Review of “Anne” Episode 3: Meet the New Gilbert Blythe! (Gulp)

Anne 13Meet the new Gilbert Blythe.

Wait–WHAT??

Probably my biggest concern about any new treatment of Anne of Green Gables is Gilbert Blythe. Because, OBVIOUSLY, I adore Gilbert Blythe.

NO ONE will ever replace the irreplaceable Jonathan Crombie for me. And that’s true of many of you, as well. So I was on edge in anticipation for last night’s new episode of “Anne,” because I knew we’d meet the new Gil.

The sublimely Matthew-ish R.H. Thompson had already passed my strenuous though subjective Matthew Cuthbert test, so I wondered, would Lucas Jade Zumann pass my even harder Gilbert test? Miraculously, he did, with one believable act of gallantry. An off-book act of gallantry, mind you, one that takes place before the iconic slate scene. You know, where Anne wrathfully smashes her slate across Gilbert’s tousled head and he tries to take the blame with that CREEPER TEACHER Mr. Phillips.

I’m here to tell you, kindred spirits, we can all collapse in relief (because a poorly cast Gil is an abomination). This young actor embodies Gilbert in a worthy fashion. He’s thoughtful but never brooding, quiet but not shy, perceptive, and charmingly gallant, a budding nobleman of Avonlea village (and Lord knows, as Avonlea is portrayed in this new series, it needs more noblemen and women!).

For those of you who are herniating a disc right now, listen– LISTEN:

You are not betraying Jonathan Crombie by liking this new Gil.

Zumann, a 15-year-old Chicagoan, is a Gilbert for a new generation, and it’s been THIRTY-TWO YEARS. Those of you who are caterwauling “NO!!!!” “NEVER!!!” “Not EVEN Upon Threat of Dismemberment!!!” about accepting this new series and its players need to calm down just a little bit. Just a little tiny bit!

With that being said, I’m still struggling a bit with the off-bookness of it all, but less than I was. The three main actors are absolutely killing it every week, and the bond that is building between Anne, Matthew and Marilla is something to behold. This bond is something beautiful, something strong and fierce and capable of withstanding the ferocious winds of prejudice, rejection, misunderstanding and trauma of a shattered beginning. And our Anne Girl has many such storms. In Amybeth McNulty’s hands, Anne so badly wants to be accepted it is rolling off of her in waves. And of course, her insecurity is detected immediately by that Queen of Mean Girls, Josie Pye, who is as loathsome, spiteful, gloating and hideous as ever. I devote an entire chapter to her bullying of Anne (woven with my own bullying story from Grade Eight) in “Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me.” “Vanquishing Josie Pye.” She’s insufferable and makes Anne’s life a living Hades. Poor, dear Anne! How my heart squeezed for her when she was so badly mistreated on her first days at Avonlea School.

But Anne’s heartbreak is now being tended by loving hands, which makes this episode redemptive. She’s not alone anymore. Now she has Marilla, a budding mother, whose crusty facade is cracking open more by the day. It’s no wonder Geraldine James is an OBE (a recipient of the Order of the British Empire) for her acting. Anne 14

And Matthew is her great champion as well. These two old sheep have been thrown in the deep end of parenting, and all we can do is watch with a mix of trepidation and admiration. Parenting ain’t for chickens, that’s for darn sure. And mothering a traumatized, lonely, broken girl whose wounds are being reopened by a cold-hearted bunch of Pyes and other assorted idiots? That is an act of sheer valor, people.

In the whispered words of Aslan to Lucy in Narnia, “Take courage, dear heart.” 

 

That’s for Matthew, Marilla, and Anne. All three of them will need it badly. And it’s for any of us who need to hear it, now. 

Have any of you been able to watch?

What do YOU think about what me and other viewers have been saying?

Are you prepared to buy into some serious revisions here? Or would you prefer, as I do in my heart of hearts, that all of this phenomenal writing and acting and filmmaking would reflect Maud’s original story?

I’d love to know your thoughts! Every comment on my blog until the Anne series has properly aired on Netflix (May 12) will be entered in a contest to win a fetching Anne of Green Gables art piece or frameable quote from my favorite Etsy shop, Carrot Top Paper Shop! Anne 9So comment away, won’t you, Anne Internet Friends??

Comments

  1. Bethany Davis says

    Ahhhhhhh, I think this is the real litmus test for me. Gil! I vetted this beautiful child’s looks months ago to see if he looked Gilbert-esque enough, and he passed that test! I feel like there are so many different sides to Anne that different angles of her personality can be portrayed, but straightforward, steadfast Gilbert is exactly that–straightforward and steadfast. I’m glad to hear that he isn’t brooding–I wouldn’t like that. I get the impression that this adaptation delves more deeply into Anne’s trauma and “brokenness” than the Kevin Sullivan adaptations did. That’s not a bad thing. I will love Sullivan’s adaptations forever but I do feel like he skirted over Anne’s past a bit. I’m probably like you–in my heart of hearts I would prefer it if they stuck a little more closely to L. M. Montgomery’s writing, but I will still give this interpretation a chance and try to appreciate it for what it is.

    • Lorilee says

      Hooray, Bethany! You said it perfectly. Kevin Sullivan may have “skirted” but then again, so did LMM! I don’t believe she had a choice, in her time and culture, to skirt deeper issues of trauma. We know so much more now about those things, and this “Anne” reflects that.

  2. Tasha says

    Thank you!!! Thank you so much for writing this in exactly the way you wrote it. You are a true kindred spirit. The entire spirit of Anne is “imagination” and if we cannot imagine a new adventure for Anne then we have all failed as Anne fans. This episode was wonderful in its differences and similarities. I am also a pretty hardcore Crombie fan but I am so far loving this new young man in the role of our dashing Gilbert Blythe. I cannot wait to see the relationship develop in future episodes. And the final scene with Mariclaire and Anne had the composure I had been holding onto so tightly during the entire episode complete crack and fall to pieces.

    • Lorilee says

      Thanks, Tasha! It takes a kindred spirit to know one! :) “The entire spirit of Anne is “imagination” and if we cannot imagine a new adventure for Anne then we have all failed as Anne fans.” Good insight! Still, you know I’m struggling with the major off-bookishness…:)

  3. Drake Owen says

    Hello Lorilee,
    I haven’t seen this series yet since I don’t stream Netflix. I will see it later on DVD when it is available. I really like Ella Ballentine as Anne but am waiting to see the second and third movies on PBS here in the USA. Have you seen Anne, the good stars yet and did you review it?

  4. Judy Gibson says

    I was so irritated last we with changes to the story. I sincerely DO NOT understand why they feel they have to deviate so far off of the brilliant, beloved story by LMM! That being said, I have to admit I was won over to sticking with this version of Anne, by the incredibly beautiful acting by the three main characters! Wow, that scene with Anne and Marilla, in which Marilla asks Anne to forgive her, again, wow!

    Still, I think I always prefer the truest version of LMM’S masterpiece. There is however, something of beauty and value in this adaption of our beloved Anne.

    • Lorilee says

      Love your honesty, Judy! :) Just when I think I can’t bear the off-book changes, a scene like the one with Marilla and Anne blows me away, and I am able to disconnect with the book just a little more.

  5. Johanna says

    Thoughts on the ‘mouse in his pants’ scene?? A little uncomfortable watching it with my kids, but I’m sure it was true to what her experiences must have been like . . .

    • Lorilee says

      Johanna, I thought the same thing–that I would be uncomfortable watching with my 12-year-old. I didn’t enjoy that whole sequence, but maybe it was no meant to be enjoyable, but to provoke and disturb us, awakening us to what Anne had been exposed to and the depth of prejudice toward the orphan!

    • Lorilee says

      Yes, give it a whirl, Maria. I don’t think you’ll be sorry! I do get your point, though. Why do these things always have to go off book?

  6. says

    I’m so happy to hear that the new Gilbert is as strong of a character as his predecessor. I can’t wait to see it! Tomorrow I’m doing a wonderful giveaway for all of the Anne of Green Gables kindred spirits ♥

  7. Kerri says

    Gilbert did pass th test Im happy to relate. The real question is why do we need to see Anne’s trauma? If we Anne fans are gifted with imagination, cannot we bestow upon the girl a measure of privacy and bedeck our own minds with imaginings of our own? I also find that there is a little too much negativity in this series.

    • Lorilee says

      Kerri, SUCH an interesting question. How much do we need to see of Anne’s trauma? I also feel a bit uncomfortable with the negative skew of this series, but that’s because I am pretty glass-half-full… I do feel the truth of Anne’s trauma was somewhat sugarcoated…even by LMM. But we know so much more now about trauma. We know Anne would have suffered. The question is, how much is too much focus on the sad aspects?

  8. Kerri says

    This would be a great series for those who do not know the books as well and have not traversed their beauty.

  9. Veronica says

    New Gil passed my test too, and mainly for the scene of gallantry/scenes with the school boys. Plus he looked right and had a natural confidence.

    These scenes were a wonderful way to show his true character before the hair-pulling, where he is going to look immature to the viewer.

    It’s interesting that Anne marched off though the woods and didn’t really acknowledge him until she reached the safety of the school. Though the slate was *really* vicious, it was OK because the close-up of her face as an iron entered her soul was a good one.

    I don’t like the ‘dark’ elements of this new ‘Anne’ story, and epecially Marilla meeting friends with ‘suffrage’ mothers who are hypocrites. I like the three leads, but where are the quirky and cute characters (though Rachel is great)? We have barely seen ‘Avonlea’ yet.

    I’m not sure many Anne fans would like this series either, and I do feel let down and am not desperate to see the next episode. I love the original story because it makes me feel good and laugh and appreciate nature. Episode 2 was something else entirely. Melodramatic rubbish!

    However, episode 3 was improved. I guess they couldn’t deliver an ‘Anne’ adaptation that was too similar to those that came before it. This show has made my heart warm a handful of times, though it’s not nearly enough.

    However, I am worried they’ll have flashbacks of sexual abuse or have her cooking meth next. I am honestly not sure that this series will get more episodes. I can’t see anyone becoming addicted with what they have presented. However, I am happy that their is a show with such different protagonists. (Two older siblings and an adopted red-headed child).

    Oh and another pretty, slim Josie.

    • Lorilee says

      Thanks Veronica…your ambivalence seems to match that of many viewers so far! People are loving parts of it and not loving other parts. I too am enthralled by the three main leads and their acting, AND this adaptation could stand some more of LMM’s quirky, funny, loveable characters!

  10. Speck says

    After watching episode 4 I am a bit more comfortable with this Anne. Some of the humour of the original is emerging (Ruby Gillis’ vacant comments, for example).

    When I saw the first few episodes I was frustrated that the humour of LM Montgomery’s original was so often missing, and I was also annoyed with the many odd distortions (off-book is one thing, but a different plot warping the original…she’s not Anne Shirley Cuthbert, folks, and many orphans at the time would not have had their original names erased!). The extreme prejudice against Anne as an orphan was also bizarre – deaths in childbirth and work accidents were much more common, and people were on the move for work – while some people had stability, instability in family structures was much more common, and the original Anne and other LMM works reflect that. The class and racial prejudice of the original (against “the French”; Marilla is relieved Anne’s folks were ‘good people’) was more prevalant than any prejudice against orphans per se.

    But I really like this Gil (better than Jonathan Crombie, actually!) – this Gilbert is more like the Gilbert of my imagination, as is this Anne in looks. While I’m guessing the fire was a sensationalized version of the croup (likely diphtheria in the original, not the same as croup now) it worked, and Anne’s intelligence and presence of mind came through.

    TL/DR: I’m so glad the humour is emerging after so many oddities in the plot!

  11. Lorilee says

    Hi Speck,

    Your comments are so insightful–thank you! This one really made me think:

    The class and racial prejudice of the original (against “the French”; Marilla is relieved Anne’s folks were ‘good people’) was more prevalent than any prejudice against orphans per se.” WOW! I think you’re right.

  12. Cone says

    I’m really disappointed by how much this series has gone off book in the first few episodes. I was really hopeful after the first episode; the second episode almost lost me. Episodes 3 and 4 were a mix. I don’t mind some of the flashbacks and additional “darkness” so much; I think at the time AoGG was published, a lot more people would have been aware of the kinds of conditions that existed for orphans; things were probably implied for the readers of 1908 that the readers of 2017 wouldn’t pick up on.

    As much as I loved Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla, I do like that this series is giving a little more focus to Marilla’s life- there are a lot of small references in the book to Marilla’s ‘grey’ life and her lack of opportunity, and how Anne brought colour into it, etc. I think this series is picking that up more than previous adaptations.

    What’s making me crazy is the addition of completely over the top dramatic scenes, like the fire in Episode 4, basically the entirety of Episode 2, the end of Episode 1. I always felt like the whole point of Anne- and indeed most of Montgomery’s other books- was to show the drama in everyday things, and how the small dramas of imaginative children (Anne, Emily, Pat) create breaks in the monotony. Also the flipping of characters’ personalities…what happened to sympathetic minister Reverend Allen? And in what universe is Jane Andrews’ mother a progressive thinker?

    I am glad that some of the humour finally came back in Episode 4! But I wish people making series would respect the true appeal of L. M. Montgomery’s writing instead of trying to shove their own narratives into what is already a witty, lovely, balanced, story.

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