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Welcome back to the island of grimness and flapjacks, reader(s)! Season 2 is a brand new start, and so I am going to keep this recap positive. Instead of complaining about how unlike Book Emily this Emily is, or how ridiculous it is for her to turn up at breakfast in a scandalously bare-armed bathing costume expecting Aunt Elizabeth to approve of her going swimming before school (and where would she even get a bathing costume for Aunt Elizabeth to disapprove of?) or yelling at the writers, I am going to focus on all the things I loved about Season 2, Episode 1: Summer of Sorrows.

* In the very first scene, Aunt Elizabeth is wearing her second-best dress and it's magnificent. Susan Clark is a granite pillar of Murray virtue. The contrast with Laura's laudnam-addiction hair and watery anxious eyes is so sharp. As is the contrast with Emily's sleeveless Coney Island abomination and complete obliviousness to propriety.


* I've decided that I don't mind how un-Emilylike Emily's physical appearance is. I may have decided that I prefer her face to be as unlike book!Emily's as possible. We can't all look like our willowy and wind-sung souls, and it isn't fair to pretend we ought to. The writing is another story -- the writers can't figure her out at all, and that IS their fault. But I'm not going to criticize Martha McIsaac's face for being too smiley or non-elfin or whatever. That's just one of those human conditions.

* It's nice to see the Core Four splashing around and having fun. Perry's flirtation with Ilse would be a lot cuter if he didn't look about sixteen to her eleven, though. Teddy's character is insufficiently well-defined for the words "out of character" to have any meaning, which is somewhat freeing, I guess?

* Emily's vision of a Sophomore Biology Lab skeleton in a cape just before the opening credits is super cheesy, but what else is new? At least the skeleton isn't walking around in the woods and giving advice. The entire episode will be mercifully free of advice-giving ghosts.

So in this episode, Aunt Elizabeth is missing and presumed lost at sea, and the Murray family falls apart at the seams. I really, really hope that her death is not for real, but I don't know what's going to happen. There is a funeral with an empty grave and some Disapproving Aunts show up -- are their names Lucy and Maud??? There's a lot of unpleasantness about the will and everyone turns out to be a lot poorer than they thought due to farm debts, and at the very end, Emily decides to write to a mysterious relative in Scotland for help, promising to pay him back with all her Famous Author Money and ill-advisedly enclosing the Lost (now Found) diamond as security. I don't know, I guess it makes sense in context? I don't love the idea of ETV without Susan Clark, but it is causing a dramatic collapse in the New Moon ecosystem and there's always the chance that something interesting will come of it. Meanwhile, here are some other things I liked!

* I don't know if it's intentional, but I love how bad Mr. Carpenter is at teaching in this episode. He's shown hammily marching around in costume singing a stupid song about Columbus in a deeply misguided attempt to Make Learning Fun, and completely loses control of the classroom within about twenty seconds.

* Rhoda Stuart! Yes, inviting EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON in school (even PERRY) to her birthday party in order to ostracize Emily is quite a step down from the handful of gilt-edged invitations sent through the post office in the book, and poor Teddy is so nonexistent that her jealousy motive is hard to understand. Still, I love how bad she is at acting, her extremely pink dress, how she looks like Mean Anne Shirley, and the completely transparent shamelessness of her flirtation. She leans on Teddy's arm and promises to tell him the most terrible rumors she's heard about Emily.


* Ilse's beautiful / horrible Arts and Crafts apron. Isn't she supposed to be better-dressed now that her father forgave her for her mother's alleged infidelity? I'm going to pretend that she demanded this garment because it reminded her of a fairy tale, and her dad was too bewildered and guilt-ridden to say no. There's a terrible childish fight because Ilse wants to go to Rhoda's party (poor lonely Ilse) and have three kinds of cake. As usual, he scene is marred by the writers' inability to write Emily and Ilse as two separate people. It's just Battle of the Ilses again.

the apron of loneliness

* And later, Ilse's beautiful declaration of love. The writers usually get Ilse right, and this is one of their better moments, so I'm going to share it with you.

I love you, Emily Starr. You don't have to love me back, I don't mind. Because I hate myself worse than you could ever hate me. You'll always be my best friend, Emily. Even if you spit at me and force me to eat monkey's toenails. I'd do it, honest I would. Their tails, their toenails, and even their dirty little rears. All you have to do is find me a monkey, and I'd do it. There aren't any monkeys on the Island. But if there were, I'd break the sharpest little toenail off each little toe and swallow it even if I puked my guts out. That's how sorry I am, Emily.

I love that the show is digging into Ilse's neglect and love hunger, even as it makes Allan Burnley adorable and sympathetic.

* SPEAKING OF ALLAN, he gets to spend scene after scene reassuring Laura, catching her when she faints at Elizabeth's funeral and carrying her out of the graveyard like a champ, and wasting his own and everyone else's time by trying to get her to talk to her boring non-canonical suitor Mr. Bowles. After the funeral, Laura panics because Elizabeth has ruled her life for fifty years and now she doesn't know how to function. "Who is there to tell me?" she says. "Who?" Miss Murray, I'm no complimentarian myself, but I suspect the doctor would be a benevolent enough tyrant, and might even offer additional benefits not provided by the elder Miss Murray. I don't know, maybe give it some thought?

who is there

* I think I've mentioned this before, but I LOVE "Sparrow" as Jimmy's nickname for Emily. Of course you can't have a grown man calling an eleven-year-old "Pussy" on TV, but completely apart from Unfortunate Implication Avoidance, I like it because it creates a small difference of opinion between Jimmy and the narrator. The narrator of Emily of New Moon doesn't see Emily as a sparrow – she's a sleek and mysterious cat! She walks by her wild lone and waves her tail etc.. There's always a sensual element to the way she's described, even as a child. But Jimmy isn't the narrator; Jimmy doesn't see her that way – to him, she's a little bird who flew in out of the cold. She's vulnerable and loveable and eventually she'll fly away and leave them. It's just a small thing, but it's nice to see.

* Stephen McHattie is doing a great job, speaking of Jimmy, and the writers are doing their job, too. Jimmy is a risky character. The way he's written in the book works, more or less, because he's written from Emily's perspective, but if you scraped it up and plopped it down on screen, you'd probably get some kind of sentimentalized brain-damage Tom Bombadil and it would be terrible. But Team ETV has managed to invent a plausible live-action Jimmy. His inability to deal with either Emily's emotions or his own fears for the future is really poignant here. Laura is downstairs having her own panic attack, and he's up in the attic, unburdening himself to this child because there isn't anyone else. It's heartbreaking.

* Oh, and we eventually get to hear the rumor that Rhoda told Teddy! The rumor is that Emily was pledged in marriage to Jarback Priest! ! ! Your rumor mill is ten years too early, Rhoda.

All in all, Season 2 is off to an excellent start! Were there things I didn't like? Absolutely! I'm sad that Emily and Teddy are so messily written that Emily is unrecognizable and Teddy invisible. I wish Emily would stop having visions at the drop of a hat. I can't even tell you how much I hate the idea of ETV without Susan Clark, and am crossing my fingers that Elizabeth's death is going to be a giant fake-out.


Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, this episode was pretty good. We already knew we were leaving canon behind when all the ghosts started showing up, so ETV might as well become a series of fascinating what-ifs -- and this one is nicely done in several ways. I know my hopes are probably going to be dashed, but it's always possible that they won't be, so I'm looking forward to Episode 2 -- And So Shall They Reap! I hope this title indicates a pleasant episode in which the potato crop is unusually good this year and everyone can relax a little.


blase ev

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