Anne With An E is back for a second season, and this one is every bit as good as the first one, if not better. Now, we know what to expect from this show. We’re not looking for a word-for-word adaptation of the books, and we’re a lot less shocked by the progressiveness of the show.
The first five episodes, which Lizzie reviewed last week, were fantastic, and the last five did a great job of building on what they had set up. Let’s discuss the second half of the second season.
IT’S NOT THE SAME… AND YET IT KIND OF IS?
Anne With An E is not an accurate adaptation of the Anne of Green Gables series, and there is no denying that. The plot does not follow that of the books, at all. Not only are new characters being introduced left and right, but a lot of them are playing incredibly important roles in the story. Existing characters are not the same as they were. Even the themes are slightly different.
And yet, somehow, this feels to me like an Anne of Green Gables show. It’s like really good fanfiction. Fic written by someone who really loves and understands the books. Someone who has no desire to write over anything or fix any problems, but simply wants to build on what is already there to create something new, and exciting, but still geared toward the loyal audience of the books.
This Anne, at her core, is still the girl who was my role model for a significant part of my life. She is still smart, and imaginative, and ridiculously talkative, and she still looks for the best in people. She’s also delightfully weird, and wonderfully open minded toward other outcasts.
Gilbert may not be the Gilbert of the book series, but he still feels like Gilbert. Marilla is not exactly the Marilla Cuthbert I know, but she’s still Marilla. Same with everyone else.
The Charlottetown LGBT+ community. In its inaugural season, Anne With An E added depth to Josephine Barry’s character by revealing that she had been married to another woman. It was an excellent addition to the show, and, at the time, perfectly canon-compliant. It’s also a headcanon that I’m going to stick with forever now, because I love this idea. In season 2, Anne one-upped itself by revisiting Miss Barry and introducing us to her friends, who we quickly learn are essentially the Charlottetown LGBT+ community.
Every scene that featured Josephine Barry and her friends was delightfully heartwarming. Historical fiction has an unfortunately tendency to pretend that minorities, especially LBGT+ people, did not exist until recently. That is ridiculous. They have always existed, and I love that Anne is showing us that.
Cole. Oh my goodness. I cannot believe I am so in love with an original character in an adaptation of one of my favourite books. How often does this happen? Throwing new characters into an adaptation is always a huge risk, but wow did this one ever pay off. Cole fits perfectly into the Anne universe, which has always been rather critical of toxic masculinity and forgiving of boys who don’t fit traditional gender roles. His story was touching, it was inspiring, and it made me want to give him a big hug and tell him it’s going to be okay because even though he was born in the wrong century he’s still has so much to offer the world and so many people to take care of him.
Bash. Sebastian has been a lovely addition to this tv show. He stood out in the first 5 episodes but, as Lizzie said in her review, he didn’t get nearly as much screen time as he should have.
Thankfully, the second half made up for that, by giving Bash way more attention than I could have possibly predicted. And like Cole, Bash stole my heart despite not being a book character. His storyline was entertaining, his personality was incredibly charming, but most importantly, he showed us what it was like to be Black in late 19th century Prince Edward Island.
As a Canadian myself, I would just like to say that I really appreciate Anne making an effort to tell an honest story about being Black in Canada at the end of the 19th century. Canadians do not like to tell those stories. We like to pretend Canada is and always has been perfect, and we get very uncomfortable when people suggest that that may not be the case. As a kid, I learned all about African-American history in school, but the only time Canada was ever mentioned in relation to Civil Rights was when we talked about the underground railroad, which, in hindsight, was pretty messed up.
Anyways, I was very happy to see Anne With An E not dancing around the ugly truth that so many Canadians can’t or don’t want to understand. Canada was not the US, but it was still racist as fuck in its own way, and it sucked to be a person of colour there.
Gilbert. I’ll admit that I had hoped to see a lot more of Gilbert in the second half of this season, but I was still happy with what I got. I liked seeing Gilbert’s journey of discovering himself. Working at sea, he became a bit more open-minded, or “woke,” but he also figured out what he wanted to do with his life. I’m excited to see what this means for him in future seasons.
I’m going to be honest here. There wasn’t a lot to dislike in the last 5 episodes. I tried, okay? I tried.
The fox???? I just didn’t get the significance of this storyline. I like animals and all, but who cares?
The Finale. Okay, hear me out. I liked Miss Stacey when she first appeared. She was impossibly cool, and I thought it was interesting to see how she was a bit too progressive for Avonlea, even for the so-called “progressive mothers.” I also generally appreciated how progressive this whole season was.
BUT, I did think it got a bit hard to believe toward the end. Anne has never exactly been subtle with its feminist messages, but this one felt a little bit too heavy-handed. Miss Stacy was too much of a caricature for my liking, and the rest of the town was convinced too quickly to let her stay.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE MORE OF
Matthew. I really enjoyed the flashbacks to Matthew and Marilla’s childhood, and the hints that Matthew’s shyness might stem from an actual anxiety disorder (not that it would have been recognized as such in those days). It would have been cool to see a bit more of that.
Gilbert. As I said before, while I liked what I did see of Gilbert, I would have liked to see a bit more!
Anne and Gilbert. They’re just kids now so I understand why we’re not getting much of them as a couple, but can’t we see them be friends? These two work SO well together, and I want to see more of their relationship.
Anne With An E season 2 is available to stream on Netflix.