‘Dickinson’ creator Alena Smith on the hidden meaning of Emily’s relationship with Sue [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

The second season of “Dickinson” keeps its title poet (played by Hailee Steinfeld) and the woman she loves (played by Ella Hunt) apart and at odds for a large part of its 10 episodes. But that changes during the season finale, which finds Emily and Sue reconnecting and defining their relationship for the first time.

“Emily, when I’m with you, that is the only time I feel alive,” Sue tells Emily during a post-coital moment.

“That’s all I need. That’s all I’ve ever needed. To make you feel that way,” Emily responds. “I write for you, my Sue. I write for you. For you alone. That’s enough.”

“This is a queer relationship and these two young women are in love and it’s great that this representation is happening,” “Dickinson” creator Alena Smith tells Gold Derby about the game-changing moment of honesty between the two women. But, she says, the scene also represents another metaphoric meaning for their relationship. 

It’s “about the relationship between a writer and her reader,” she says. “I believe Emily Dickinson came to the conclusion — in poems like ‘The Soul selects her own Society’ or ‘If I can stop one heart from breaking I shall not live in vain’ — that other writers have come to as well: Which is, I can’t think about the whole world when I write, I have to think about one person who needs to know what I’m saying and one person who will understand what I’m saying. This idealized love affair that can occur between a writer and a reader. So I think that last scene is both the consummation of these two girlfriends but it’s also that more literary consummation of what every poet hopes for which is being understood.”

Season 2 of “Dickinson” expanded the world of the Apple TV+ series, further developing Emily’s relationships with her family and her work, all while the specter of the Civil War cast a large shadow over the scenes of celebration and general merriment. 

“Season 2 is darker than Season 1 but it’s also a lot more glamorous. They’re having parties and going to the opera and going to the spa,” Smith explains of the show and where it is headed. “When we get into Season 3 and the Civil War is underway, [there are] no more parties. Everyone is dressed in black. In some ways, maybe Season 3 is even darker but there are also ways in which Season 3 is a return to the warmth and embrace of the family.”

Smith and her team are currently in production on Season 3 of the show, which was written during the pandemic, forcing the staff to communicate and collaborate via video conference tools. But the shared struggle of the last year also mirrored what “Dickinson” Season 3 will explore.

“This sense of a nation going through a trauma and processing a lot of grief, but also being stuck at home with your family — which is how Emily Dickinson spent her entire life, because we know she famously didn’t really leave her childhood home — I actually think that in some ways for Emily stepping away from her family feels scarier and when she gets to go home to that it actually feels a little brighter, even in the midst of difficulty and war,” Smith says.

That means while fans should expect “Dickinson” to again marry coming-of-age comedy with drama in Season 3, the show will evolve beyond its core themes of Season 2 (which included, among other things, fame and how to best manage a burgeoning platform). 

“I love the fact that with this show about poet and her family that we can come back each season and see new sides of these characters,” Smith says. “In some ways, Hailee as Emily is really coming-of-age in the show. So she’s really growing and maturing between each season and struggling with new thematic conflicts. She’s definitely not worried about fame anymore in Season 3.”

“Dickinson” Season 2 is now streaming on Apple TV+. Watch the full interview with Smith above.

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