Dickinson – S02E09 – I Like a Look of Agony [Transcript]

To distract himself from the pain of life, Austin throws a tea party for his old college friends - but the day is disrupted by a major political event.
Dickinson - S02E09 - I Like a Look of Agony

Original release date: February 19, 2021

Sue goes to visit her old friend’s Mary Bowles, Sam’s wife. Austin holds a tea party in the meantime, gathering his friends for one last hurrah as rumours of a civil war begin. After the publication of her poem Emily finally decides to make herself known and is disturbed when she meets one of Austin’s guests.

* * *


I need your help.

Austin, what’s the matter?

Don’t tell me. You’ve run out of clean socks.

No. No, it’s worse than that.

I’m hosting a reunion for my college friends and Sue’s out of town.

Where is she?

She went to visit a friend.

What friend?

I don’t know. I don’t know.

You know, for the life of me I can’t figure out how shy, little Sue ended up making so many friends.

Mom! What am I gonna do?

All the guys are coming over, and I told them that we would have lunch or, you know, at least snacks.

Oh, my dear boy. Do not fret.

I’ll help you.

Oh, my God. Would you?

Of course.

I’ve been itching to get into that new kitchen of yours.

I can’t wait to get my hands on that shiny new pastry jigger.

Oh, yes.

I’ll throw you boys the best tea party you’ve ever had.

Well, what’s this?

Why’s the boy over here in his slippers?

Our son is throwing a tea party for his friends, and I’m going to help.

Well, can’t he take care of himself?


You’re already needed here for tea.

The board meeting, remember?

What board meeting?

Edward, you seem to forget you’ve married the best housewife in all of New England.

I can host two tea parties with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back.

Well, there’s no need for contortions.

Maybe Emily can help.

Oh, I’m afraid she can’t.

She’s been locked in her room since yesterday.

Since her poem got published.

No one’s seen her.

I imagine she’s dealing with a lot of shame.

I saw her last night.

You did? Where?

You know, actually, I didn’t, come to think of it.

It was very strange.

She’s been doing this more and more these days.

Hiding like some madwoman in an attic.

It’s really quite unsettling. I do hope it’s just a phase.


What’s this board meeting?

A board meeting of the investors of The Springfield Republican and affiliates, of which we are now one.

Wait, you put our money in that man’s paper?

Yes, that’s right. The remainder of the Newman estate.

I’ve decided to invest it with Mr. Bowles.

But Dad, he–

I must admit,

I was a bit skeptical at first, but he’s made a rather compelling case.

The newspaper business can only expand.

Print journalism is the future.

But, Father, I don’t understand.

I mean…

how could you give money to the man who published Emily’s poem?

I thought you were completely opposed to that.

You know, he plans on publishing even more of them.

Well, I suppose times change, don’t they?

And besides, if I’d made a fuss about that,

it might have made it more complicated to make the investment.

Oh, okay. So it’s all about the money?

I get it.

So much for your principles.

Don’t you speak to me like that.

You should’ve consulted with me before making this decision.

Consult you?


I am a partner in this business with you.

Yet you keep making decisions entirely without me!

You treat me like a child.

My dear boy, you are a child. My God, look at yourself.

It’s almost noon, and you’re still in your dressing gown.

I have been too busy to get changed.

Too busy being frantic about a tea party with your friends.

Just one of the many aspects of your life over which you seem to exhibit no control.

I thought you made me a partner in this firm because you value my opinion.

I made you a partner in this firm because you are my son.

And if I hadn’t, it would have reflected badly on the family.

Your opinions have nothing to do with it, least of all in matters of investment.

Okay, well, just so you know, I’ve invested in things too.

Good things. Things that will make the world a better place.

Like what? Like your forged painting?

You thought I wouldn’t find out about that.

Honestly, to think of everything I’ve given you.

All the opportunities I’ve handed to you on a plate, and what have you done with it all? What have you accomplished?


It’s just one failure after another.

I have–

You say what you will about Emily, but at least she has her damn poems.

Come in.

Good morning, Dickinsons.

Did I come at a bad time?

No. I was just filling Austin in on the exciting news of our joint venture.

Yes. The newest members of our board.

The fine upstanding leaders of New England’s largest daily newspaper.

We are gonna change the world together.

That is when it’s not changing itself.

Here. You are not gonna believe this, Eddy.

Can I call you Eddy?

Here is a telegram from Mr. Greeley down in New York.

There’s absolutely crazy news coming out of Virginia right now.

What news? What’s happened?

That madman, John Brown, the abolitionist?

He tried to raid Harpers Ferry.

John Brown. That bloodthirsty man with the bowie knife that caused all that trouble down in Kansas?

Yes, exactly.

The guy thinks of himself as some kind of biblical prophet.

I mean, what a face, crazy hair. Has all the makings of a celebrity.

We’ve been covering him quite extensively in our paper.

Just tell us what happened.

Well, turns out he formed a ragtag little army and tried to raid the federal arsenal down at Harpers Ferry.

I’m told his plan was to instigate a massive slave rebellion in the South.

Oh, my God, that’s insane.

Did it work?

Of course not. It was a total shitshow.

Most of his men were killed.

The rest of them, including Brown, will be in custody soon.

Brown will be hanged for treason, and I wouldn’t be surprised

if this doesn’t heat things up all the way to a civil war.

No, it can’t. It won’t.

Cooler heads will prevail.

They can’t prevail forever.

I mean, this country’s a tinderbox, and this could be the match that lights it.

God, what a disaster.

Eddy, you’re right. This is a disaster.

But it could be good for us.

What the hell does that mean?

War sells papers, my friend.

War sells papers.

Even now, the rumors are flying.

All of Brown’s collaborators will be exposed.

I mean, the guy couldn’t have made more mistakes if he tried.

All of his associates will be tracked down, everyone who funded this, and we will sell hundreds of papers as the facts come out.

I mean, thank God this guy was such a failure.

No one is a failure who stands up for what he believes in.


You’re not gonna stay for the meeting?

No. I have better things to do than sit around and figure out how to profit from war.

Yes, he’s having a tea party.

Where’s Emily?

She’s up in her bedroom.

Henry. Thank God, you’re safe.

I’m not safe.

I thought people were going to rise up.

I thought this was the beginning of a whole new world.

Things will have to get worse before they can get better.

This country is gonna have to be destroyed before it can be healed.

Isn’t there something that we can do?

I’m doing what I have to do.

I’m leaving.

With my family.

Betty was right. I put my daughter’s life at risk.

And if they track us down, Lord knows what they’ll do.


where will you go?

I can’t tell you that.


Mr. Dickinson.


Will I ever see you again?

It doesn’t seem likely.

It’s so nice of you to come all this way.

Mary, it’s nothing.

It’s been far too long.

And it felt wrong, you know?

To see so much of Sam and so little of you.

Well, most people see more of Sam.

He loves to be out in the world.

I prefer to stay home.

Of course. I know that.

But, Mary, I’ve missed you.

Have you?

You were once my dearest friend.

Do you remember that summer?

That incredibly hot summer in Geneva

when you and I would go swimming in the lake every day?

Yes, that was the summer my father died.

Was it that summer?

I thought that was the summer after.

The summer my father died.

No, your father died the year after my father.


What happy childhoods we both had.

Yes, things were difficult.

I got you, Sam!


looking back on it now, it seems like those were the easiest years of my life.


Are things very hard?

Oh, you know,

marriage, children, it’s all very challenging.

Sam Jr.’s just like his father.

Is he?

In what way?

Too much energy.

You and Austin, you still don’t have children?

Well, I suppose that makes things easier in a way, especially since you’re so active in society.

It’s been quite something reading about all of your salons.

Your home sounds truly elegant.

The Evergreens.

It’s really become the center of the world.


Well, obviously, Sam has been a huge part of that, giving us such nice write-ups.

He’s been so generous.


Well, knowing Sam, he must be getting something in return.

In return?


Some Amherst lady has caught his eye, no doubt.


But for now, I’m very glad he was able to use his influence to help you.

I’ve always loved you, Suzie.

You were such a dear friend.

We got drunk and we tobogganed to Northampton and back. Hey!

And then Ship passed out on the quad.

Yes. I did.

The best day of my life, and I don’t even remember it.

College ruled. Amherst forever!

Life was so frolicsome.

Gentlemen, tea is served.

Now, I know George likes lots of cream and lots of sugar.

Shipley, of course, is a no cream, lots of honey man.

Archibald is a dash of milk, no sugar.

Sylvester is a dash of sugar, no milk.

My Austin likes his dark as night.

And Toshiaki prefers green, for it reminds him of home.

Actually, Mrs. D, I’m taking a break from caffeine this month.

I’ll just take some hot water with lemon.

Look in your cup, Mr. Toshiaki.

I think you’ll be pleased.

It’s just hot water with lemon.

How did you know?

Now, let me go fetch the scones.

Hey, Austin?

It’s so cool of you to organize this.

I can’t remember the last time we were all together.

Even Shipley’s here.

Yeah. Well, Shipley’s been boarding with my parents.

Yeah, I moved out yesterday though.

But then I heard we’re having a bro hang so I’m back.

Ship is engaged to Lavinia.


What? You’re joking.



The engagement is off.

I don’t have good luck with women.


I’m just glad that we all made it.

I miss you guys.

And everyone’s here.

No. Not everyone. We’re still waiting for Frazar.

Wait, Frazar?

Frazar Stearns is coming?


I thought he was at West Point.

He is.

But he’s on a break right now, and I ran into him at the opera.


Yeah, so I invited him.

It was actually seeing Frazar that gave me the idea to put together this reunion.

Frazar’s such a good guy.

Can’t wait to see him.

God, it’s so good to have the gang back together again, right?


And if there’s a war coming, at least we have each other.

Bro. Way to kill the mood, bro.

Are you talking about the situation down at Harpers Ferry?

Yeah. John Brown.

John Brown is the worst.

All those Brown Bros want is to just burn everything down.

I think they might be right.

Or, even if they’re wrong, it’s too late to stop them.

Dickinson, you’re being a bed-wetter.

The polls say no one wants war, and polls are never wrong.

Right. And piggybacking off of that, I know I said I’m out of the prediction business, but I bet it’s all gonna be fine.

Maybe, but what if it’s not?

What if things were never fine?

And what if they need to get worse before they get better?

Whoa, whoa, whoa, guys, crazy idea.

What if we did this every week?

Did what?

Like, got together and talked about politics.

Like, just hanging out but also analyzing the political situation and stuff.

And what if we got someone to record it?

Like write it all down or whatever, and then people could kind of, you know, tune in.

We could do advertisements… for aprons.

Blue aprons.

Hot fresh scones for everyone, with jam.

Don’t you guys realize if there’s a war, we’ll be expected to fight?

This isn’t like when we were kids playing with our little toy soldiers.

Thousands of people, real people, will die.

People like us.

And our generation, we’ll be on the front lines.

It’s like Abraham Lincoln said at the convention, “A house divided cannot stand.”

Oh, that’s nonsense.


If I can find a way to serve two perfect tea parties, we Americans can figure out how to keep our country together.

You know, I’m curious how you intend to cover this whole Harpers Ferry event?

The key is endorsing John Brown’s spirit but not his actions.

See, we gotta keep those abolitionists on board whilst at the same time not alienating our moderate and, in some cases,

Southern-leaning readership.

With that strategy, The Republican can soon be one of the biggest papers in the–

Not to worry. I’ll get that.

I wonder how much longer this will be a country.

It might be two countries soon.

Well, if that’s the case, we’ll need to have a presence in both.

In this information boom, it’s all about the eyeballs.

We need as many as possible glued to our pages for as long as possible.

It’s an attention economy.

Shut the door behind you, Mother.

We’re discussing matters of state in here.

Yes, Edward.

Well, in my opinion… maybe wars wouldn’t happen if men simply had better manners.

Mr. Shipley.


Hey, Mrs. D.

Those scones were dope.

Well, thank you for saying so.

I worked so hard today.

I threw two impeccable tea parties, but nobody even noticed.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Are you kidding? I noticed.

You’re a domestic goddess, Mrs. D.


You live up to every ideal of womanhood.

That’s truly very kind.

Thank you.

I want a wife just like you.

It’s why I’m here trying to make up with Lavinia.

Because who could be more like a mother than her daughter?

I thought the engagement was off?

Listen. If there’s a civil war coming, I want someone to love me through it.

Thank you, Mr. Shipley.

Lavinia? We need to talk.

Ship, you need to knock.

The country is on the verge of war, and I don’t want there to be any conflict between us.

What are you talking about?

We gotta work this out, Vinnie.

You’re the perfect wife for me, and I know it.

Let’s get married.

Ship, we broke up because you can’t ever accept me for who I am.

One minute I’m too sexual, the next I’m too intellectual.

You’ll never love the real Lavinia.

I will. I mean, I do. I do, Vinnie.

How can I prove it to you?

How can I show you that nothing you could ever do would turn me away?

I have an idea.

Taste my whip.


What the hell?


I was sorry to hear that you’ve been sick.

Are you better now?


I see. That’s what Sam’s been telling everyone.

So, you haven’t been sick?

Not physically, no.


What then?

You see…

We were going to have a baby girl this year.

But… she died.

Inside of me.

God, Mary.

I’m so sorry.

I… I just… lost it.

Something like that…

Something like that happened to me.

Oh, I’m so sorry.

It’s like I have been trying… I have been trying to push the pain away.

You don’t have to push it away.

It’s okay to feel it.

Must be Frazar.

Frazar Stearns.

Man, I can’t wait to see him.

We are ready.


Emily. It’s you.

Were you expecting someone else?

Yes, but it’s good to see you.

Come on in.

Thank you.

Why don’t I take this?

Are you okay?

I don’t know.

Well, some of the guys are over having tea.

You wanna join?


That’s why I’m here.

I just think I need to be around people right now.


Well, maybe not. I’m not really sure. Just kinda–


Hey, George.

You guys remember my sister, Emily.

What have you all been up to?

Oh, you know.

Talking about the news.

What a crazy day this is.

Not as crazy as the shit going on up here.

God, it’s like there’s a kind of cleaving in my mind like my brain is split.

Do you guys ever have that?

Not this week. No.

Don’t mind me.

I’ll just stare at the fire.

Maybe we should stop talking about politics.

Honestly, I don’t want to spend my fun afternoon

imagining all my friends dying in a war.

The man to die tomorrow

Harks for the meadow bird

Because its music stirs the axe that clamors for his head

I’ll get it.

She’s fun.

Hi. Emily, right?

You’re… Nobody.

No. I’m–

Frazar! Hey!

There you are.

You’re here.

Emily, this is Frazar Stearns, my old college friend.

You remember him, don’t you?


I think we met at a couple of those house parties you used to throw.

This is Nobody. He’s Nobody.

You’re– You’re Nobody.

Emily, don’t be rude.

My sister can be a little strange. Please don’t be offended.

No, no. That’s okay. I remember.

Oh, God.

You’re gonna die.

Emily, stop it.

No, Austin. He’s going to die. I have seen it!

Don’t you remember? The field?

The explosion, the battle, the bullet. It hits you like a bird.

Okay, this is starting to get a little intense.

You need to get out of here. Save yourself!


Emily! Emily, that’s enough.

Listen, the guys are in the parlor.

Go get some tea while I figure out how to manage my sister.

Okay. Thanks.


Oh, my God. Sue.

So, it’s real. It’s all real.

Emily, what was that? You can’t do that to people.

I was hoping I was crazy, but everything I saw yesterday, everything I experienced–

What are you talking about?

Austin, I have to tell you something. I have to tell you something terrible.


Sue has betrayed you with Sam.

I saw them in here.

I’m so sorry.

Did you not hear what I said?

Sue cheated on you.

I know about that already.

You do?


I’ve known for weeks.

Well, great.

I guess that means you know everything then.

You know about Sam.

You know about the baby.

What baby?


What baby?

I can’t say.

Yes, you can.

You just said it.

Emily! What baby?

Sue’s and yours.

Sue had a baby?

No, no, no. She didn’t.


At your wedding. She was pregnant, but then she miscarried.

I’m sorry. Austin, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.

Can you just– Can you please say something?


Just say something. Austin!

Oh, God.

Dad was right.

I’m a failure. I’m a total utter failure.

I’m a joke.

No, that is not true.

Yes, it is, Emily.


You don’t understand.

Nothing I do works.

Everything I touch breaks.

I’ve been trying so hard to find meaning.

To find something… that will make Sue love me.

But nothing I do will ever matter.

I’m a joke, Emily.

A fraud…

with a hole inside that nothing can ever fill.

I like a look of agony Because I know it’s true

Men do not sham convulsion

Nor simulate a Throe

The Eyes glaze once and that is death

Impossible to feign

The Beads upon the Forehead

By homely Anguish strung.


You are not a fraud.

In fact, you are the most genuine person I know.

You are so full of love. You have so much love to give.

And none of us could survive without it…

least of all me.

Do you really mean that?

Don’t I always say what I mean?

Listen, I’m sorry about earlier.

I didn’t mean to scare you.

It’s okay.

I’m training to be a soldier, I gotta be tough.

I enjoyed your poem, by the way.


Your poem.

In the paper?

Oh. Right. Thank you.

I thought it was beautiful.

Do you have more?

I’d love to read them.

I did have more.

But I gave them all to my editor.

Terrible mistake.

Why? You don’t wanna be published?

Part of me does.

Or did.

But another part of me is pretty sure that fame isn’t good for me.

In fact, I think it could be very dangerous.

How so?

How can I put this?

If fame belonged to me I could not escape her–

In that case, you’d better get your poems back.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read More

Weekly Magazine

Get the best articles once a week directly to your inbox!