Season 2 of Anne With an E is now streaming on Netflix.
By Greg Wheeler
Returning for a second season, Anne With an E abandons what made the first season so endearing in favor of an agenda-driven narrative that destabilizes the story and offsets the finely tuned balance between comedy and drama. While there are still glimmers of brilliance here, most of this falls to young Anne (Amybeth McNulty) whose whimsical, poetic tangents are every bit as amusing and dreamy as they were in the first season and act as the proverbial glue to hold the rest of the series together. Beyond Anne’s complicated journey through adolescence and wrestling with her past, the story feels far more contrived than it should, making large portions of the series lackluster and bogged down unnecessarily.
The story picks up where Anne With An E left off last year with the Cuthbert family taking the boarders under their wing and providing them refuge on the farm. It’s not long before excitement stirs in the town as the prospect of gold lying untapped in the soil beneath them promises an end to the town’s woes. As the series progresses, this plotline fizzles out and is replaced by a far more familiar structure as seen last year with Anne continuing her journey to adulthood while lost in her fantastical thoughts. Continuously haunted by flashbacks of her traumatic time in the orphanage, Anne feels like a far more conflicted character this time around, especially given the potential romance angle with Gilbert explored this season.
Unlike last year which predominantly focused on Anne, this season switches between her and Gilbert (Lucas Jade Zumann) as he embarks on his globe-trotting adventure with fellow traveler Sebastian (Dalmar Abuzeid). Further switches between the Cuthbert family, the other parents and Anne’s friends at school spread this focus further. Although this constantly shifting focus helps to give far more exposure to the different characters in the show, it also loses some of the intimate scenes we got last year.
Anne is, of course, the star here though, and her performance easily outshines everyone else with the various supporting characters all playing their part as they try and take some of the limelight for themselves. These charming moments of decent character work are unfortunately overshadowed by an incessant need to throw in anachronistic attitudes and themes that have no place in this time period. It’s such a pity that this second season is overshadowed by this agenda too as it loses the finely tuned balance between humor and drama that made the first season such an enthralling watch.
While there are moments here that echo the charismatic charm the first season oozed so effortlessly, this second season feels far more contrived and mediocre than it has any right to be. It’s a shame too as the drama itself is well written, and the pacing is generally okay, but the lack of humor and overall tone of the series can’t match up to the work done in the first season. Still, there’s just enough here to see you to the end although lingering unanswered questions leave the door open for a possible third season. With a better balance between comedy and drama as well as a tighter script devoid of agenda-driven dialogue, Anne With An E could easily pull itself back from the brink and become the great show it so easily could be.
I give Anne With an E Season 2 a D.