Review of “Anne with an E” 2 Episode 1: Welcome Back to Alternative Avonlea

Chris Reardon, Netflix

Chris Reardon, Netflix

Last we left them, our Cuthberts were grappling with a Green Gables in trouble–up to the hilt in debt and Matthew too sick to work. Gilbert went off to sea, but not before a tender goodbye from Anne. Jerry, the Cuthbert’s French farm boy, was beaten in an alley in Charlottetown by a couple of thugs, who then rented rooms at Green Gables! Of course, no one, not even Jerry, knew that the new boarders were the ones who beat him up.

It all seemed so creepy, as if Anne would be assaulted or something. I mean, didn’t you guys think something awful would happen with those guys? We waited for 14 months to find out what would happen, and now Anne with an E, Season 2, has dropped on Netflix.

I was on vacation in Canada during the entire first week of the series dropping….argh! Worst vacation timing ever in terms of blogging but we managed to have a wonderful time anyway. During my week away, though, two friends reached out with their concerns about Season 2. Both of them (from different segments of my life) said the same thing: It’s strange and they can’t get into it.

So you can imagine my trepidation when I finally had a chance to watch the first episode last night. 

Still, I smiled when I saw Anne (Amybeth McNulty), twirling in a reverie of butterflies and trees in the opening sequence. How Anne-like! And I love the theme song to the series, “Ahead of the World by a Century” by the iconic Canadian band The Tragically Hip. I settled in for 43 minutes of Anne with an E, wondering how “strange” it all might get:

1. Considering how worried I was about the boarders, the two guys plus the Green Gables crew all seemed like one big happy family. Laughing, holding hands during grace at the table, and generally contributing to the well being of the beloved green and white farmhouse. Hmmm…but something ain’t right.

2. Anne seems smitten with floppy-haired boarder Nate (and she’s not the only one. Someone hose Marilla off!). But when he chastises her about how much she talks, Anne flashes back to the orphanage, when she was punished severely for her chattering ways and made to kneel for hours holding a heavy stack of books.

Netflix

Netflix

3. Jerry! What a sight for sore eyes is dear Aymeric Jett Montaz, one of the brightest lights of the series. I don’t love all the off-book changes, but I do love the way they’ve expanded Jerry’s story from the book (and yes, he IS in the books!)

4. Anyway, Jerry sniffs something rotten about the two boarders, but he can’t put his finger on it. “There’s something wrong with that guy,” he says about Nate. Jerry can’t read words on a page, but he can read skullduggery in someone’s eyes.

5. Gilbert! Lucas Jade Zumann is a fabulous Gilbert, even though I picked my beloved Jonathan Crombie for ‘Best Gil” in last year’s ‘who played it best’? blog. We find our Gil in the dark underbelly of a steamer ship, shoveling coal into an insatiable furnace. He’s also made a friend–a Trinidadian who warns Gil not to get them in trouble with the boss. Gil may be a “tourist,” but Sebastian–”Bash”– needs the gig. Yeah, none of this happened in the book. 

6. In the one completely ON book part, Anne does utter one of her most famous quotes (and my husband’s favorite!): “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Of course, she utters them in an off-book scene, with Marilla (Geraldine James) and Matthew (RH Thompson) enjoying the glorious beach on PEI. Those scenes of red dirt cliffs and silvery waves made me sigh and swoon.

Netflix

Netflix

7. Ruby is so cute, pining over Gilbert. I feel you, girl! Been there, done that, got the “Hey Carrots” mug to prove it! She, Diana, and Anne–the Story Club–are plotting their next opuses, which  I love. But where is Jane Andrews?

8. If you’ve noticed, I am pointing out the on-book things because they are few and far between. Last season, I decided the series was 50% on-book, 50% off book. This episode? 90% OFF BOOK! However, I decided to simmer down and consider Anne with an E loosely inspired by the book, and more of a character study than a retelling. Since I ADORE the characters, who are all acted superbly, I decided to roll with it.

9. Dunlop (the other boarder) seems downright kindred, making pies with Anne, singing, laughing, and pitching in with the farm work. But he shares a dirty secret with his skeevy buddy Nate. The twosome are pretending to be geologists searching Avonlea for gold. Their ruse: to hit the fake jackpot and pretend to let the townsfolk in “on the ground floor,” inviting them to “invest” $150 each (about half a year’s wages back then) for a huge payoff. Except, there is no gold, and the two scoundrels intend to pocket the cash and skip town. Only Jerry (whom Nate roughs up and calls a “French pig” and a “frog”) is on to them. Oh, and dear Matthew, too. He seems wary. Marilla, meanwhile, appears to be blinded by lust, or at the very least flutters for that oily Nate and his compliments about the way her hair smells.

Well, this isn’t your grandmother’s Avonlea, that’s for sure. But I liked it. Note I didn’t say love. I didn’t find it “strange,” per say, just so terribly off book. But, such is my deep love for these characters and my affection for these actors that I, for one, intend to keep watching.

By the way, one of my friends who couldn’t get into it? She really liked the third episode and said it gets way better! Hang on, kindred spirits! 

Can’t wait to hear YOUR thoughts!

Have any of you been able to watch?

What do YOU think?

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?

Every comment on my blog 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 with an E Carropt Top Anne printSo comment away, won’t you, Anne Internet Friends??

Comments

  1. Marilyn Reed says

    Just finished episode 2. It’s been so long since I read the books but I was pretty sure much of this was not from the original story. I can live with a lot of it, but I find the part about Marilla out of character with her. The actress plays it well, but it just doesn’t seem like Marilla to me.

  2. says

    I just couldn’t do it. I got about 10 minutes in and shut it off. I find this Anne more annoying than endearing. And, I would agree with your friends. It just seems strange. I felt enormously unsettled. What I love about the Anne books is the whimsy, imagination and laughter. Most of that seems to be missing. I endured the first season, trying to respect it for something other than the original, but I just can’t make myself do it anymore.

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