Review of “Anne” Episode 6: “I Want to Be a Heroine in My Own Story”

Anne 24Thanks to my friend, novelist and Lucy Maud Montgomery nut Rachel McMillan, I am starting to see this innovative, new “Anne” as a character study, and not a plot driven retelling of AOGG. 

I know I have ranted here, and I’m still not thrilled with every change to my beloved story, but I feel somehow as if Moira Walley-Beckett and co. have expanded my knowledge and increased my friendship with Anne, Matthew, Marilla, and Gilbert. Yes, my friendship!

I totally believe you can be friends with a literary character, don’t you? I like to tell people that Anne is my Life Mentor, and it’s true!  She has been so many things to me, an inspiration, a friend, a sister, a fellow orphan, a teacher, and the list goes on.

This new Anne has ignited some controversy, see an article in “The Federalist” which uses the word “perverted” in the headline. Talk about click bait…ugh. I refuse to give that article any link love, but if you want to find it Google it.

One of the things this author said about the new Anne was that AOGG is aspirational, not realistic. To which I had a strong response (what I posted in response to this Federalist piece on an AOGG Facebook group page):

“I believe Anne is MORE aspirational after we know the depth of her suffering. She’s more of a role model. Instead of dreaming away her trauma, she deals with it with the help of her keen but floundering newbie parents. That’s strength. That’s inspiring. I am getting to know Anne in a new, deeper way. The realism, I would argue, gives us all something to aspire too. Instead of preserving a “false peace” (I’ve been reading about false peace lately..ha!), things are uncovered and dealt with. The 1985 version is magical, luminous, and I shall love it forever. This one is disturbing, provocative, and equally needed.”

Not only does this “Anne” provoke and stir the pot, it also offers some shockingly beautiful and gripping moments between these fascinating characters. (Here’s where my review of Episode 6 really begins, by the way.)

In the gripping department, just try and rip your eyes and heart away from the iconic “Anne saves Minnie Mae from death” scene.

Even though we knew what would happen, Natalie, Juliana (our lovely hostess) and I could barely breathe as our level-headed Anne administered syrup of Ipecac, an onion poultice, and even the method of hanging Minnie Mae’s head off the table and pounding on her labored chest to get her to cough. Suddenly, I remembered with awful clarity that my own uncle, Frank, had died in such a way as a toddler. My mom said that her father, my gentle, wheat-farming, Matthew-esque Grandpa Loewen had paced the floor many a night holding his son as he tried to breathe. She said the sound of her brother struggling for breath had been unbearable. As good storytelling is wont to do, watching Anne’s story informed my own story, and all at once Uncle Frank was much more than a faded anecdote.

Back at the Canadian embassy, er, Juliana’s living room, when we could breathe again, RH Thompson took our breath away as Matthew. When he found out that Anne had saved Minnie Mae’s life, his quiet pride was written loudly all over his face. He gently brushed a tendril of red hair from Anne’s sleeping face, and his love for her was piercingly real.

Minnie Mae survived, and Mrs. Barry was brought to her knees by relief and repentance. I write about that scene extensively in Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me, and I’m so glad it was included in “Anne.”

However, grief still comes to Avonlea as Gilbert’s father dies, leaving him an orphan. Of course, in the book, Gilbert’s dad does get sick but recovers, and he also has a mother who is not well-pleased when Anne rejects her son repeatedly. As the mother of two teenage boys, I cannot blame her AT ALL.

In 1985, I wanted date Gilbert Blythe, and now, at age 49, I want to adopt him! Which I suppose is only appropriate but it’s funny how life changes, isn’t it?

In this retelling, Gilbert is all alone in the world at age 15, 16. And it’s the saddest thing. But it endears Anne to him, and it endears every motherly hearted creature on earth watching.

Dear Gilbert!

I truly loved how the writers gave Gil a highly unlikely companion in grief: Marilla. Yes, Marilla, we learn, was once passionately in love with Gilbert’s father, John Blythe. And he with her. Through a series of flashbacks, we see a young couple in love. He calls her Mar. She dimples at the very sight of him. But, as she tells Gilbert in an utterly powerful scene at his father’s grave, “there was nothing he could say to make me go with him.” The layers of that statement are still yet to be totally uncovered, but we do know Marilla felt she had to stay home and help after her brother’s death incapacitated her mother.

Finally, this episode gave us Aunt Josephine. One of the chief pleasures of reading the Anne series and any book by Maud are the droll, wry, hilariously crusty old birds which populate Avonlea and other LMM towns. Aunt Josephine was LMM’s first, but certainly not her last. Here in “Anne”, she is visiting her nephew and family during Minnie Mae’s crises and sees firsthand what a mensch Anne is. Anne, as usual, sees past the crust to the tender, fierce core of the woman, and immediately admires Aunt Josephine’s independence.

Anyone over the age of 13 will quickly intuit that Aunt Josephine is mourning the loss of her life’s love, a woman. It’s very subtly done, BUT, like the new “Beauty and the Beast,” is sure to get some people in a bunch. Honestly, it is no big deal.

Hopefully, people will not lose sight of Aunt Josephine’s very good influence on Anne, which results in Anne saying with confidence “I am going to be the heroine in my own story.”

AMEN!

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. Tasha says

    Listen. I have always been an Anne fan. Life long. I know that I have one of the biggest personal Anne collections in the Anne group online – not a brag just a statement of my love for her and her story. I am the LAST person to say thou that I know much about LM or her life or even all of the Anne story – but I do think that if LM was alive today she would have LOVED this fierce little firecracker and her struggle and triumph in life (something LM couldnt do herself from what we know of her death) I also think that you can be friends with characters. Anne has always been a HUGE deal in my life and I am happy to say even MORE so now that I feel like Ive gotten to see more into her heart and soul. It’s like Ive always had Anne but never REALLY had Anne…and now I am getting to see all of those layers peeled back and revealed.

    “I am going to be the heroine in my own story.” gave me LIFE. It made me want to jump out of bed and put one fist on my hip and one in the air and shout “HURRAH!!!” haha I can only hope that it inspires a younger generation of girls (and boys!) to do the same.

    Gil…. oh my dear sweet Gil… how my heart broke for you in this episode. You know that this Gil will also grow into the Gil we all want to marry…. his fierce protection of Anne has captured my heart.

    The simple touch of Matthew’s finger on Annes forehead filled my heart with love.
    Grieving Marilla, reading the old letters from her one true love filled my heart with aches.
    The raspy death rattle breathing of poor Minnie May made me want to wake my own child and clutch them to my chest and never let go.

    Moira Walley-Beckett – please, keep going. The thought of there only being 2 episodes left makes me want to fall on the floor and cry (in full out toddler tantrum fashion!) I am not ready to let go of this Anne yet… <3

    • Lorilee says

      Tasha, you go, girl! Yes to it all. I, too, loved the heroine line. This episode terrified me, made me melt, made me laugh and made me cry!

    • Kerri says

      Well sai, the range of emotions would do Anne herself justice were she sitting next to us watching this show. I’d also like to bare my should here to my fellow kindred spirits and also to serve as a warning to anyone reading my reviews or comments. I am totally blind so if I miss anything in this show, please feel free to enlighten me.

      • Lorilee says

        Glad to have you with us in this kindred community of commenters, Kerri! We’ll keep an eye out for anything we think you might miss, although you probably pick up on things we do not!

        • Kerri says

          My humble thanks to thee. I have to say I do find Amy Beth’s vocalizations rushed and almost hysterical sounding, making it hard for me to understand her.

  2. Kerri says

    Excellent review once again, I greatly appreciate it. I much preferred the way Anne saved Minnie May in this telling than that of 1985, much more detailed, just as much as I loved how the love between John Blythe and Marilla is depicted, straight out of one of Lucy Maude’s book herself. I disliked killing Gilbert’s father off, that was not conducive to anything save getting Anne and Gilbert to fall for each other far sooner than they ought. But all in all, a great episode.

    • Jill says

      For some reason, this episode left me unsettled and was not one of my favourite episodes. Maybe because it was grey, and wintertime with lots of death. Things I didn’t want to happen, happened. I was shocked and sad that Gilbert’s dad died. I also do not like cliffhangers…so the ending with Gilbert bothered me. I felt sad about Marilla’s lost love. My favourite scenes were Mrs. Barry’s apology, Gilbert telling the schoolmate he’s not his “bud” and their scrap (that strength and leadership that makes him so great), and the flashbacks with Marilla and Gilbert’s father (even the dead father gets some personality). Aunt Josephine touched my heart in this one too and made me laugh a few times in this bleak and dreary episode (especially when she needed a whiskey after Anne saves Minnie Mae). I liked that Aunt Josephine had depth and it touched me to see her crying. Even Minnie Mae was given more than just a dying scene and she was a real person dying there…seeing her be a little sister hanging around Diana and Anne in the kitchen, nice touches I thought. I agree that the Gilbert and Marilla scene in the graveyard was particularly touching. In writing this, all my uncomfortable emotions come from caring for the characters and what happens to them. Wish there was more than just one more episode to this series and hope for sure a series two is on the way!

      • Lorilee says

        Wow! Lots of insights here, Jill. Yes, I, too, care so much about the characters. I loved the flashbacks to John and Marilla’s romance!

    • Lorilee says

      Hi Kerri, I see you are from the True North! Where are you from? I am from the great and sunny Winnipeg! Anyway, I too was so riveted by Anne saving Minnie Mae. The intensity was ratcheted up to 100% and beyond. And I can’t remember if John Blythe and Marilla had a romance in the actual book…can you?

      • Kerri says

        Hi, I’m from British Columbia, in a town near Vancouver, awesome you are from Winnipeg. Yes, Marilla and John did have ea romance, it says so in the book and in the 1985 movie. Please see the part where Dianna steals away to tell Anne all about it.

  3. Scott H says

    I totally agree that a fictional character can be a friend, and having “Anne” in an episodic television format does have the potential to provide the extra room for us to “spend time” with Anne between the iconic moments in the book.

    However, when I read the article in the Federalist, I actually thought the writer made several valid points. I don’t totally buy that the addition of sexual innuendos added much in terms of character or plot. In fact, I found it rather inconsistent that Diana’s mother would allow her to talk with Diana after that. I do agree with the author’s point that part of the appeal of Anne is she is not completely realistic. Her refusal to talk about her past in the book unless forced to showed someone with the uncanny ability to escape into fantasy and find the positive in a world that was so harsh to her. That quality alone indicates deep pain which is much more profound than showing a silly flashback of bullying girls at the orphanage or beating from Mr. Hammond. But after reading the article, I looked at the rest of the Federalist website, and it is ridiculously biased and anti-science and logic, that I lost a lot of respect for the writer for publishing on such a website.

    To me, this new series is wonderfully cast, beautifully filmed and lovingly put together, but it has shone the brightest when they portrayed events from the book in a faithful way, or created an extension of the same spirit, such as Anne talking to the tree outside her window. When they venture away, it’s very much hit or miss, like with this episode. There were some wonderfully touching conversations, but also some conversations that took me out of the time period or the characterizations of Anne and Marilla.

    I do hope that this show gets a second season because I find it very engaging and I can see they put a lot of thought into it. But I hope the producers never forget that a lot of the success is owed to L.M. Montgomery’s novel. If this had been a random girl minus all the iconic events from the book, this series would be lacking the true heart and soul.

    • Lorilee says

      Scott, thanks for pointing out that the Federalist piece did have some good points. But overall, I do feel it is important to show the depth of Anne’s suffering. 11 years of trauma and neglect cannot be glossed over! I agree that I hope this will keep going as a series!

      • Kerri says

        Hello. May I inquire as to why we must continually have her suffering before us? What does that do for us since we have the ability to figure it out? and also, where can I read the Federalist article? hthanks.

  4. says

    I may be shallow, but to be honest, one of the best things about Anne is her happiness and her innocence. I honestly don’t want to watch this show now that I have been reading these reviews. Does Anne of Green Gables seriously need to be gritty? Heck no. Just make the show like the book. I’m fed up and upset at the unnecessary changes I’ve been reading about, as you can probably tell from this heated comment lol.
    Anyway, I will keep reading your reviews and keep grinding my teeth ;)

    • Kerri says

      First of all, please let me say that you are not shallow! Anne’s happy spirit is so much more needed now than ever, I agreee. I think for me, while I love aspects of this show, I still prefer the book hands down. And the final episode was absolutely brilliant in its acting but so unnecessary.

    • Lorilee says

      Maria, you’re not shallow! I get it. Watching this series has been quite the roller coaster of highs and lows! I’m hearing from people who have been adopted, or had some kind of trauma growing up. They loved Anne, but they could never quite totally relate to her until now. For me, this quote from a piece in Ploughshares about the series says it all: “This series has had the grace, so far, to …show us that it’s only in contrast to the dark that the light, the delightful, the joyous, the loving, are seen in their full splendor.” Keep grinding away, Maria! :) But don’t miss out on this totally. There’s gold in these dark hills.

  5. says

    I can’t wait to read your review of tonight’s episode- the final one! It has left me with so many thoughts and feelings- I need you to articulate them for me, haha. As for Episode 6. So. Sad. I think something they have done quite well with the writing is to give depth of character through just a few scenes. Like I felt like I knew Gilbert’s father from just the little bit that we got to see him. The scenes with him and Gilbert were so touching and heartbreaking. The croup scene was fabulously detailed (the attention to detail is amazing in this series!) and dramatic. I prefer the domestic drama (and find it truer to the spirit of the book) to the adventure drama (the fire, the epic journey to Charlottetown). Overall a satisfying episode. But oh so sad.

  6. says

    You always articulate my thoughts so well. I completely adored this episode. I can’t really add anything that you haven’t already said, to be honest!
    Didn’t Marilla deal SO well with Anne’s cranky outbursts?
    Also, it brought back memories of the fear and terror of bleeding through clothes at school. The 13 year old me felt so much empathy!

    • Lorilee says

      Hi Carolyn! I agree, Marilla’s mothering skills are getting a workout! I admired how she dealt with Anne’s period. And yes, so much empathy!

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