Dickinson season 2, episode 8 recap – “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” The Invisible Woman

February 12, 2021
Cole Sansom 0
Apple TV+, Weekly TV
5

Summary

Emily wakes up the day her poem is published to find that no-one can see or hear her.

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5

Summary

Emily wakes up the day her poem is published to find that no-one can see or hear her.

This recap of Dickinson season 2, episode 8, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?“, contains spoilers.


Along with falling, and being late for something you didn’t know you had scheduled, being invisible is one of the classic nightmare scenarios. Deep down we all want to be seen and listened to (we want attention!), and so being physically imperceptible, incapable of expression, is a wonderful metaphor for our human fears.

It takes some time for Emily to realize that no-one can see her. Bowles delivered; her poem is on the front page, she should be able to bask in her success. “I have a few minutes if anyone wants to ask me anything,” she says, putting her feet on the table like she owns the place. But nobody takes the bait. It feels like they’ve all decided to ignore her.

She can only watch as her mother tries to hide the poem from her father, but Edward ends up enjoying it. “She might make the family proud after all,” he says, but Emily is unable to respond.

Soon she’s forced to bear witness to Ship and Lavinia “consciously uncoupling.” It’s a moment we’ve been waiting for all season; they are hopelessly mismatched, but Emily has not been in on their discussions. Moreover, she hasn’t taken an interest in her sister’s affairs at all. “I am not normal, I’m a twisted, witchy, creative, h***y woman and you can’t accept that,” Lavinia tells Ship. Unable to provide consolation or empathy, she can only watch as Lavinia does her Lola Montez dance.

Things become more peculiar when our ghostly friend “Nobody” appears, who clarifies that he’s “I’m not a ghost, I’m just a mystery” (Nobody I am so sorry for calling you a ghost in these recaps, I apologize). He tells Emily that being invisible can be a gift, she can find out what people really think of her and her poem. Seems like a bad idea to me!

Going into town, she hears some gross men who can only think of women in strictly h***y terms. Her friends perfunctorily acknowledge it, Henry “Box” Brown doesn’t care for the rhyming, but at least Hattie seems to like it (Ayo Edebiri also co-wrote Dickinson season 2, episode 8, with show creator Alena Smith).  Putting your work out in public, especially poetry, can invite all sorts of responses (especially if you’re a woman). 

It’s a side of fame Emily wasn’t looking forward to. In response, Nobody gives another argument for anonymity. “The world runs on invisible things,” he says, and Emily takes him to Ben’s grave. Here, Nobody remarks that he has little memory, but can hear the sounds of a battle. It’s a stark reminder that one of the most tumultuous and bloody times in American history is fast approaching.

At least Henry is ready. His paper, while anonymously written and published, is creating real change towards emancipation (he acknowledges the upcoming raid on Harpers Ferry). “The work we are doing is not about ego,” he tells the assembly of Amherst’s African American residents; “our newspaper is changing the world.”

But it’s not all serious. Hattie tears off her coat to reveal a gorgeous dress underneath (the one Sue declined to wear a few episodes back.) Brown gets out his fiddle and a joyous party erupts. Emily, still invisible, watches from the back. It’s a world she’s never been privy to before and implies a vast wealth of black community that’s been lying under the show’s surface the whole time.

In contrast, the party at Sue’s is a dreary affair, with guests forced to listen to the orphans’ dreadful violin playing. Sam inspects the painting Austin bought for Sue but tells him it is a fake. Distraught, Austin leaves to find Emily. An incredible dance montage later, he finds her in the barn and brings her out. It takes a moment for Emily to realize what just happened. Her brother can see her. When she tells him she’s invisible, he thinks she’s speaking in metaphors again.

“I’m so proud of you,” he says. Austin has clearly been going through something all season, but genuinely cares about his sister’s success. “You’re the only thing in my life I’m proud of right now,” he tells her, and he means it. But before they can talk more, Emily notices her old friend Death has arrived.

It’s good to have Khalifa back, and this time he’s brought along Edgar Allen Poe (Nick Kroll), who “died of mysterious circumstances,”  (“No, you drank yourself to death,” Death corrects). Poe is obsessed with his own fame and ridicules Emily for her claim to fame being a single poem in a newspaper. “Fame is an addiction,” he tells her.” As Leonard Cohen kicks in, Emily asks to be dropped off at Sue’s, before taking another ride in the carriage. 

When she arrives, everyone has already left. She calls out for Sue, who arrives looking excited to see her. Emily declares that she wants “to be seen by people.” But it’s not for Emily that Sue is meeting. Bowles appears, and Emily watches as the two start passionately making out. Invisibility sure has made everything a lot clearer.

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