Dickinson season 3, episode 6 recap – “A little Madness in the Spring”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 26, 2021
View all
Apple TV plus Dickinson season 3, episode 6 - A little Madness in the Spring


The Dickinsons visit a mental asylum.

This recap of Apple TV+s Dickinson season 3, episode 6, “A little Madness in the Spring” contains spoilers. 

Read the recap of the previous episode.

Boy does America create institutions and activities to keep its underclasses occupied. Better to lock up the women who desire their own liberation, or to distract the slaves who want their freedom with a pointless game. Positioning Henry’s story parallel to Emily’s, Dickinson compares and contrasts the struggles of (white) women and black men and the heroism of their respective stand-ins.

Dickinson season 3, episode 6 recap

The Dickinson family takes a tour of a women’s mental asylum, where each member of the family (that is, everyone who would still call themselves a part of it) gets a taste of what they desire. For Edward it’s a place (maybe a wall) to stamp his name on; his idea of legacy is tied into institutions. His wife, however, just wants to escape from the world and likes the idea of spending a few weeks in a place where you can do nothing but relax — even if it means pretending to be crazy to get in (which nobody buys anyway).

Lavinia, still reeling over Ship and Joseph Lyman’s loss finds solace in another woman grieving over the latter. Shocked to discover they both mourn the same lover, she takes pleasure learning that Lyman only really had eyes for her — that is, until she remembers that he is dead, of course.

And Emily, who’s at most danger of being committed, finds a group outcast by society, rebels of conformity like her. Abby and others have been locked in a dungeon, and she bravely leads them to their escape, unaware that at that very moment the head doctor is negotiating her own stay in the facility. The horror undergirding the asylum sequence is that every woman in the family could easily make one wrong step and become a patient — such is life in a society where the rules are written against you.

Similarly, Henry is finding it increasingly difficult to motivate the black squadron. He believes Higginson’s promise that a successful uniform inspection could lead to their being armed, but the others have seen this trick done before. To inspire them, he brings out his sewing kit, and talks of his life. Henry has been writing letters to Betty that he refuses to send. “Maybe it’s better they forget me,” he says, “as odds are they’ll never see me again.” But little does he know the harm he’s causing back in Amherst.

Nevertheless, Henry advocates for making the small changes they can, rather than feel useless in the face of things they have no sway in. “The world tore my family apart,” he tells them, “and sadly my sewing skills can’t mend a broken community or a broken heart. But what I can fix is a uniform.”  And with that comes a sewing-dancing montage of the likes that Dickinson is so good at, resulting in a fresh-looking group of soldiers.

The ending

Both of their protests end up getting nowhere; Edward refuses to sacrifice his daughter for his reputation but does not care for the others suffering in the asylum. Likewise, Henry’s uniform inspection does little to change the situation of the squadron. Despite an advancing army, Higginson waffles, in a true white liberal manner, on the issue of arming them. Both attempts at group liberation are blocked by the white men in charge, but it’s significant that Henry sees the pain of the black soldiers and vows to step up the fight, whereas Emily doesn’t even look behind, not thinking even of her friend. For Emily, the fight is one she can slip in and out of like a nightgown. For Henry, this is his duty, his life.

Additional points

  • This week’s episode was written by Ayo Edebiri, known for being hilarious on TV and online.
  • Sue proposes that Austin take an active part in raising their child, but their plan is potentially undercut when Austin receives the draft notice.
  • They still haven’t named the baby??
  • The Michael Jordan joke just somehow works so well. What can I say, the Dickinson writing team is very good.

What did you think of Dickinson season 3, episode 6? Comment below. 

Apple TV+, Streaming Service, Weekly TV
View all