It took me a very, very long time to sort out my feelings about the second episode of Anne.
To be honest, I’m glad I got to wait awhile before writing the review, because I needed to figure out how I felt about the series as a whole before I could really figure out how I felt about this episode specifically.
Because, you see, I am a huge Anne of Green Gables fan. I’ve read the books more times than I can count. Anne pretty much defined my childhood. What’s more, as anyone who has read my Shadowhunters reviews knows, I have a complicated relationship with unfaithful book-to-movie adaptations.
Hey, I’ll admit it. I like it when my adaptations are word-for-word, especially when they’re adaptations of some of my favourite books. Producers always seem to have this idea that fans all want to be surprised by adaptations, but the truth is, I’m fine with reliving a story I already know by heart. That’s why I loved the first episode of Anne, and had mixed feelings about the second. I was lulled into a false sense of security, and then it was ripped away from me. It wasn’t cool.
That said, the biggest difference between Anne and a few other adaptations that I could mention is that every deviation from the source material clearly stemmed from a deep respect and understanding of the books. Once I get past my panic about the show not being perfectly accurate, I can admit that there wasn’t a single change that wasn’t justified. The heart of the series is still intact and the characters are still the ones I love. That’s the most important element of any adaptation. And for that reason, I am fully on board with this adaptation.
Besides, we’ve already gotten some perfectly good Anne of Green Gables adaptations over the years. A new perspective could be a good thing for this franchise.
Like we saw in the series premiere, this is a much darker take on the Anne of Green Gables story. In this episode, we saw why all of Anne’s friends were imaginary: not only was she mistreated at foster homes, she was also relentlessly bullied at the orphanage.
The truth is, young girls can be really mean, and it sucks to be on the receiving end of their hate. Anne has always been different from everyone else, and while Avonlea found that charming and interesting, the girls at the orphanage never shared that sentiment. She was different, and that made her a target for bullying.
For that reason, Anne grew up believing that nobody would ever love her. After all, she had never known love, from anyone. And yet, despite all this, despite knowing how her weirdness would be perceived by everyone else, Anne always stayed true to herself. She could have tried to fit in by giving up imagining and using fewer big words, but that was never an option for her.
It’s truly inspiring that, in a world that kept telling her she had to act a certain way in order to be loved, Anne decided that it was more important to be herself.
Oh, Matthew. I will always adore you, for you are the sweetest of kindred spirits.
I’ve read a lot of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books (what can I say? I went through a phase where I was convinced she was the only good author in the world), and she has this knack for creating impossibly sympathetic characters. Not characters who seem unrealistically nice, or who we feel like the author is forcing us to like them. No, just genuinely good people, who only ever want to be nice to people and make the world around them a better place. People that we can’t help loving, because they love everyone. People who are so grounded that they remind us how wonderful humans can be.
Matthew is one of those characters. He can be a difficult person to figure out, but he has given his heart fully to this little eleven-year-old girl he’s adopted, and he will do absolutely anything to make her happy.
Of course, all of L.M. Montgomery’s books show that we need the Marillas and the Aunt Elizabeths of the world or else children would be horribly spoiled. But we also need the Matthews. We need people who can show little unloved, unwanted orphans that they are worthy of love, who can encourage kids to pursue their dreams and be their fullest selves.
We need the kind of people who would race off at a moment’s notice to save a child they just met from being sent back to an orphanage. Who would offer money they didn’t have, risk their lives, just to chase her down and make sure she knows she’s not alone anymore. The kind of person who would call this little orphan girl his daughter, and mean it.
That’s my Matthew. And that’s the Matthew I saw in this episode.
(SLIGHTLY OOC) MARILLA
Marilla’s relationship with Anne has always been one of the most satisfying to watch develop, which is why I’m a little disappointed that so much growth happened so quickly for her character.
Marilla is cold, and strict, and often too harsh on Anne, it’s true. But I don’t think she is the kind of person who would send Anne away so readily, even after only knowing her for a few days. She has heard about the orphanage, she knows how much Anne hated it there, and she seemed quite determined that Anne not be sent off to a bad home just one episode ago. I could absolutely see Marilla punishing Anne too severely for that infraction – forcing her to miss a picnic she had been looking forward too, for instance – but it seemed out of character for her to actually go to such lengths as to send her back to the orphanage.
What I did appreciate, though, was her attitude as Matthew was off looking for her. You could tell she was stressed out, she was worried, and she regretted ever sending Anne away. I also loved her reaction to first seeing Anne come home – relief, then professionalism. She doesn’t want to look too happy, she doesn’t want to give away how much the incident scared her, and she certainly doesn’t want Anne to know how much she has come to care about her. That scene was Marilla, through and through.
The part where it kind of fell apart again for me was when she went above and beyond to make Anne feel wanted. I always thought Marilla considered that kind of stuff a little too foolish and below her. In her mind, Anne doesn’t need to feel loved or wanted, she needs to be properly taken care of. I can’t quite see her condoning such silliness as a name change (with “Cordelia” added to boot!). In one episode, she went from not caring enough about Anne to caring about her way more than she should at this point in the story, and it doesn’t feel perfectly in character.
Marilla has a beautiful arc in the novels. I’m not sure I like that the show advanced things so quickly.
Anne With An ‘E’ is available to stream on Netflix right now.