Review: Anne with an E, season 2

Amybeth McNulty in Anne with an E

Anne with an E season 2 is loosely based on the Anne of Green Gables novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Adapted in this version for Canadian television by writer Moira Walley-Beckett, the series is available on Netflix. There are some minor spoilers ahead.

R.H. Thomson, Amybeth McNulty, and Geraldine James in Anne with an E
A visit to the coast is a reason for joy

Amybeth McNulty stars as the irrepressible, exuberant Anne Shirley. She’s 14 or 15 in season 2 and growing up quickly. Anne was taken in by brother and sister Marilla (Geraldine James) and Matthew (R.H. Thomson) Cuthbert. They lived on a farm on Prince Edward Island.

When season 2 begins, the Cuthberts are still living with two boarders. They are grifters, out to steal from the entire town of Avonlea by claiming there’s gold there. No one but the Cuthbert’s helper Jerry (Aymeric Jett Montaz) realizes they are bad guys.

Lucas Jade Zumann and Dalmar Abuzeid in Anne with an E
Gilbert and Bash in Trinidad

Gilbert (Lucas Jade Zumann) is shoveling coal in the bowels a ship thinking he’s saving himself from a life as a farmer. He befriends Bash (Dalmar Abuzeid), a man from Trinidad. Gilbert receives a letter from Anne about gold in Avonlea.

Dalila Bela, Amybeth McNulty and Kyla Matthews in Anne with an E
We manage to stay in constant trouble, we do.

Anne and her friends are attending school with a horrible teacher named Mr. Phillips (Stephen Tracey). He lets Billy (Christian Martyn) bully everyone, especially Cole (Cory Gruter-Andrew).

Cole is a talented artist, obviously gay, and one of Anne’s best friends. Mr. Phillips is strangely attracted to Cole (“You disgust me.”) while busy proposing to Prissy (Ella Jonas Farlinger). Run, Prissy, run!

After about 3 episodes the thieving boarders are dispatched and Gilbert is home from the sea with Bash beside him. Bash struggles to keep warm in the Canadian winter. Gilbert and Bash will work Gilbert’s farm together while Gilbert gets more education. Anyway, that’s the plan.

This series really works. Amybeth McNulty is brilliant as Anne.Bash is the first person of color in the cast of Anne with an E. Once he arrives, he discovers “The Bog” where other people of color are isolated in a muddy, ghetto-like area. There he meets a woman who works in the laundry (Cara Ricketts) and promptly falls in love.

During the rehearsals for the Christmas performance involving both town and school, Billy knocks Cole off a ladder and breaks his wrist. Cole can never draw properly after that.

Anne and her bosom friend Diana (Dalila Bela) are invited to a soirée at Diana’s Aunt Josephine’s (Deborah Grover) home. If you recall from season 1, Aunt Jo lost her partner of almost 50 years – a woman named Gertrude. At the time, Anne got the idea of a woman loving another woman – but not really.

Deborah Grover in Anne with an E
One bedroom for two ladies at Aunt Jo’s. Anne finally gets it.

To attend the party, Anne and Diana must be accompanied on the journey by a male. They recruit Cole. There were gay overtones to the story in the early episodes, but the soirée is the gayest thing you’ve seen since an episode of Sense8. (Okay, minus any actual sex.) There are elaborate costumes and same sex people holding hands and dancing. Women wear suits and men wear feathered headdresses. There are speeches about lost love. Cole realizes he’s found his people and a place where he fits. He sees sculpture for the first time.

Anne finally gets what Jo and Gertrude were to each other and she accepts the idea without reservation. Diana is a little slower to warm to this revelation about her aunt.

Back in Avonlea, a new teacher named Muriel Stacy (Joanna Douglas) arrives. She wears pants and rides a motorized bicycle. She does hands-on science experiments. She refuses to wear a corset. She’s Anne, except grown up. Her very existence causes a scandal and the school board wants to fire her almost as soon as she arrives. A few people like the Cuthberts and all the students stand up for her and she stays. Miss Stacey is what prompts Anne’s decision to become a teacher.

Things happen in season 2 that set the stage for things to come. Gilbert comes home to learn to be a doctor. Anne decides to be a teacher. Marilla visits the oculist because of her eyesight. I hope there will be a season 3, and these setups for what’s to come in the story of Anne Shirley-Cuthbert will lead to new adventures.

Set in the 1880s, I’m sure the original Anne of Green Gables was not open about racial prejudice (Bash faces plenty) or the acceptance of homosexuality by the leading characters. But this is 2018, and the adaptation has adapted. I think it’s better for it. I’m sure there are purists who disagree with me. It’s not like those things didn’t exist in the 1800s. Let these contemporary characters with their feminist beliefs support the current sensibility. It is in keeping with Anne’s journey and her awakening as an adult.

My opinion is this series really works. Amybeth McNulty is brilliant as Anne. The writing is good, the acting is wonderful, the setting is gorgeous, and the characters are multifaceted and fascinating. The themes of family, friendship, and community are still there. The more modern concerns embellish rather than detract.

Amybeth McNulty and Geraldine James in Anne with an E
I love that tree

Anne with an E is beautiful in many ways. The backdrop of the island, the forest, the coastline. The opening credits are so beautiful I watch them every time. The scenes in the port at Trinidad were glaringly fake, but everything else looked wonderful.

This tweet shares some of “the look” of Anne with an E.

Fun bit of trivia: the freckles on Anne’s face differ in number and position in every episode.

Moira Walley-Beckett is the series creator. Several women directed in season 2: Helen Shaver, Anne Wheeler, and Amanda Tapping. There may be others I’m missing because of incomplete info at IMDB.

This is a lovely coming of age story about a memorable, unique character with iconic status in North America. If you aren’t already a fan of Anne with an E, I hope you’ll consider becoming one.

11 thoughts on “Review: Anne with an E, season 2”

  1. Anne with an E is a desecration. It departs wildly from the original. The new stuff is actually well done. but its author should have created her own characters and left Anne, Marilla, Matthew, et al,out of it. She has no right to steal L.M. Montgomery’s characters and make them serve her purposes.

  2. I’m disappointed that Netflix has strayed so far from the literary classic and turned the story into a social justice platform.

  3. Personally, I’m very heartbroken and distraught that the writers of Anne with an E, have strayed not only so far beyond from the original writings of our beloved famous story of Anne Shirley, but also too, I would like to suggest: have dishonored L.M. Montgomery’s writings and work, by trying so hard to force their own belief system, declaring it “modern” & “timely” as the writer suggested.
    I thoroughly loved Anne with an E season 1, but having watched season 2, with the message of “widened horizons of love” the writer is so evidently trying to force on the viewers, I cannot support or watch this show any longer. It pains me that entertainment is pushing so desperately a subject of having so called “narrow minded thinking” when it comes to opposite sex love; but somehow having same sex love is “widened thinking” – “having so many more: “possibilities” as Anne puts it in this season 2. – Stressing, and I would go as far as to say, forcing an idea onto the audience that “opposite sex attraction is: old way of thinking, that’s narrow” and “same sex attraction is: the new way, that’s not only wider, but better and more freeing.” We’ll let me ask you this: Are you really free if an idea has been pushed or forced on you?
    I would like to propose this so called “adapted, adaptation” of our treasured Anne Shirley, that the writer has written, is not only pushing their way of thinking, but forcing it upon you.
    This is absolutely devastating for our young viewers, when they are at such an impressionable age, and now are being pushed so hard to own a belief system that declares: “to adopt same sex attraction, is to adapt, as well as own a wider, better and free world view”. As if to say, “you’re not only narrow minded, but also not as free with opposite sex attraction.”
    It breaks my heart what they, as the writers have done with our beloved childhood classic, and how, I believe they have totally dishonored one of our highly respected L.M. Montgomery’s life work.

    1. I just read the original book. I see why people remember it with such fond loyalty. However, I think the version now streaming on Netflix is well done and perfect for today’s young people. Young people (and old people like me) are free to enjoy either the written or the adapted version, or both. No one is forcing either on anyone.

    2. The message to youth isn’t that they should adopt same sex attraction. The message is that different isn’t bad… it’s just not the same. You see people being bullied throughout the show for being different, and the message is that’s not OK on any level, not just with same sex attraction. Anne is teased for having red hair and that’s different, but not bad. Anne is ostracized for being an orphan, and that’s different but not bad. Ms. Stacey is whispered about because she wears slacks and doesn’t wear a corset. That’s different… but not bad. Bash is refused service because he’s black. He’s different. Definitely not bad. And, yes, Cole and Aunt Josephine are gay. Should they be carted off to jail (since it was illegal at the time) for being different? Nope. It’s not bad to be not the same. The message is be true to your heart. Let your light shine. And let your neighbor’s light shine too even if it’s a different color than yours. It’s OK to be different. Difference is humanity’s strength! It’s a beautiful message for children.

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