Dickinson Allows Its Penultimate Episode To Beautifully Continue Sue and Emily’s Story
Hailee Steinfeld is currently slaying on two streaming platforms with her roles on Marvel and Disney+’s Hawkeye and AppleTV+’s Dickinson. With her three-season turn as the American poet Emily Dickinson, the series has been able to be part of a really lovely exploration of 19th century queerness.
Spoilers for Dickinson Season Three.
With one episode left after it, “Grief is a Mouse” was spent bringing the Dickinson family back together again. After going through her own emotional inferno, Emily came back with an understanding of her loved ones that she hadn’t focused on before. Throughout the season, Emily has been focused on the legacy of the family and protecting her father after his heart attack but, in doing so, has ignored his flaws as a man.
In the previous episode, when Emily was made the executor of her father’s will, he made it clear that for all the love he gives his daughters, he doesn’t see them as independent humans. Everything will be left to Austin, and Emily and Vinnie will be their brother’s property. This breaks the glaze she’s had over her father’s actions, revealing the reality that for all her support of him, he is not a progressive person.
So, Emily calls a “sibling summit” to bring the siblings together and ensure that they will be cared for by Austin with respect and dignity. They hug, and it feels good.
Then, we go to Mrs. Dickinson, who is finally allowed to let out her grief about losing her sister, by speaking her sadness aloud to her eldest daughter … and a mouse. It is a very poignant scene, and Jane Krakowski sells every moment of it.
But let’s move on to the OTP: Sue and Emily.
After yet another season of not properly communicating with each other, Sue and Emily find themselves finally in sync again. Emily comes over during a going-away party for one of their friends, kisses Sue on her neck, and promises they will be alone together later. At the party, it is revealed that Sue submitted one of Emily’s poems to be published. It is a lovely moment and a great contrast to the past, when Emily felt forced and shamed for her desires.
All season, Emily has wanted to find a way to use her poetry to help during the war effort, since that is her one skill, and Sue helps it happen. When their sex scene happens, it is very quiet and feels almost sacred as the two of them reconnect and Emily can say the words she often has a hard time expressing.
I’ve seen discourse that Sue and Emily are “toxic.” I disagree with that take because, while I do agree that the show leans into the conflict between them a lot, they are living in a very emotionally tense situation.
Sue is married to Emily’s brother. They may be in love, but they can never be together openly and freely. Sue is joyous in being a mother, but this little boy is Emily’s nephew, and Emily doesn’t really care for children.
Love does not always mean you and your partner are in perfect lockstep, especially in a society where you have to be in the closet, and fundamentally, Sue and Emily are emotionally different. That doesn’t make their relationship toxic, but it does mean that it takes work for them to actually get good communication. I love that the show understands that and allows them to be themselves as individual women but gives them both the courage to know when to grow.
Dickinson may be a comedy series, but its heart has always been about allowing many different kinds of female personalities to emerge without judgment. Emily’s sometimes over-passionate genius needs Sue’s pragmatic strength, and I’m glad the narrative has allowed them to find each other in the space between those two personas.
I am sad that we only have one episode left, but the series has sparked a renewed interest in Emily Dickinson, given us some fantastic comedic performances, and set probably the best standard in how to make a well done, diverse period drama.
(image: Apple TV+)
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]