Dickinson season 3, episode 10 recap – the finale and ending explained

December 24, 2021
Cole Sansom 2
Apple TV+, Ending Explained, Streaming Service, Weekly TV


Higginson pays a visit to the Dickinson family, but Emily finally finds peace in the show’s finale.

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Higginson pays a visit to the Dickinson family, but Emily finally finds peace in the show’s finale.

This recap of Apple TV+s Dickinson season 3, episode 10, “This was a Poet -,” — the finale and ending explained — contains spoilers. 

Read the recap of the previous episode.

Watching the wonderful finale of the wonderful Dickinson, I couldn’t help thinking of Gatsby. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” wrote Fitzgerald. But unlike that later writer, Emily is not borne back, she’ rows to the future, to a world where her poetry will be recognized. But in that beautiful final moment, neither the future nor the past really matters. All that matters is the present; Emily is no longer worried about the past.

Dickinson season 3, episode 10 recap – the finale and ending explained

After a penultimate episode spent making things right with her family, Emily’s gaze turns inward. Her old friend Death greets her, with a new lease on (ahem) life, and a new fit. He convinces her she needs the same. “You’ve got work to do Miss Dickinson. Gonna need a uniform.”  

I love how the episode takes time for moments of joy like Emily and Death dancing. It’s a reminder of the beautiful space Alena Smith and co have created, one that leaves room to breathe — unlike the dress she tries on later. So when Betty stops by later, Emily requests her expertise in helping make a new dress, one she can write in and live in. 

Meanwhile, Austin and Sue wheel their baby over to the Dickinson household, ready to make peace. But Austin has a request. He tells of the Shaw family, who tried to sell their houseworker into slavery. When the Shaw sons’ protested they were imprisoned. Austin wants Edward to help them and “give a new meaning to the name Dickinson.”

Edward, however, has now accepted that his legacy lies not in his name but his family, but seeing his son passionate about something other than upsetting the family, he agrees. As the family gathers to name the baby, they are interrupted by a handsome stranger.

Higginson seeks Emily and is awed to be in her house. “Tell me, when did you first realize she was a genius?” he asks to a dumbstruck house. Sue rallies the family to entertain him, aware of his importance to Emily. “He could one day be responsible for everyone’s legacy,” she says.

Meanwhile, Emily is pitching to Betty the perfect dress (all white, buttons on the front, corset less, pockets) when Maggie announces Higginson’s presence. Emily suddenly becomes anxious, afraid to meet him in person. “I’m not ready to meet him yet… I’ve not written enough.” She panics that she’s not the great poet he thinks she is. She’s not ready to become the legendary Emily Dickinson.

Looking over at the sketch of the dress, she has an epiphany: “even if I can’t change the world, I’m still going to write. Even if no-one ever cares… that there was a person named Emily Dickinson who sat in this little room day after day and wrote things down just because she felt them.” After all these years of anxiety, she’s at peace. She doesn’t have to write poems for Sue, for Higginson, for the world, for anyone. She is a writer because she writes, and that is enough. 

Downstairs, the family patiently waits for a poet who no longer needs approval. They share details about her (“she’s the crazy one,” Austin says before Lavinia calls that into question with a demonstration of her performance art.) Austin and Sue announce they are naming their baby after Edward.

The ending

And Betty, done with the dress, comes down, where Higginson hears her name and runs out to tell her of Henry’s bravery. The fact that he lives is enough to bring Betty to tears, and that’s before he brings out the bundle of letters.

At least one task has been dealt with, for it seems like Emily will never come. She has no need to leave her room, sitting, writing, and watering her plants as the light changes and the seasons pass. Finally, she ends up on a beach, where the mermaids (of her poem) call for her. “Wait for me, I’m coming,” and she rows towards her destiny, or to happiness.

It’s a beautiful ending to a beautiful show. Emily is free from the burden of fame or success; these matters are in her own hands now, to do with what she wishes. 

What did you think of Dickinson season 3, episode 10 (finale), and the ending? Comment below. 

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2 thoughts on “Dickinson season 3, episode 10 recap – the finale and ending explained

  • December 29, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Brilliant and beautiful, although I wish they had one or two more episodes to bring all that home; it felt a little rushed, but over all the show as brilliant, modern and meaningful.

  • March 20, 2022 at 5:53 am

    Likely the best television I have seen. Writing, acting, audio, storyline, tone (humor, love, life, beauty), videography, editing and didn’t hurt that it was presented in 4K.

    I don’t expect to see anything come out that tops this story.

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