Emily and Sue are on very different paths in ‘Dickinson’ season 2. HL spoke with creator Alena Smith and star Adrian Blake Enscoe about Emily and Sue’s ‘roller coaster’ journey and Austin’s ‘loveless marriage.’
EmiSue fans, Dickinson season 2 is going to be one heck of a ride. Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) and Sue (Ella Hunt) clearly have a very deep love for one another, but their connection will face many more challenges when the second season debuts Jan. 8 on Apple TV+. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with creator Alena Smith about where Emily and Sue stand in season 2 now that Sue is married to Emily’s brother, Austin (Adrian Blake Enscoe).
“It’s interesting because I think at the end of season one, Emily and Sue found a way to let their paths diverge,” Alena told HollywoodLife. “We end season 1 at Sue and Austin’s wedding with Sue going off in a hot air balloon to follow the traditional path of wife and motherhood. Whereas, Emily is going to stay in her room alone and write. But in that same finale episode, Emily gives Sue a poem that makes her cry. I think Emily feels like, as long as I can maintain that connection, as long as I can write a poem that will make her cry, then I’m okay with this whole thing where we live next door to each other and we’re sister-in-laws. I can put up with it. So in episode 1 of season 2, the big shift that happens for Emily is that she finds Sue telling her, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be the only person that reads your poetry. I can’t let you make me cry.’ There’s some kind of emotional impact that the poems have on Sue that’s too much for her to deal with, so she pushes Emily out into the spotlight. That’s what begins this bit of a psychological thriller journey that Emily has in kind of a quest for but also like running away from fame.”
As Sue pushes Emily away, she is also burying her own inner turmoil. Because of this, Sue will reveal a completely different side of herself in season 2. “The other thing that we obviously notice about Sue right off the bat in season 2 is that she has changed,” Alena continued. “She’s gone from being this quiet orphan dressed in black to this glittering socialite who throws huge parties. She laughs loudly and clearly wants to be seen as some kind of influencer. Again, I think for Emily that’s okay until it suddenly starts to feel like maybe the real Sue, the old Sue, is just gone. What happened to her? Where did she go? I think that’s really the central mystery of all of season 2. Season 2 definitely takes this relationship on a real roller coaster and brings it to a breaking point that could have been fatal.”
Alena noted that so much of this change in Sue is rooted in “the trauma in her past, on top of the fact that the love of her life is Emily Dickinson, and she can’t actually be with her. There’s so much in Sue that is painful and dark that she wants to push down and walk away from, and the problem with that is that if you keep denying your inner life, you end up being only a kind of surface with nothing more underneath.”
A new person comes into Emily’s life, and his name is Samuel Bowles, played by Game of Thrones alum Finn Jones. “Season 2 is really about this kind of love triangle between Emily, Sam, and Sue,” Alena teased. Samuel was a real person who was the publisher and editor of the Springfield Republican in the 1800s. “Sam comes into Emily’s life and really disrupts this story that she’s been telling about herself, which is she can’t publish her work because women aren’t allowed to,” Alena revealed. “Sam is there saying, ‘Actually, I love publishing women. I want to help get your voice out there.’ The question becomes then, well, why doesn’t she go for it? What happens there? And why for Emily is the whole pursuit of fame and being seen something that’s so complicated and so fraught with danger? Finn really is a breath of fresh air in Amherst. He represents this kind of accelerating pace of media and technology and this way that things are really speeding up around Emily. The question is: is she going to keep up with the times?”
As the love triangle forms between Sue, Emily, and Sam, what does this mean for Austin? Adrian Blake Enscoe weighed in about Austin’s journey in the new season. “Austin’s arc in season 2 is trying to find love in a loveless marriage,” Adrian told HollywoodLife. “Their marriage is built on a lie. The lie is that they love each other when, in fact, Sue really loves Emily. It’s not apparent that Austin ever really truly saw Sue for who she is, and so Austin is really trying to find ways to find that love elsewhere.”
Adrian stressed that Austin’s “biological clock is ticking loudly” in the new season. He added, “Part of it is the patriarchy, just wanting to have a genetic legacy in the first place or just something like a child that you have influenced and that’s part of your family. Obviously, in season 1, he promised Sue that if she married him, he would never ask her to have children. But he’s really, really struggling with that.” The first 3 episodes of season 2 will premiere Jan. 8. The rest of the season will release weekly on Apple TV+.