Writer's block is a b*tch.
It happens to everyone from time to time, but usually, if you walk away for a while and take a break, something will come to you.
That's not the case for Emily on Dickinson Season 2 Episode 4, for in giving Sam one of her poems to publish, she also gave him her agency.
Emily has always been a free-spirited poet marching to the beat of her own drum, not letting the rules of society constrain or control her.
That license has enabled her creativity, as she was beholden to no one but herself.
Frederick Law Olmsted: You feel like you can write again?
Emily: No, it’s an editor. I gave my poem to him, and now it’s like holds my life in his hands, like I’m the daisy, and he’s the son, and without the warmth of his approval, I can’t grow.
Frederick Law Olmsted: Well, that’s not good. Opinion is a flitting thing. It’s a hideous distraction from the beauty of your craft.
Emily: OK, then maybe I shouldn’t try to have an audience at all. Maybe fame is dangerous. I mean I gave one poem to one man, and now I have writer’s block.
Frederick Law Olmsted: The audience is irrelevant. The work itself is the gift, not the praise for it. Understand that, and you’ll understand true mastery.
Emily: You’re right. I know you’re right, but how do I do that?
Frederick Law Olmsted: Simple. Refuse to be the daisy and start being the sun.
Emily [to sun]: Hey, you here that? I’m not your daisy anymore.
However, upon giving Sam one of her poems, Emily becomes transfixed on what this man thinks of it.
"Is it any good? Am I any good? If it's bad, does that mean I'm a bad poet, and if so, what's the point of me writing anymore?" Emily asks herself.
With all these questions and fears swirling around her head, it's no wonder that she's stuck.
So, what does she decide to do? Well, take a walk with another random historical figure, of course.
Frederick Law Olmsted -- who I'd never heard of before -- just happened to be in Amherst, so naturally, Emily decides to follow him around and see if the father of American landscape architecture has the answers, because why not.
Olmsted's appearance feels more out of place than, say, Henry David Thoreau or Louisa May Alcott, but of the three, he's the most helpful one.
The series portrays Olmsted as an eccentric man who may have a few screws loose, but he gives Emily some solid advice about her writing. He is right in that Emily's ability to write poetry shouldn't be dependent on what her audience thinks.
She should write because she loves it, not because of the praise she may receive, and with Olmsted's help, she realizes the extent of Sam's power over her.
Unfortunately, all that realization goes out the window when Sam "saves" Emily after getting lost in the hedges.
In time, Emily would have found her way out, but Sam helping her gives further credence to hold Sam has over her.
Emily: I was so scared. It’s like my whole brain was taken over by one thought: Whether or not you would like my poem.
Sam: You don’t have to be scared. I have great news for you.
Emily: You do?
Sam: I read your poem, and it’s brilliant. It’s incredible. I’m going to publish it. I’m going to publish you, my little daisy.
She's become so undone by Sam's praise and protection that everything she previously promised herself is long forgotten.
Emily's so entangled and infatuated with this man that all sense of reason floats away.
She's getting to a point where Sam will have complete control over her, and whatever he says, she'll obediently do.
This is not the Emily we know and love but rather a shell of the fierce and loyal woman she was.
Sam affects her in a way others -- even those she's loved and have returned her affections -- haven't, in short, because Sam can give her everything she's always dreamt of: fame, celebrity, status.
He can take her poems, publish them, and ensure everyone in New England knows the name Emily Dickinson.
He has the power to vault her into the stratosphere, and that is intoxicating.
In a way, Emily is high off Sam, and until that changes, she's going to be unrecognizable as the woman we know and love.
Elsewhere, Lavinia continued to be the badass woman she has become, even when facing a proposal.
Yes, this is definitely not Season 1 Lavinia, who would have said 'yes' in a heartbeat.
Lavinia: It’s not working.
Ship: Just give me a second.
Lavinia: It’s like not doing anything.
Ship: Maybe that’s because we shouldn’t even be doing this.
Lavinia: What do you mean? You’re not enjoying yourself?
Ship: No I am enjoying myself. I’m enjoying myself too much. It shouldn’t be like this. It’s totally improper.
Ship: No, I’m trying to follow etiquette, do it the polite way, but every time I try to give you a simple kiss on the hand, you push me back into bed. I don’t know. Honestly, I’m starting to feel kind of used.
Lavinia: Excuse me?
Ship: I hate it when women make me feel like this. Like they just want me for my body.
Not only is Lavinia questioning whether she believes in marriage but also whether Ship is the one for her.
Based on their interactions so far, it's clear he's not the guy for this evolved Lavinia.
Ship keeps trying to box Lavinia in a corner and insists she's someone she's clearly not.
The harder Ship insists, the more Lavinia revolts.
Ship, though, is set in his ways and can't -- or won't -- accept who Lavinia truly is.
Lavinia, herself, doesn't even know this, as she's still trying to figure out who she is in this world and where she fits in.
While on her journey of self-exploration, Lavinia should have the freedom to discover new facets about herself, not be tied down to a man who's below her station.
Ship may claim to be a businessman, but he doesn't seem to be that smart.
He couldn't even get the spelling right of his betrothed's last name and seemed to think a wild prank was all it took to get her to agree to marry him.
Ship: Well, what do you think, babe?
Lavinia: You defaced my parent’s property.
Ship: I know. I forgot a girl needs to feel totally blindsided by a wild prank in order to commit to a marriage.
Lavinia: I literally thought I was being kidnapped.
Ship: So it worked, and now you can’t possibly say no to me, not in front of all these people.
That's not to say he completely brainless, as he knew it would be harder for Lavinia to say 'no' in front of a crowd of her friends and neighbors.
But whatever level of intelligence he has, it's no match for Lavinia, who grew up reading Shakespeare's works as a girl and discussing politics with her friends.
Historically, we know how this ends, but I'd like to see Lavinia break things off with Ship rather than something else happening that gets in the way of their nuptials. She deserves better than a college dropout with antiquated ideas about feminity and marriage.
She, though, isn't the only one Emily's rebellious nature has had an impact on, as Mrs. Dickinson showed a more spirited side to her character.
While that side is still pretty tame, when compared to Emily and Lavinia, Mrs. Dickinson is no longer the docile and doting housewife from the first season.
That woman wouldn't have dared leave Edward stuck in a hole, nor would she have confronted her husband about her dissatisfaction with their sex life.
This, again, is another welcome change, as, like the other female characters in the series, Mrs. Dickinson realizes she's entitled to an opinion and be heard out.
The scenes between Edward and Mrs. Dickinson were some of the best of the installment, both due to the hilarity of the comedic situation the marrieds found themselves in and Mrs. Dickinson's vocalizations about her desires and wants.
In 1859, she may not have the same rights as a man, but she still deserves for her husband to take the time and address what's bothering her.
Edward: Oh, you found me. Oh thank heavens.
Mrs. Dickinson: You fell in the hole.
Edward: I know that. I’m in the hole.
Moving Clara and Anna Newman into the household without consulting Mrs. Dickinson was an error in judgment on Edward's part, and it was great to see Mrs. Dickinson take charge and give voice to her displeasure.
What was even better, though, was Mrs. Dickinson laying into Edward for neglecting her, both personally and sexually.
While she may be his wife, she's still allowed to have emotions separate from his.
Hearing her talk about how "adventurous" they were in the old days was considerably funny, given most wouldn't declare having sex three times a year or a nooner as such. Still, to the prim and proper Mrs. Dickinson, those times apparently were.
However, the best part of those scenes was when Mrs. Dickinson left Edward in the hole after their conversation.
That was a power move if there's ever been one, and maybe Edward will think twice before bulldozing his wife in the future.
Lastly, Austin and Sue found themselves pulled even further apart by Austin's impromptu decision to adopt his cousins.
While Austin believes this situation is a win-win for him -- he gets to be a father and keep his promise to Sue -- springing this on his wife, without even discussing it with her first, was no way to handle things.
Austin: I’ve got amazing news.
Sue: What is it?
Austin: Clara and Ana Neuman, my adorable little cousins, they’re going to come and live with us, here at the Evergreens. Isn’t that wonderful?
Sue: What are you talking about?
Austin: I’m talking about making a home for these poor children. You can adopt cousins, can’t you?
Sue: Austin, you didn’t even ask me. I don’t want them here.
Austin: Sue, they’ve got nowhere to go. They’re orphans, homeless, like you were before you became a Dickinson.
Sue: Just what I want: Two living breathing reminders of my terrible past.
Austin: Sue, have a heart.
Sue: Why do you want them here?
Austin: Because I want a child.
Austin: I want a child, and I promised you I would never ask you to have one, so this is a chance for me to be a father to these girls and keep my promise to you. So I think you owe it to me to be excited about it.
Sue: Well, it sounds like you’ve made your mind up. I guess it’s settled.
Yes, Austin and Sue's relationship has been strained as of late, but moving two "teenage" girls into their house still required a conversation beforehand.
However, Austin truly has no idea how much a misstep this was and that adopting Clara and Anna will only drive a wedge further between him and Sue.
Though he has no way of knowing this, Sue refuses to tell him about her miscarriage.
If Austin had known, he wouldn't have so cavalierly sprung this on Sue but understood this was a discussion they needed to have together before making any decisions.
Even though he didn't, it's not surprising he went about things this way, given Edward as his role model.
Sue, though, didn't make the situation any easier.
That would have been an ideal time to tell Austin about her miscarriage.
Having never lost a child, I can only imagine the pain of that but having someone to shoulder the burden must surely help.
Maybe, though, people didn't talk openly about miscarriages in the mid-19th century, for even now, the topic is still considered taboo by some.
Emily: Dad, this is the man who is designing the great park in the center of New York City. Mr. Olmsted, the park sounds amazing. I wonder what you’re going to call it.
Frederick Law Olmsted: Oh, I’m thinking Central Park.
Emily: Perfect, that’s perfect.
Edward: Well, that’s good. Not great.
If this is the case, a scene or two explaining what Sue's going through would be greatly appreciated to understand her state of mind better, as she's hardly recognizable now.
We can make our best guesses about how the trauma has affected her, but an inside look into her thoughts would be better, though maybe that's the point.
Maybe, we're not supposed to understand what she's going through at this point because she, herself, hasn't processed her grief yet.
Some stray thoughts:
How exactly did Clara and Anna Newman manage to dig a hole that big and so quickly without anyone noticing? The girls are definitely strange but also freakishly strong. Mrs. Dickinson was right to worry about them setting her house on fire. They seem to be budding psychopaths in the making.
Did anyone else wonder if Emily imagined Frederick Law Olmsted, or at least part of their conversation after he randomly disappeared? One moment he was there, and the next, he was not. Or was it just that he went and got further lost in the hedges? He is a strange duck, that one.
Where are the Emily and Sue scenes? Even if they're still repressing their feelings for each other, I miss seeing them on screen together.
So what did you think, Dickinson Fanatics?
Why has Emily given Sam so much power over her?
Who was more of a badass in this episode: Lavinia or Mrs. Dickinson?
Why hasn't Sue told Austin about the miscarriage?
Hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you happened to miss the latest episode, remember you can watch Dickinson online at TV Fanatic.
Jessica Lerner was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in October 2021.