While the whole town attends the christening of Jane's baby, Emily fights to get her poem's back from Sam.
Emily has to take ownership over her life again — and that means taking her poems back. This is not an easy task, given Bowles’ increasingly manipulative tactics; when she expresses her desire not to be famous, he accuses her of “virtue signaling,” and “false modesty.” Then he praises her poems, “it got reactions” and pulls his schtick of “just trying to help you.”
“Don’t you want to build an empire,” he says. “I had an empire” she replies before he and Sue stole it. From this, Sam realizes that her concern is about more than poetry. “Don’t let your emotions get in the way of your career. That always happens to women” he says, the layers of dismissal giving way to rote misogyny. He simultaneously compliments her and puts her down — negging, for lack of a better phrase.
Emily stands firm and reaches for her poems. But Sam is faster, and he runs off. “You are the devil,” she calls at him. “I am a feminist!” the b*****d responds. And all seems lost until Maggie brings out the poems which she slipped out of Sam’s bag before he left.
Nobody appears again and warns Emily. “You have wars to fight Emily Dickinson, but you must fight them in secret. Alone, unseen. You must give all the glory to yourself and ask for nothing in return. You must be a nobody. The bravest, most brilliant nobody who ever existed.”
Everyone has gathered in the church for Jane’s child’s christening. Austin is the godfather, which throws into relief how tense his and Sue’s relationship has become — they speak to each other only in veiled barbs, each having layers of meaning and resentment.
The ceremony is interrupted by a fire set off by the orphans.“It’s the 1850s, things burn down all the time,” Austin says, attempting to avoid scrutiny. Everyone regroups at Austin’s house, where, without Sue by his side, he gives a rousing speech that wins over his parent’s doubts.
The Dickinson parents seem to have solved their marital problems, and Edward is breaking out of his stern, materialistic shell. He mentions having some sort of vision, and his wife tells him he reminds her of their crazy daughter. “Maybe Emily’s not that crazy,” he says.
Lavinia discovers that Ship plans to move to New Orleans — and has already bought a house there for them to live in! With the Civil War on the horizon, she has no desire to move south. “I am a shrew Yankee witch — respect that,” and they break things off once again.
With everyone at Austin’s, Emily is home alone, until Sue arrives at her door. Emily does not want to talk. She’s upset; believing that Sue pushed Emily to care about Bowles when she wanted him all for herself. She kicks Sue out, but she refuses to stay quiet. “I couldn’t handle the things your poems make me feel,” Sue says. “I got scared… overwhelmed.” Emily’s poems, her letters, her devotion were too much for a newly married woman to handle, and she pushed her on to Sam so that the poems could be public, rather than just her’s.
Sue was dealing with an overwhelming friend/lover, one who can become a burden. Emily is too hurt to take it in. “Without me, I don’t think you know how to have feelings,” she shouts. It’s cruel, but not unearned. “You’re right,” Sue responds and starts confessing her love for Emily.
It takes a moment for Emily to believe her, but when she does, and resentment is gone. They begin passionately kissing, all the barriers between them are down and their love and lust come forth.
As Frazar Stearns leaves for war, Sue and Emily lie in towels. Sue confesses that her time with Emily is “the only time I feel alive.” Having gone through this journey questioning fame; wondering if having an audience is necessary for a poet, she’s found the perfect conclusion. “That’s all I need, that’s all I’ve ever needed. I write for you.”
- Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson
- Jane Krakowski as Mrs. Dickinson
- Toby Huss as Edward Dickinson
- Anna Baryshnikov as Lavinia Dickinson
- Ella Hunt as Sue Gilbert
- Adrian Enscoe as Austin Dickinson
- Nick Kroll as Edgar Allan Poe
- Timothy Simons as Frederick Law Olmstead
- Ayo Edebiri as Hattie
- Will Pullen as Nobody/Frazar Stearns
- Finn Jones as Sam Bowles
- Pico Alexander as Henry ‘Ship’ Shipley
- The episode's title and themes are based on "You cannot put a Fire out —" Poem #530 by Emily Dickinson.