This recap of Apple TV+s Dickinson season 3, episode 8, “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun -,” contains spoilers.
Dickinson has always been a show about depicting interiority, concerned with expressing the inner life of one of the English language’s greatest wordsmiths. As a result it feels positively restrained that Dickinson has held back until now to depict a fully-fledged dream sequence expressing Emily’s deepest fears, and pointing her towards a future. And thank god they waited until near the end of the show’s run, for it works as the climax of the season’s (and possibly the series’) strongest half-hour so far.
Dickinson season 3, episode 8 recap
But first we have Fraser’s funeral. The whole town shows up, except for the noticeably absent Dickinson clan. Emily shows up, supporting her father, who delivers a speech so moving that even the Edward Dickinson naysayers fully have his back now. Even Fraser’s ghost shows up to deliver pointed commentary, and looks right through Emily’s declarations of “hope.”
And Emily did try to reunite her family, but Austin wants no peace. He accuses Emily of being “daddy’s girl,” and for a moment he’s proved right. After the service, the two bond, and Edward surprises his daughter by announcing his intention to name her executor of his will. She’s delighted that he believes her to be of “sound heart” and capability, and he takes some of her ideas (such as endowing a scholarship) into consideration. “You’ve always been loyal to me, even if I’ve not always deserved it,” he says. “All I’ve ever wanted is to make you happy.” And for a moment the two pillars of their Dickinson family are at peace.
The sequence is intercut with the events going on down south. Higginson writes his own will. He exits his tent in shock, finding it completely empty. Similarly, Emily is shocked when her father, despite whatever goodwill they have between father and daughter, nevertheless decides to leave the majority of his belongings to his only son. Even though the two are at a seemingly untraversable impasse, he would rather stick to the status quo of the time than commit to anything radical. Women “are too emotional,” he says, as if Austin’s recent outbursts were a work of logic.
Emily is disappointed in the man that moments ago she felt a real connection to, calling him a “scared sheep.” “You have no power to change anything… and for that reason, nobody will ever care who you are.” And through her heartbreak, she realizes that Austin was right. Despite his loyalty, her father is as shortsighted as the times they live in.
Distraught, Emily runs into Betty, who is too busy dealing with her own problems. She’s learned of Henry’s regiment, distraught by his lack of contact. She puts Emily’s problems into perspective and dismisses her feeble words. “All hope ever did was make me cry.”
Next she runs into Fraser, who leads her into a deep grave leading to a haunted house of all Emily fears. A double-tracked Lavinia blames Emily for her spinsterdom, Austin blames her for his failed marriage, and so on. A masculine-dressed Sue (contrasting Emily in a white dress) proclaims that Edward’s death means the two can be together, but this is not how Emily wanted things to go. She refuses to kiss Sue, and the latter leaves, decrying that there was “never any hope for us.”
Emily tries to follow her but finds herself on a battlefield, with Death’s carriage running through. She watches at Henry’s regiment fights the confederates. The battle itself reeks of budget constraints; when Henry overpowers a soldier, his regiment sees victory is at hand.