‘Dickinson’: Episode 7 Proves Lavinia is the True Hero of the Family (Commentary)

We’ll just say it: Lavinia is the best Dickinson

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Since the very first episode of “Dickinson” premiered on Apple TV+, Lavinia Dickinson has been a source of joy. But this week’s episode might’ve just solidified her status as the best Dickinson.

I know, it’s a big claim. But Vinnie really has been a dark horse in this series. Her sass and humor, perfectly placed, have been huge factors in the success of “Dickinson” using modern day language in a period piece. Although, to be fair, that’s largely thanks to Anna Baryshnikov herself. The young actress has the comedic timing of a seasoned pro.

But for the moment, let’s focus on Vinnie, the character. Because, again, this week’s episode was a shining moment for her.

In “The Future never spoke,” Lavinia and Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) travel to the future together, by way of gazebo. When they land, they find themselves on the Smith College campus, which is where their house now sits. In attempting to get in, they encounter none other than Sylvia Plath (Chloe Fineman) who gives them the rundown on everything.

As it happens, Plath comes to the house quite regularly, to commune with the spirit of “the great American poet” Emily Dickinson. While Emily processes that qualifier in shock, Vinnie is immediately excited for her sister.

As Sylvia Plath continues to fill the siblings in on Emily’s reputation in 1955, she shows them the complete, published works of Emily Dickinson — much to the surprise of Emily herself. “I thought I told you to burn all my poems when I died,” Emily levels at Vinnie.

“I knew you didn’t mean it,” Vinnie fires back. “I wasn’t gonna let everyone forget my sister. And now look! In the future you’re actually famous!”

Though Emily’s entire family may have given her a hard time about her writing, they all still supported her. But this move on Vinnie’s part is arguably the most substantial thing she could’ve done for her sister. She knew what was truly in Emily’s heart, and ensured a lasting legacy. Realistically, without Lavinia Dickinson, we wouldn’t have as much of Emily Dickinson as we do.

And yes, this is yet another detail “Dickinson” got factually correct. As Alfred Habegger detailed in “My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson ,” Emily really did make Vinnie promise to burn her poems when she died. And Vinnie did do that — sort of.  She burned most of her sisters letters, but since Emily didn’t issue or leave behind any specific instructions about the notebooks and loose sheets that she kept in her bedside chest, Vinnie made it her mission to get them published.

This alone could make Vinnie the MVP of the Dickinsons. But this week’s episode took it one further.

Continuing her explanation of Emily’s legacy, Sylvia Plath informs them that it’s now public knowledge — or at least, assumption — that Emily was a lesbian. This time, it’s Vinnie who’s a bit more stunned, but she gets over it quickly.

As the two head back to the gazebo, Vinnie asks Emily point blank if Plath’s assertion was true, at which point, Emily reveals her true relationship with Sue (Ella Hunt). Where Vinnie could freak out, she doesn’t. She just calmly says “I think I knew that.”

It’s important to consider the implication there. Vinnie never pushed her sister when it came to her love life, and she never pried into this not-so-secret secret. She simply let Emily live as she wanted to, and supported her the whole way.

Then, as Emily details how she’s “ruined” things with Sue, Vinnie continues to support her with a sisterly reality check.

“I’ll tell you what I think. I think you are so unbelievably lucky to have someone you truly love to spend your life with,” Vinnie says. “If I had that, I would be so happy. And if that person was alive, in the present with me, in the here and now, I would run right into their arms and never let them go.”

So, Emisue fans. This is where we pause and take a moment to thank Lavinia Dickinson for righting this ship. It’s thanks to Vinnie’s words that Emily realizes she really does want Sue and has been taking her for granted. “Real love doesn’t exist in your imagination,” Vinnie adds. “It exists right here, in this abjectly horrible place we call reality.”

Without Vinnie, there might not be an Emisue anymore.

And again, this is all just this week. Lavinia Dickinson has had plenty of standout moments up to this point, from her dance moves to her bluntness with men. She’s consistently done her own thing, embraced her own sexuality, and infused extra fun into this show.

Lavinia always has the best of intentions, and genuinely makes the lives of those around her — and of viewers — better. Lavinia Dickinson a lot like Emily Dickinson, and just as cool. It’s time she got the credit for it.