At the end of this week’s episode of Dickinson, titled “A little Madness in the Spring”, Mrs. Dickinson (Jane Krakowski) doesn’t make dinner. And not only that, she has no plans to make dinner, at least until the Civil War is over (which probably won’t be for another two to three years on the Dickinson timeline). It seems like a small deal for the world, but for Mrs. Dickinson? It’s huge.
“[It was] wonderful to see a character in three seasons grow as much as Mrs. Dickinson did,” Krakowski told Decider during a recent press day for the series. “I really feel like in the beginning, Emily Dickinson Sr. needed to be a wall of tradition and the patriarchal society for Emily to run up against and to define who Emily Jr. was. And so I think it was very exciting for over the three seasons Mrs. Dickinson to become her own full person in her own right.”
Mrs. Dickinson, as Krakowski notes, has been a staunch supporter of women knowing their place for two and a half seasons now, to the point that her Stella Gets Her Groove Back moment last season was catering two tea parties simultaneously for the men in her life. But following a visit to an insane asylum this episode, things start to change. After meeting an inmate at the asylum who gets to rest and has to cater to nobody, Mrs. Dickinson realizes that providing for her family at all times at the cost of her own sanity is a choice. And so when the family returns, she realizes she needs to make some new choices, starting with taking a long lie-down upstairs.
Again, perhaps not the boldest option possible, but it is a radical reinvention for Mrs. Dickinson. “It was interesting for me to play one of the more contained characters in the program, especially emotionally,” Krakowski noted. “What was nice about the gradual growth is that I enjoyed playing her more and more each year. And I enjoyed that the baby steps that Mrs. Dickinson took were huge steps for the character itself.”
As Krakowski says, and observant viewers will note, those changes started a while back, with the very first scene of the season, which found the Dickinson family attending the funeral of Mrs. Dickinson’s sister. Though she’s dealt with it in different ways, it’s been clear that the family matriarch has not been okay this season. Just an episode back she got drunk on Mr. Dickinson’s (Toby Huss) birthday, and after donning her wedding dress and avoiding her grief for day, it all literally came crashing down when she fell down the stairs of the family home.
Like the rest of the characters on the show, who are all growing up in different ways, Mrs. Dickinson still has a long way to go — and history tells us that she mostly kept to herself and her garden, meaning she probably didn’t start attending feminist marches with Abby (Sophie Tucker) or anything. She also, historically, did not have a great relationship with her daughter, Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld). So it’s surprising to hear Krakowski call her out as the greatest motivator for her changes.
“That growth really came through the scenes with Hailee,” Krakowski said. “The greatest steps of growth every season were when Hailee and I got to put down some of the veneers of the characters we’re playing and open up our hearts. And I was very thankful for that growth in a character.”
There’s more growth to come as the series wraps up its run in four episodes’ time. But what that growth is, we probably won’t find out until Mrs. Dickinson makes the choice to come back downstairs.
Dickinson streams Fridays on Apple TV+.
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