Ahead by a Century (Week Two):
(Spoiler alert! Read on, however, for a wider discussion of issues from stories.)
I put off writing this second week’s summery of Anne with an E (of Season Three) because I needed time to think about what I’d seen, but I do wish I could go back to find my summaries of all Season One episodes and I wish I’d taken the time to write recaps for all of last season that I missed. I was distracted, but I’m back and ready to recap!
(Either on Facebook, or here, or both.)
Only into episode two and I’m reeling from the sharpness of the storyline in this new adaptation. It’s not what many would want for L.M.’s Anne Girl character and her world, both at Green Gables and out beyond. It’s harshness is what makes it feel authentic and we can’t hide from that which is true authenticity, no matter what year we’re in.
If you want to escape from our world into the world of a century ago, to forget all our modern troubles, this show does that. The characters ride around in buggies, pulled by horses, and homosexuality isn’t spoken of. Perhaps a certain impeachable US pres’s grandfather is across Canada at this time, making money off of the greed for gold, but that doesn’t mean that this storyline isn’t going to be full of the realities of life that made it so harsh at the turn of the 20th century.
Anne is given permission and a blessing, by her adopted family of Marilla and Matthew, to go to Charlottetown and then to the mainland, Nova Scotia, to look for information on her birth parents. She must be accompanied by Gilbert, which she resents, and he is rebuffed by her moments of irritability as she is too preoccupied to see how much he already cares.
She arrives in PEI’s capital city to meet up with her gay best friend who will go with her to the orphanage she grew up in.
While Gilbert goes off and explores newly discoverable romance with another, for the time being, a whole other strange B storyline, Anne is brought back to some of the worst times from her early life. While Gilbert has a date in a tea room with a snooty young woman, Anne tries to find out if the orphanage has any record of her parents.
Again, I watch and wonder what places like that were really like for all the abandoned and orphaned little ones in the world, while wishing places like these weren’t still existing. Anne says that place is better than some and much worse than others of its kind. Sure, I like to see characters in fiction that I can relate to, blind or disabled or writers or whatever, but I’m also curious about the kind of fiction which explores lives I, myself, have never lived for good or for ill.
The woman in charge is cold and of no help at all, sipping her tea with disdain that Anne would even deem to return for anything. The man on his way out, after admitting he can’t take care of his flesh and blood children since their mother died, makes Anne start to wonder if the stories she kept going along with about her own two parents were really that of truth, that they both died of scarlet fever when she was still newly born. Was she really so loved and/or wanted at all?
Cole sees her starting to pull apart all the stories and her imagination that got her through such loneliness, as she finds old pieces of paper with her own stories written hidden in the bell tower of the building. She wonders if it was all foolishness and he tells her how brave she is to him for doing whatever she had to to survive it all those years.
As they head for the door to leave, mission NOT accomplished, Anne is stopped by a young woman scrubbing the floor. It’s another orphaned girl who once bullied Anne for daring to dream or have an imagination of any kind. She recognizes Anne and angrily shouts about how she isn’t still there, but is now paid to work there, but the whole scene is disturbing and ugly as Anne and Cole leave that place behind them.
From orphanage where children are left without love to the ferry back to the island. Cole won’t let Anne give up, but all the work Ms. Stacy and Matthew are doing to repair the old printing press so the children of Avonlea School can print a newspaper is about to lead to an unsettling ending to episode two when Marilla reads Anne’s article about meeting and visiting the village of the young Indigenous girl.
(Oh, what times these were where the fear in a white, Christian community of the “other” is so intense they refer to that other group of people as “savages” when such a term is so horrible to hear now that 2020 is the time we’re nearly living in.)
**Side note – Interfering neighbour Rachel is a woman of her time, thinking she must find the new teacher a replacement after Miss Stacy’s widowhood, whereas Muriel would be just as happy on her own as to receive any match making help from anyone, let alone Rachel Lynne. Once Lynne sees Stacy with a man, all alone in a barn, even if that man is Matthew, all that talk of impropriety gets thrown in Miss Stacy’s face. How dare she be working, out in the barn, like a man, with a man that is not her husband.
Marilla is afraid of losing Anne, now that she loves her so much, which will have Marilla acting out in all the wrong ways, but she can hear very plainly how much Anne is praying for word that she was loved by her real parents once upon a time.
To top it all off, we have the character of Sebastian (new to this adaptation) having a not so sweet second episode. He has a step son to learn how to handle, one who feels like his mother has found her do-over in new baby daughter and husband, and this young man sees with his own eyes the farm and house where his mother now lives with her new family, including Gilbert, a white boy…away from the black neighbourhood in the area known as “the bog”.
Elijah is not dealing too well with having a new baby sister and stepfather, bringing all his pain and his coping mechanisms, which primarily include alcohol and saying things he doesn’t really probably even mean, throwing insults at his own mother and accusing his mother’s husband of having an alternate plan to get rid of their new white friend and roommate, to take over the land. Sebastian is disgusted by the suggestion and the two almost come to blows.
By the morning, all Gilbert’s tangible, valuable memories of his dead father have been taken from the room and Elijah is gone. This family stuff is hard in any century.
Ahead By a Century:
I am back with my Anne with an E updates (season 3), after skipping this writing ritual for all of last season’s events.
It starts with a girl and her horse, Anne and Belle riding through the snow. … Pine cones. Silver coins. Anne turns 16 and desires to discover her lineage.
I’ve been long drawn to stories like Harry Potter, Frodo in Lord of the Rings, and Anne of Green Gables because the life of an orphaned character is so far from my own reality.
I may wonder sometimes about my ancestors, though at least I know of them, and I have always had present and supportive parents around. I wondered about those who never knew that kind of security and/or love.
It starts with Anne and Bell. It goes into the theme song for the show, a Tragically Hip hit that denotes the time period of Anne, as I sit here in 2019 and love this adaptation of the classic Green Gables story.
One year ago this day I was on Prince Edward Island. I miss PEI in September as I watch this first episode of season three, expecting and seeing ads for Find Your Island with PEI Tourism making me recall it all. What a special place, an island (seen visually in red and green for many) but forever trapped in my head and heart as the setting for tragical events in a beautiful place, surrounded by water.
Sad that time moves on, even after the death of the lead singer of song Ahead By A Century, as I watch this series…from a time more than a century ago and I think of Gord’s work for connection with all who share this land before he died.
Anne and the girls watch the boys play hockey on a frozen pond and soon boys are declaring their intentions toward the girls. This is a timeless ritual, though somewhat changed in 100 years. Anne and Gilbert are meant to end up together, of course (poor Ruby), even if now it’s nothing but misunderstandings and awkward teenage encounters in the schoolroom. They will have their time, but in the meantime, brief interactions that mark a future love.
For now, as a newly sixteen-year-old Anne, she is the Bride of Adventure in her mind and that will and must suffice for now.
When season two premiered, we were introduced to Afro-Caribbean character, Sebastian, a new friend Gilbert has made far from Avonlea. Nothing like this exists in the 80’s series so many worship. I love both now, for different reasons, but Representation matters.
Creator of this update:
“I was troubled by the lack of diversity in the book, especially since Canada is such a diverse nation, both then and now,” she said.
And so, of course the novel was written in a different time, but it’s the 21st century now and the changes have only added to an already rich story with a lovely facelift.
Anne meets a young Indigenous girl and visits her community. The white people (Christians) stay separate from other groups then, but this inclusion started episode one of season three off right. I hope the friendship between the two girls continues.
Anne is open to meeting and making new friends and that’s all there is to it. She is supposed to represent the kind of openness of heart and mind that so many lack, then and now.
The scenes with Sebastian (Bash) and his wife Mary and their new baby girl made an already sweet episode even sweeter. Love scene between the still newly married couple made me grin, wanting love for others, fictional or no.
I have high hopes for this new season on CBC here in Canada, (to appear on Netflix in the new year).
That’s it for this instalment of Ahead by a Century, though most don’t have any knowledge or interest in the world of Anne, either Montgomery’s original creation or this re-imagining for a new century, but I’ll keep writing them anyway.
Here’s to all the Anne and Gilbert fans out there. What will this new season bring in the journey of their relationship?
How to be happy and content with oneself and still the possibility of finding true love with another?
I ask myself those last questions, those I posed after Season Three, Episode One, to myself all the time.
Also, I decided to go from most recent episode re-cap to the previous week’s recap here on the blog. I will return with Episode Three next week, here, but I’ve moved from Facebook to this blog because I want to catalog these and yet most people on Facebook know nothing of Anne with an E and could really care less and won’t bother to read, especially the longer my recaps end up being.
Maybe, after reading my recap here and after checking out the scene from YouTube I included above, both fans of the original Anne story and non fans alike might be curious enough to watch an episode. I say, to Anne fans everywhere, give this new adaptation a chance. I didn’t regret it. You might not either.