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More ETV! I wanted to have screencaps for this one, too, but either both my DVD players have stopped working, or the disk is faulty, so I couldn't go back and capture them. I will find a way to show you Ilse's terrible non-outfit at some point, though. It's very important that you see it.

By Episode 2 of the second season, Laura's laudanum addiction has completely taken over her life and everyone else's. She's fallen asleep on the sofa downstairs and now Emily is going to be late for school, without breakfast, because no one was around to wake her up or make porridge. The credits roll early, and take us . . .



. . . to school, where a medieval battle is being re-enacted with tartans, face paint, and improbably well-choreographed songs about William Wallace. More Learning Made Fun, I guess? I wonder if this is meant to represent good teaching or Mr. Carpenter giving up on 90% of the class and just killing time in the most entertaining ways he can think of. He marches the class down to the cliffs and along the shore in their outlandish costumes, which I'm sure will endear him to the Mrs. Lyndes of the community.

They sit by the cliffs with the wind in their hair and it's a nice moment. I'm sure L. M. Montgomery would appreciate the piling on of Scottish-Canadian romanticism here, though probably not how dishevelled and ragamuffiny everyone looks.

Back at New Moon, Perry is still wearing his Braveheart paint at the dinner table., and Laura is still a mess. Emily asks if there's been any mail, and it turns out there was a letter – from Mr. Bowles! I wish he would find some other adaptation to pester. For this scene, the part of Emily is played by Anne Shirley. She babbles happily about how passionately Bowles probably misses Aunt Laura and how romantic it all is. Laura is anxious and reluctant, and I don't blame her. Throw that letter back into the sea from whence it came! The Murray family has enough troubles without this canon-unattested wanker making everyone anxious all the time. She hasn't been able to bring herself to open it yet, alas.

In the absence of Aunt Elizabeth, Emily has become the Aunt Elizabeth, hectoring Laura to answer her mail and even snapping at Perry to sit back down when he tries to make a graceful (blue-streaked) exit. Everything is all wrong. Luckily, Ilse is waiting for Emily at the beach (Ilse, what are you wearing? You can't just put part of an apron over bloomers, that is not how clothes work) so there can be more crushingly beautiful affirmations of love.

This scene is so good. Even though Emily is forever out of character, the friendship is still strong and maybe that's what matters? Ilse, by the way, is planning to have ten children. 'five boys and five girls. That way I'll always have someone to talk to.” Oh, Ilse. They make a pinky wish and neither one of them will break the Law of Pinky to reveal what they wished for, but they think they know. So great. Only marred the tiniest bit by wobbly acting and the writers' steadfast refusal to give Emily anything poetic to say no matter what.

Next: Laura and Jimmy ride into town. Laura hasn't bothered to fix her hair in the past 8 months and it looks terrible, but Aunt Elizabeth isn't here to say anything, so it just goes on looking terrible. And your hat! Where's your hat, Laura? WHAT KIND OF PERSON GOES TO TOWN WITHOUT A HAT? What is the world coming to?

The local merchants naturally smell blood and demand payment for things Aunt Elizabeth allegedly ordered while she was alive. Laura and Jimmy are suspicious, but they pay up, because what else can they do? Inside the general store, the shopkeep makes a cutting remark about Laura's “fiancee” and sings a very slightly bawdy song, which causes the shopkeep to giggle pointedly. Poor Laura is so flustered. NO ONE would have made innuendoes about the France/pants connection in Elizabeth's presence! In her nervousness and embarassment she knocks over a glass bottle and Mr. Carpenter comes to the rescue.

My favorite part of this scene is the smirking old lady with her stereoscope. She's just sitting there while all this goes on, mildly amused, flipping through her 3D views of The Grand Tour like nothing can touch her. I might request her for Yuletide next year.

Anyway, it seems there's some resentment around town re: the legendary stuck-upness of the Murrays, and now that the most intimidating Murray of all is apparently dead (BUT NOT REALLY I HOPE), a lot of people are inclined to vent their spleen on the vulnerable survivors. Mr. Carpenter snaps that the Murrays founded this community, and are A Fine Family To Which You Couldn't Hold A Candle, which strikes me as exactly the wrong approach to take in this situation. Wasn't that the whole problem? Then he starts in on Emily's talent, which I'm pretty sure no one else in the shop cares about in the least. Talent is for old maids and Americans; jeez, Carpenter, get a grip.

Oh, but there's great news! I guess the Lieutenant Governer is making an inspection tour of Island schools, and he wants to hear musical programs for some reason! I guess you'd be pretty burned out on elocution, too, if you had to inspect all the Island schools. Carpenter announces this at school, and RHODA STUART, who continues to be terrible at acting and my favorite, suggests a “Strawberry Social,” to which “the boys invite the girls,” which sounds both thuddingly ordinary and made up on the spot. And, Mr. Carpenter announces, “Emily will sing the solo!”

Emily being suddenly gifted with musical talent is the biggest misstep of this otherwise excellent episode. Why would Emily be good at singing? She never was in the books. Book!Emily's talents are writing, elfinness, the power of observation, and an eerie personal magnetism unsullied by conventional beauty. Anyway, it doesn't matter: Emily has to stay home and help out with the farm because Aunt Laura is spiraling downward fast and Jimmy, for all his virtues, is Jimmy. Luckily, RHODA STUART has nothing but time and would be happy to volunteer.

Then Mr. Carpenter wastes entirely too much class time trying to convince Emily to sing anyway, in front of everyone, making no effort at all to hide his favortitism as usual. Ugh, Carpenter, I love you, but you're terrible at your job. And why can't Rhoda be a good singer AND a mean girl? Talent is not a moral achevement, and also, more than one person can be talented at the same time, even if they go to the same school and dislike each other! Why not let Rhoda be good at something? This episode never gives her a chance. We're just supposed to assume she's bad at everything because she's Rhoda.

There's a brief, sad scene of Jimmy burying his new hat in anger and grief, and Emily doing a terrible job of trying to comfort him. Elizabeth never forgave herself for pushing Jimmy down that well. Jimmy never forgave himself for being a neverending reminder of her culpability. Everything is broken and twisted and far out of reach, and Emily has no idea how to deal with any of it. Poor everyone.

Later, Mr. Carptenter shows up at New Moon – is he here to petition for Emily? Carpenter, give it a rest! The other 40 students might benefit from your attention, too! But no, it's about Laura. See, he was a drunk, so he knows how it is, and he's here to give the temperance pitch. This scene is a mess and Mr. C. stands way too close all the time. Then he walks over to Dr. Burnley, who blames himself for letting the laudanam situation get out of control.

“Believe me, doctors have their weaknesses, too,” he says. “Mine is Laura Murray.”

YES

I KNOW IT IS

A second later, he's just straightforwardly admitting he's in love with her! “Like most things in my life, too late.”

Well, with that attitude, maybe. :( :( :(

Of course Ilse is eavesdropping adorably. Then Laura, on her way to Dr. Burnley's, sees Mr. Carpenter leaving. Laura, I know it's difficult, but please, please, PLEASE pin up your hair. You look like Peg Bowen in this scene. You can have Emily do it for you! Laura tells Dr. B. she's determined to quit laudanum, he helpfully describes the withdrawal symptoms she can look forward to, and while he's grabbing a plate of sandwiches, she takes the opportunity to . . . steal a bottle of laudanum! Oh, Laura. :(

Meanwhile, the concert approaches! Emily is being very obvious about how much she cares by pretending not to care. “Oh, that piffley biffely trifle!” she says. Except she really SHOULDN'T CARE, because it's singing, a thing she doesn't do. It would have been so easy to give Emily a canon-compliant role in the proceedings – except maybe that Martha McIsaac can sing, but isn't always the strongest actor at this point in her career? It's possible they made it a musical concert because they weren't confident that McIsaac could pull off a recitation or a dramatic performance, and having her write a dialogue wouldn't fit with the last-minute rescue thing they wanted to do. But it's still bad adaptation, and carries with it the unfortunate implication that Emily is the only child in Blair Water who can do anything well at all.

Aunt Laura, equipped with her new stolen laudanum bottle, decides to take a nice nap. “Aunt Elizabeth never took a lie down in the middle of the day,” Emily scolds her. But Laura is not Aunt Elizabeth, “and I never will be.”

Emily takes the opportunity to do some writing – out loud, of course, for our benefit – only to be interrupted by AUNT ELIZABETH'S SPIRIT. Oh, writers. You were doing so well! I really thought this episode was going to be ghost-free, but no. Never free. Never me. So I dub thee Unforgiven. At least this means more work for Susan Clark.

Aunt Elizabeth's spirit declares that she always believed Emily was meant to carry on in her footsteps, which is ridiculous and patently untrue. She tells Emily to worry about the land first, and also that “trouble comes in threes.” She would do better to tell Emily to put on some damn stockings over her legs; what does she think this is, Stovepipe Town? 1925? Stovepipe Town in 1925?

Perry and Jimmy look over the accounts, and Perry, trying to be loyal, says he'd sell the shirt off his back if it'd help New Moon. Jimmy takes him to task: sell it to whom? What would he wear? Perry's shirt has holes in it, and no one wants a shirt with holes.

Then Emily, taking up the mantle of Aunt Elizabeth even more decisively than before, invades Laura's room, demands that she eat, and forces her to finish her letter to Mr. Bowles. This scene could have been a lot better, but ok. Then she goes off to spy on choir practice. (Ilse, I love you, but you need to wear clothes. You need to wear all of the parts of the outfit. Apron + pantalettes is not an acceptable compromise). Teddy has his first line, about 4/5 of the way in: “The concert won't be the same without her.” I love how everyone is just pretending that Emily's singing talent is common knowledge. You guys are going to be jerks to Rhoda, aren't you? Don't do that.

Perry, talking to Jimmy back at New Moon, volunteers to stop going to school so he can help run things and leave Emily free, since she's “the one with the brain.” PERRY, NO. You are also the one with the brain! Canada needs you! “She's born to be a writer,” he declares. Luckily, Jimmy has the correct answer:

“You don't go to school,” he says, “how are you going to be Prime Minister?”

But things aren't going so well for Jimmy. The store refuses him credit, and when he tries to give them a gold pair of glasses as security, it goes badly. How will he pay for his seeds, or whatever it is?

Meanwhile, the Lt. Gov. has arrived, and Ilse. . . stages a fake fever epidemic to keep Rhoda from getting to the school? That doesn't even make sense. Rhoda knows perfectly well it doesn't make sense and yells at her mother to keep driving, but Rhoda's mother is even stupider than this stupid, stupid plan, so they turn the cart around and drive away, despite the fact that the only evidence of this plague is Ilse coughing and rolling around and a sign that she obviously just made for the occasion. How could this plan possibly work? Why on earth would anyone attempt it in the first place? Just let Rhoda sing the solo! She's not Sauron; her song isn't going to bring down dragons on the North Shore; she's just a moderately mean kid who wants to show off. I know everything seems super serious and urgent when you're twelve, but I am unable to root for this in any way.

Anyway, Rhoda doesn't show, Laura's stolen laudanum bottle falls out literally at Dr. Burnley's feet, Emily saves the day by singing the solo perfectly without ever practicing because (???) and on the way home, there's a letter from Scotland! It's the surly uncle Emily wrote to in the previous episode! Maybe New Moon is saved?

Nope. The letter is 100% hostile, we're treated to a sillouhette of a guy in a kilt sticking a sword into the ground to no obvious purpose, and I guess now Malcolm Murray is sailing for PEI to claim what is rightfully his?

Huh.



Episode 2.2, And So Shall they Reap, was excellent in every way except for the out-of-left-field ridiculousness about Emily's singing, the completely unsympathetic quest to undermine Rhoda Stuart for no reason, and the introduction of Malcolm Murray, a non-book-based character who is apparently the result of someone seeing a movie about Scotland one time, or possibly reading a blog about Scotland-themed romance on Geocities. I guess we'll see what happens in Episode Three: A Shadow In His Dream! Whose dream? What shadow? We're a long, long way from the books now -- who knows what lies ahead?

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