Dickinson season two, episode eight spoilers follow.
Dickinson season two reckons with the price of fame, and how public recognition impacted Emily, both as an artist and also as a woman living in 1850s America. Key to this is the arrival of Sam Bowles, the editor of the Springfield Republican.
At first, this new addition to the cast brings hope to Emily, helping her push through the misogynistic confines of the world around her. But then, as season two progresses, the cracks start to show, revealing ulterior motives that lurk just under the surface of Sam's smiley, handsome facade.
At the end of episode eight, this all culminates in one shocking scene where Emily discovers Sam and Sue's affair. It's a betrayal on multiple fronts, one that's compounded by this strange new reality Emily finds herself in, one where her friends and family can no longer see her. She has become "nobody".
We sat down to chat with Dickinson star Finn Jones to discuss this "pivotal" twist and what it says about Sam's true nature.
What was it like to join a show like Dickinson that was already established?
It was super-interesting, because Apple TV hadn’t launched yet, and Dickinson hadn’t come on air either. So I was going into completely unknown territory. I thought the scripts were fantastic, but I really didn’t know what I was letting myself in for.
So it was a nice surprise when I stepped on set, and just was welcomed by a group of highly creative, professional, good-natured people. Apple had put so much money and supreme creative talent into every aspect of the show. It was very relieving to know that I was a part of something that was just really well thought out, and really well produced.
Sam Bowles is based on a real person, but Dickinson loves to put its own unique spin on these characters. Did you research the real Sam much, and did that influence the way you approached this role?
I did do some research into him. I was really focused on how his character, how him as a person, would be relatable in today’s world.
Thinking about the printing press – it was considered this new technology in that world, kind of similar to what something like Twitter or Facebook would be today. So I was really interested in comparing Sam Bowles to someone almost like Jack Dorsey, the guy who runs Twitter, and drawing those parallels. That was the main bulk of my historical research.
And when I was on the show, it was really just getting into the character as written by [showrunner] Alena Smith. I was really working within the confines of the show’s creation of Sam Bowles.
Sam's relationship with Emily evolves a lot throughout the course of this season. Can you tell me more about the unique dynamic they share?
One of the things that really drew me to the character was the fact that you never really know what his true intentions are. On one hand, he’s seemingly this liberal, influential editor that wants to celebrate female, creative voices.
But on the other hand, you’re like: is he someone who’s just out for his own success, and his own self-interest, whether that is commercial or sexual?
So it was really fun for me to be almost like a snake, going in between those two perceived notions of the character. And as we see towards the end of the series, there are a couple of revelations that really demonstrate Sam’s ulterior motive.
It was really fun to play someone that isn’t so clean-cut. There are these element of devious, devil-like qualities to him.
Do you think it’d be too reductive to call Sam a "bad guy"?
Yeah, totally. When I play characters, I always like to find the contradictions within the character. I don’t feel like anyone in this world is out-and-out intentionally bad, right? Everyone’s coming from a place of wanting to do good, but that can often be warped by their own misunderstanding of themselves or events.
So whilst I think Sam is trying to do the right thing – he does want to publish women; he does want to have a successful, liberal newspaper; but then he also has these inner desires of lust, of power, which he, unfortunately allows to flourish, and doesn’t have much control over.
We can say that’s toxic masculinity, I guess. That’s him giving in to these desires. It’s really interesting as a performer to flirt within that space.
Episode eight ends with this really striking scene where Emily discovers Sam and Sue together, but she’s invisible; they can’t perceive her somehow. It's such an unusual but memorable moment. Can you break that down for me in more detail?
It's a very pivotal scene within the season when you find out that both Sam and Sue have been having this sexual relationship behind everyone’s backs. That’s a big deal. It’s a bomb for everyone.
I remember, it was cool doing that scene, because you’re able to reveal another side of Sam when a camera isn’t necessarily on him. It was interesting to pull back the curtain, if you will, to really see what Sam has been doing, and who Sam is. It’s very revealing.
I guess the audience will certainly see Sam in a particular light after that, and a lot of people will see him as a bad person. Yeah, he has been lying to Emily, and he has been incredibly deceitful for sure. But does that make him a bad person? I don’t know. To Sam… not. [laughs]
From Sam’s point of view… I’ve tried to make this character as relatable to me as possible, to try to make him human. I often thought that the reason why Sam is drawn to these kind of relationships is because he is someone that is lonely. He spends most of his time travelling, going from different event to different event, meeting lots of different people, and he’s unable to keep a relationship going.
So I feel like he’s just looking for human connection as much as anyone else is. He’s got himself into this situation with Sue out of necessity to feel some kind of companionship and intimate experience. So yeah, it’s complicated. It’s very, very complicated.
What do you think is going on with Emily's invisibility? Is it purely supernatural in origin or perhaps more of a symbolic interpretation of what's going on?
I actually don’t know. I think it probably is more symbolic than anything. I love that the show isn’t afraid to go into that more surreal aspect of storytelling. I’d definitely say it’d be more of a creative tool than anything supernatural within the show. I think it’s artistic license and expression to make a point – you know, the fact that she’s disappearing into nobody, to fully understand the world around her.
Aside from that pivotal moment, what was your favourite scene to work on in season two?
Obviously I enjoy every scene that I was in. Working with Hailee, especially, was so much fun. We had so much fun on set. We really engaged well as performers, but then also just as people. We just had a lot of fun along the way.
And Hailee’s such a pro. She brings herself to the role with such professionalism, but at the same time, with an incredible amount of warmth and integrity and intelligence. Which is just so wonderful to see in a fellow performer.
Dickinson season two airs weekly every Friday on Apple TV+.
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