Emily Dickinson wrote, “I dwell in Possibility,” a statement that Alena Smith has taken to heart in her coming-of-age dramedy based (sometimes loosely) on the prominent poet’s life. For two seasons, Dickinson has been a mélange of history and fantasy, as Smith and her team filled in some of the blanks of Dickinson’s early years with contemporary flourishes and more than a touch of the surreal. Hailee Steinfeld leads the series as an impish Emily, whose ambivalence about fame was one of the cornerstones of the second season. The last time we saw Emily, she and Jane (Ella Hunt) had been reunited once more, but the country was on the verge of a civil war. Both of those storylines come to the fore in the third season, which premieres November 5 on Apple TV+.
The streamer announced the news of the final season and premiere date with an exciting teaser, which captures the darting tones of the series.
Emily’s clearly not content to sit at home, even as her parents (played by Toby Huss and Jane Krakowski) appear to be reveling in their suddenly empty nest. “Us, mortals,” she muses in voiceover, “only live for a short time. I want to do something that matters, that’s bigger than fame.” In real life, the Civil War marked the most intense period of Dickinson’s writing; it’s believed she penned nearly half of her oeuvre during that time. Season two introduced Frazer Stearns (Will Pullen, who returns for season three), whose death at the Battle of New Bern, North Carolina greatly affected the Dickinson family in real life. He manifests in the show as “Nobody,” a spirit Emily engages with throughout the season; first, over fame, but as she pieces together his identity, there’s a truth she can’t ignore.
In season three, it looks like Emily’s going to face it head-on. The teaser includes a flash of a letter addressed to a “Col. T.W. Higginson” in South Carolina; in real life, Dickinson was friends with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, an author like herself, as well as an abolitionist, soldier, and an American Unitarian minister. But a bigger clue is probably the fact that she appears in a Union soldier uniform, complete with rifle.
It’s unclear just how close Dickinson’s Emily will get to the war, but it looks like she and Sue are still going strong. She also seems even more confident in her purpose; as she tells her buddy, Death (Wiz Khalifa), “I believe poetry can be powerful—even more powerful than you.”
In a press release, Smith says she always “envisioned the show as a three-season journey that would tell the origin story of America’s greatest female poet in a whole new way, highlighting Emily’s relevance and resonance to our society today.” She continues:
In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined how rich and satisfying the experience of making this show would become, and the incredible joy it has been to tell Emily’s story along with Hailee and our brilliant, passionate cast and crew. I can’t wait to share our epic final season with the world, and to bring our audience along with us to the conclusion of Emily’s coming-of-age saga, as she continues to fight for her own poetic truth, while reckoning with so many of the issues that face us now. Thank you to Hailee Steinfeld and our entire Dickinson team for making this such an unforgettable creative journey. I’m grateful for my partnership with Apple and can’t wait to continue telling more original stories with them in the years ahead.
Dickinson season three premieres November 5 on Apple TV+ with three episodes, followed by one new episode weekly on Fridays. Smith will make her directorial debut this season as well. New guest stars include Ziwe (who has also joined as a writer) as Sojourner Truth, Billy Eichner as Walt Whitman, and Chloe Fineman as Sylvia Plath. Zosia Mamet will be back as Louisa May “Rise And Grind” Alcott.