by Nikitha Kamath
If you are like me, you eagerly anticipated the third season of Anne with an E for a year and a half. When it finally premiered on Netflix, you devoured the entire season in a day as the “next episode” button grew more appealing with each episode. Finally, your heart shattered to pieces when you soon learned that it was the final season, with hashtags such as #annewithaneseason4 and #renewannewithane trended on Twitter. Rather than a review, I prefer to call what follows my thoughts on this show. If you have not watched this show yet, I warn you that the following contains spoilers and I strongly suggest that you watch it before proceeding.
Set in the 1890s, Anne with an E is the story of 13-year-old Anne Shirley, an orphan who has gone through an abusive childhood, who finds a loving home with aging siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. While being sent to their home on Prince Edward Island was a mistake, Anne soon becomes a vital part of the town as she transforms the lives of those around her with her bright intelligence and wild imagination. The story is based on the book Anne of Green Gables as well as a movie of the same name.
While the stunning colors in the thumbnail drew me towards the show initially, the story and the characters are what kept me captivated till the end. If this show makes one thing clear, it is that the power of children is not to be underestimated. Along with Anne, we are soon introduced to her classmates who become an integral part of the storyline. If I had to share my top favorite things about this show, it would have to be the setting, the character development, relationships, and themes.
The town in which this show is set is absolutely gorgeous; everything from the fields to the stream to the forest is shot so beautifully that it gives each episode a cinematic quality. Along with nature, I found the wardrobe and hairstyles interesting as it transported me to the late 19th century. Overall, the dispositions of the characters, social norms, and technology of the time, such as the printing press, gave me a chance to draw a contrast with our lives now and see how far we have come along in terms of technological advancements and the differences in the values we hold important today.
The character development in Anne with an E is also commendable as the viewer feels like they are present with each character as they grow into self-aware adults from slightly immature teenagers, mapping their way from school to college. This aspect particularly shines through Anne, as I think she has grown the most throughout the series. Although insecure about her looks at first, we see Anne realizing her self-worth and growing more confident. She also becomes more empathetic, and learns more about how to speak her mind without coming across as rude or out of line. Rather than romantic relationships, I would have to say that the relationship that stands out the most in this show is that of friendship, and I am not in the least disappointed by this. The connection Anne and Diana share is heartwarming, as they swear to be bosom friends even after they grow apart in distance. Similarly, the camaraderie and trust between the children reflected throughout the series is touching and a testament to how people do not have to be blood related in order to share a deep connection.
Finally, I love how Anne with an E seamlessly weaves serious thematic elements into its episodes. From the beginning of the show, it seems as though Anne is not going to conform to societal constructs and will let her voice shine. And she does not let us down. During the last season, Anne describes herself as a “bride of adventure,” dismissing the need to attach her worth to marriage. A similar theme of feminism is reflected in Diana’s wish to pursue more than just domesticity towards the end of the show and Prissy’s decision to flee from the altar during her marriage. In spite of the stigma regarding sexuality in the 1890s, Anne with an E sheds light upon the LGBTQ community through characters such as Cole and Aunt Josephine. Although not explicitly stated, their feelings could be inferred from Aunt Jo’s queer soirée and Cole realizing that he may also be like her and her departed partner, Gertrude.
Anne with an E also highlights the issue of racism at the time as Sebastian, who is from Trinidad, faces hardships and is degraded because of his race. The third season revolves around the Avonlea newspaper, which plays a key role in making the voices of the children heard. When a particularly controversial article regarding sexual harassment is written by Anne, the newspaper staff is issued with a list of acceptable topics to adhere to. What follows is perhaps one of my favorite scenes of the third season: the children work together to protest censorship and advocate for free speech. These are a few of the key themes that make Anne with an E an insightful watch, and I really like how the incorporation of these messages in the show seems natural and not forced.
Of course, perfection is in the eyes of the beholder and while this story is nearly perfect to me, nothing is free of flaws. For starters, I wish we had gotten a sincere apology from Billy for his advances on Josie. Although he does show signs of repentance by approaching her and offering to “fix” the situation, it does not seem like he regrets his actions, which makes it quite a frustrating episode to watch. Along with Billy, I also wanted the girls to apologize to Anne for their initial behavior. With Anne speaking her mind all the time and having a boisterous personality, I understand that the girls may have felt overwhelmed and perhaps even intimidated upon meeting her. However, that was no excuse for all of them, except Diana, to repeatedly insult her looks by calling her trash and make fun of her for being an orphan.
While Anne with an E showed great progress with its theme of feminism in season 3, I would also have loved to have had closure with Prissy’s relationship with her father. It broke my heart to see her ideas for the business rejected and her valuable suggestions seen as an intention to show off her college education. The most heart-wrenching moment of that scene, in my opinion, was when her father said that once she was married, she could ask her husband for permission to involve herself in important issues like the business.
Last but not the least, as cheesy as it may sound, I do wish we had gotten more of Anne and Gilbert’s love story. While I was not irked by the slow progression of their relationship, it felt like their realizations of love for each other was forced into the last few episodes of the final season, making it seem almost like an afterthought. Quite frankly, few shows may have made a place in my heart like Anne with an E has and while I am disappointed that it will not continue, I look forward to watching it again. Although several people did not like it due to how different it is from the book, I think this show can be appreciated on its own. After watching Anne with an E, you might not find this show as good as I do or may strongly disagree with me on many points; however, I still recommend it, as I think this show will tug at your heart-strings, bringing tears to your eyes at times, but ultimately leave you with a sense of satisfaction and unbelievable joy.