RATED TV-PG | 3-stars
Season 2 of Anne with an “E” hit Netflix mid-2018 after making viewers wait for over a year. While it was exciting to have more Anne to grow and learn with, I was also a bit nervous. I did not grow up reading the books, and I also didn’t have any emotional attachment to the films. Despite these things, I found myself adoring the first season. I was so afraid Season 2 would crumble under heavy expectations impossible to fulfill.
The second season of Anne with an “E” did not crush my hopes, but it did show cracks where its sense of social justice was beginning to overburden the foundation it was built on. After all, season 1 already tackled very raw approaches to bullying, child abuse, trauma, dissociation, and social ostracization. Season 1 acknowledged (and continues to acknowledge in Season 2) that none of these issues just vanish from a person’s life after a single victory or learned lesson.
Instead of focusing on Anne’s healing and growing journey, Season 2 of Anne with an “E” chose to add new character point-of-views, new topics of social import, and new (and controversial) subjects to dissect. But this over-extension of a 10-episode runtime made each subject and character feel more rushed than enriched. These new subjects involved gender identity, racial prejudice, progressive feminism, cross-cultural differences, lifelong singleness, and gender equality all in the context of the early 1900s Canada.
I spent the majority of the season trying to understand why it felt so much more “off” than the first. Season 1 tackled subjects with just enough grit to drive home the horrific realities of abuse and the lasting effects of trauma—but not so much as to feel exploitative. While Season 2 doesn’t feel exploitative, it did (dare I say it?) feel…much lazier.
Season 2 of Anne with an “E” picks up right where Season 1 ended. Green Gables is struggling to stay afloat financially, and so they’ve taken in two rather shady-looking boarders to make ends meet. But while Anne starts to grow close to one of them through baking together in the kitchen, the other is a slimy, too-charming fellow that throws Marilla into a bit of a tizzy.
I found this choice of seasonal opening to be the biggest bad decision of season 2. In a world where our media is always seeking to up the edginess each new TV or podcast season, even I felt uncomfortable with the boarder’s light hand touch here, lingering eye there toward Marilla. While I appreciated that it tried to address the fact that lifelong singleness doesn’t make a person immune to attraction, I found its execution lacking in class and actually very frustrating.
For one, I had a bit of trouble really believing Marilla would’ve fallen for the charm of the 20-year-old boarder. For two, even after this arc ended and they were solidified as bad men, I never felt the arc ended satisfyingly enough to explain why it dealt with such awkward and poorly-executed interpersonal conflicts in the first place!
Now, that’s not to say I didn’t love any of the new characters. Sebastian (“Bash”), an East Carribbean sailor who Gilbert meets on his travels, and Cole, a reserved artist in Anne’s class, are both engaging and sympathetic. Once the awkward opening arc concluded, I found myself swept away by the storylines of these new people—unfortunately rushed as they were. I loved the relationship between Bash and Gilbert as they explored each other’s cultures and, to be honest, I think I would’ve been happier if Season 2 had entirely focused on their adventures instead of the main Green Gables storyline.
Back in Avonlea, Anne develops a friendship with her classmate Cole. He is a depressed artist who is first accepted by the girls…and then severely bullied for it. His storyline is one about gender identity, atypical masculinity, and finding himself in a culture and family that condemns the things important to him.
[SPOILER ALERT] I was surprised at the degree that Anne with an “E” examined a 1900s LGBTQ+ community. I appreciated the contrast, but for viewers that are expecting a traditionally Christian and conservative storyline, it is a bit jarring. It had me asking what Anne with an “E” was actually going for in their second season. Who did they think their audience was? Were they seeking to educate and teach? To raise awareness? To address a certain people group? While I think, standing alone, Cole’s storyline of coming into his own would’ve been fantastic, it felt almost aggressive in the context of so many social commentaries already present in the season.
This review would be ridiculously long if I dove into all the elements of Anne with an “E” season 2 that had me smiling, laughing, confused, frustrated, questioning, and generally trying to figure out what the writers were thinking. To sum it all up, I would suggest that anyone uncomfortable with the themes included here should maybe veer clear for a bit—or, better yet, watch it with a trusted friend or adult to facilitate healthy discussions.
While there is a lot to process in Anne with an “E,” that can also serve as a point in its favor. Clumsily or not, Anne with an “E” season 2 does a very thorough job of addressing today’s issues and how different children may be extremely accepting, extremely condemning, or caught between the two. It offers a platform to sit down and discuss real issues in the safe setting of a story with fictional characters.
CONTENT WARNING: I’d offer caution on Anne with an “E” Season 2 to those struggling with LGBTQ+ subject matter, such as where they land on the Bible’s condemnation/endorsement of the LGBTQ+ lifestyles and those uncomfortable with a diverse examination of sexual attraction. Additionally, the bullying Cole goes through from classmates and from family and authority figures could trigger trauma for viewers who have undergone abuse themselves. I’d advise exercising extreme caution for sensitive viewers.
September is an aspiring novelist, book
hoarder collector and movie watcher. She has a black feline floof named Faust, an assortment of plants that seek global domination, and a distinct lack of awareness for where she is at any given moment.