearly has feelings for her, and the only thing holding him back was his hope that Sue would someday return his love.
However, since accepting that's not going to happen, he's finally free to be happy, which is all we've ever wanted for him.
Sam's not going to be too happy when he discovers he's "lost" all of Emily's poems. Hopefully, he'll set his sights on some other literary genius and leave poor Emily alone. She's had enough of Sam Bowles to last a lifetime, but seeing as he's stubborn and vengeful, we could be seeing more of him on Dickinson Season 3.
So what did you think, Dickinson Fanatics?
Was the EmiSue reconciliation all you ever wanted?
Are you satisfied with the reasons Emily decides not to pursue fame?
Have we seen the last of Sam and Ship?
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.