Dickinson season 3, episode 2 recap – “It feels a shame to be Alive -“

November 5, 2021
Cole Sansom 0
Apple TV+, Streaming Service, Weekly TV


Sue goes into labor, and Emily sees Fraser Stearns off to war.

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Sue goes into labor, and Emily sees Fraser Stearns off to war.

his recap of Apple TV+s Dickinson season 3, episode 2, “It feels a shame to be Alive -” contains spoilers. 

Read the recap of the previous episode.

Throughout the past two seasons of Dickinson Emily has been someone able to look at (and write down) the truth, while everyone around her is caught up in the trappings of age, gender roles, and the like. It’s a shame that when she finds someone who can truly speak to her strengths, he’s not long for this world.

Dickinson season 3, episode 2 recap

Fraser Stearns sees in Emily less of a kindred spirit, more someone who can cut through the bullshit of the world. When he abandons his farewell party in favor of a drink with Emily, he desires the company of someone who won’t repeat the same tired platitudes of the nobility of going to war. No, he finds the woman who predicted this war would kill him.

It’s no accident (from the writers’ standpoint) that he comes when Emily’s reality is at its most fractured, clinging to the notion that she will bring hope as all seems to fall apart. “You’re the only one who’s brave enough to face the truth,” Fraser tells her before she sends him the episode’s titular poem and he’s out of her life forever. “You don’t try and peddle some false hope.” Hope can be empowering, but it can also be blinding, especially when it deludes us from our current reality.”

“What if hope is all we have,” Emily responds. “Sometimes the most hopeful thing we can do is to look directly at the darkness,” Fraser says.

And Emily’s current situation is filled with darkness. Upstairs her father recovers from a near-fatal heart attack, while her sister wrestles with the realization of her potentially self-imposed spinsterhood. Downstairs, her sister-in-law is about to give birth to the child of a brother who would rather go off and galavant with another woman; get drunk instead of tending to his wife.

For what it’s worth, Emily Norcross and Maggie make a formidable mid-wife team (once the farm tools are done away with). Although there could be less talk about the nobility of dying in childhood (again with the nobility of death!). But there’s little hope that even a baby will solve this family’s problems.

And for all his callousness, Austin does have a point, or at least Lavinia and Sue start to see one. “Everyone I’ve ever loved is dead,” Lavinia cries, turning externally to her parents to account for her lack of a husband. Similarly, Sue points out how both Dickinson sisters remain in their parent’s house. By now, we’ve spent two seasons watching Edward and Emily Norcross repeatedly kneecap their children’s dreams and ambitions, but it’s still a bitter pill to swallow (and also the whole Civil War of it all, amongst other external conditions). They’ve been far from perfect parents, although not exactly the monsters Austin makes them out to be.

The ending

But for him, it seems any middle ground is lost (ironically enough, as he verges on the precipice of becoming an absent father himself). “You missed it,” he tells Emily. In a moment that works well as a joke and statement of Austin’s ignorance/priorities, he assumes she is referring to his p**s. Before he goes in to see his baby, Emily tries to address last evening’s incident, but he refuses to apologize, avowing to never speak to his own father again. After the last episode, it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse. I’m afraid that the arrows of heartbreak have just begun to fly.

Additional points

  • Edward mentions his brother, who’s a confederate soldier. Is this the first we’ve heard of him? 
  • Jane breaks the news to Austin that she’s engaged to marry some wealthy colonist in Vietnam. “I hope your wife learns to take better care of you,” she says, making you wonder what Austin’s been telling her this whole time. 

What did you think of Dickinson season 3, episode 2? Comment below. 

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