For three years, I have participated in blogathons hosted by Hamlette, from Hamlette’s Soliloquy. This is because the themes of these events have been, in my opinion, creative. When Hamlette announced the We Love L. M. Montgomery Week Blogathon, I, at first, had no idea what to write about. The only story by L. M. Montgomery I was familiar with was Anne of Green Gables. But I knew that story was not the “end all, be all” when it came to L. M. Montgomery’s work. So, I wanted to select a story I had never read or seen before. In the past, I have reviewed tv shows that were new to me. These reviews have consisted of one to four episodes per article. With everything considered, I chose to review the first season of Emily of New Moon! Since I’m writing about more than a few episodes of this show, my review will be longer than my other posts about television shows. I will discuss three aspects of Emily of New Moon I like and don’t like. Then, I will share some of my thoughts on the show, similar to my “Some thoughts to consider” section of my tv show re-caps. Finally, I will provide my overall impression on the show’s first season. Since I’m talking about a whole season of Emily of New Moon, there will be spoilers in this review.
What I liked about this show:
Emily, Perry, and Cousin Jimmy: As I watched Emily of New Moon, Emily, Perry, and Cousin Jimmy became my favorite characters for different reasons! When it comes to storytelling, creating a younger, precocious character can be hit or miss. This is because writers can run the risk of inventing a character that is greater than who they really are. Even though Emily has a gift for writing, she is never presented as a “genius”. Instead, Emily is simply a child who is passionate about creating stories and poems. While attempting to figure out how to break the curse in “The Disappointed House”, Ilse, Emily’s friend, suggests writing about the deceased couple as a way of immortalizing them. Despite how much Emily likes this idea, she doesn’t feel her writing is good enough to bring this idea to fruition. Within Emily of New Moon, Emily is allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. In the episode, “The Ghost of Whyther Grange”, Emily cuts her hair, as she thinks she needs a new hair-do to impress Great Aunt Nancy and Great Aunt Caroline. The hair-do turns out terrible, leaving Emily with an embarrassing result. Along with a photograph of herself with the hair-cut, she sends a portrait drawn by her friend, Teddy, and a letter explaining the situation to her Great Aunts. Through this experience, Emily learns the importance of being your authentic self as well as honesty.
While watching Emily of New Moon, Perry reminded me of Tom Thornton from When Calls the Heart. What I mean by this is Perry is more willing to work toward his goals and dreams. Perry reveals to Ilse, in “A Child Shall Lead Them”, how his father died and his mother is in prison. When he is first introduced toward the beginning of season one, the audience is given the impression Perry is running away from home. But with his backstory and how determined he is to improve his life, Perry is instead running toward his future. His desire to learn and refusal to give up are admirable qualities. Each little victory, such as choosing to attend school, feel like earned stepping stones in Perry’s journey of success!
In some stories, there is a character who serves as the “voice of reason”. This character can help others make better choices and steer them in the right direction. In Emily of New Moon, the “voice of reason” is Cousin Jimmy. He is not afraid to speak his mind. At the same time, he always has a piece of wisdom to share with those around him. One day, after school, Miss Brownell pays the Murray family a visit. During this visit, she shares with Aunt Elizabeth how Emily “misbehaved” in class. Aunt Elizabeth orders Emily to get on her knees and beg Miss Brownell for forgiveness. Cousin Jimmy, who just so happened to be in the same room, tells Aunt Elizabeth how you should only get on your knees for God. Not only did Cousin Jimmy stand up to Aunt Elizabeth, he also reminded her how there are things in this world that are greater than ourselves.
A smaller cast: I said in my review of A Room with a View how I find myself gravitating toward historical fiction/period drama stories with smaller casts. This creative decision prevents storylines from competing for attention, as there are less characters to keep track of. Emily of New Moon adopts this model of storytelling, with Emily, Aunt Elizabeth, and Aunt Laura as the main characters of the show who consistently appear in each episode. The rest of the characters are secondary, meaning their appearances are rotated in a cycle. Because the episode “The Tale of Duncan McHugh” features a character around Emily’s age, Perry makes more appearances, as he and Emily attend the same school. While Perry does appear in the next episode, “The Wild Rover”, more emphasis is given to Uncle Jimmy, as he is providing guidance to Mr. Carpenter, Blair Water School’s new teacher. Because of the smaller cast, each character’s story is told to a satisfying extent. It gives the audience a chance to truly get to know the characters!
Emily’s monologues: Because Emily is passionate about writing, each episode contains a short monologue from Emily’s perspective. These monologues are eloquently written and spoken, in the imaginative style that is consistent with Emily’s part of the story. They also relate to events that took place within a given episode. A baby is born in “Falling Angels”. This makes Emily contemplate how fragile life can be. After meeting Mr. Carpenter in “The Wild Rover”, Emily realizes how some people can come into our lives at the right place and time. Because these monologues usually take place toward the end of an episode, they add depth to the episode’s story, as well as provide departing pieces of wisdom to the audience.
What I didn’t like about this show:
Aunt Elizabeth: I recognize not every character is meant to be likable. A character’s unlikability can be the result of various factors. While I liked Susan Clark’s performance on Emily of New Moon, I was not a fan of her character, Aunt Elizabeth. The way she treated her family was horrid. In the very first episode, “Eye of Heaven”, Aunt Elizabeth expressed no empathy toward Emily after her father passed away. She dictates what Emily is and isn’t allowed to bring to New Moon. Aunt Elizabeth even throws Emily’s cat, Pandora, out of their carriage and leaves the cat on the side of the road to fend for herself. As the story progresses, Aunt Elizabeth does change some of her rigid ways. However, it seems like she wants to have her cake and eat it too. What I mean by this is, Aunt Elizabeth wants to continue controlling her household in a strict manner, yet is surprised when her family and even people not related to the Murray family turn on her as well as stand up to her. By the end of the first season, Aunt Elizabeth appears to be trying to turn over a new leaf. If I had to be honest, though, I’m not getting my hopes up.
Inclusion of ghosts and the supernatural: In the second episode, “Storms of the Heart”, Uncle Jimmy shares with Emily how her great-great grandmother had “the second sight”. This means she, as well as Emily, are able to see and communicate with spirits from the afterlife. The inclusion of ghosts and the supernatural provided a unique aspect to Emily of New Moon’s story, compared to L. M. Montgomery’s series, Anne of Green Gables. But the way this aspect was incorporated into the show was inconsistent and, as a result, confusing. The episode, “The Disappointed House”, included a curse on the titular location, an abandoned house built for a man and his fiancé. Due to a misunderstanding involving Aunt Laura, Emily’s second aunt, the man and his fiancé separate before ultimately passing away. After Emily finds a letter addressed to Aunt Laura and gives it to her, the couple is reunited in the afterlife, which lifts the curse. Three episodes later, in “Falling Angels”, Emily sees the spirit of a child wearing a red snowsuit. No explanations about who this child is or why Emily sees the child are provided.
Inconsistent storytelling: When I discussed the inclusion of ghosts and the supernatural on Emily of New Moon, I brought up how the delivery of this aspect was inconsistent. That’s not the only inconsistent part of the story, in my opinion. There are times when a secondary character is introduced in an episode, then disappears after that episode and isn’t heard from again. Duncan, a peer of Emily’s, goes to school for the first time in the episode, “The Tale of Duncan McHugh”. The very next episode, “The Wild Rover”, primarily takes place at Blair Water School. Yet, Duncan is nowhere to be found. At the end of “The Tale of Duncan McHugh”, Aunt Elizabeth agrees to make amends with Duncan’s mother, as they were friends in the past. Similar to Duncan, Duncan’s mother is never brought up again.
Some thoughts to consider:
Why did Emily’s dad and Aunt Elizabeth not want Emily to read novels? I feel like the closest thing to an explanation provided in this season was Aunt Elizabeth believing novels were “fantastical”. To me, this wasn’t a satisfying answer. However, I did find the dissuasion of novels from both Emily’s dad and Aunt Elizabeth an interesting coincidence.
Out of all the episodes in season one, “Paradise Lost” was my least favorite. From a creative perspective, I can see what the show’s creative team was trying to accomplish; showcasing how some people are not who they seem. Compared to other stories with a similar concept, “Paradise Lost” was underwhelming. Personally, I didn’t feel like a conflict was resolved, especially in a way that felt satisfying. The inclusion of Lofty John’s mother’s spirit added to the inconsistency of ghosts and the supernatural.
In the 1990s, it seems like almost every scripted television show created at least one Christmas episode. So, I was surprised to discover Emily of New Moon didn’t acknowledge Christmas. Granted, I’ve only seen the first season of this show. Maybe a Christmas episode was created in another season?
My overall impression:
I’d like to take the time to thank Hamlette for hosting the We Love L. M. Montgomery Week Blogathon. Because of this event, I was given the opportunity to check out Emily of New Moon! This is the first time I reviewed a full season of any television show, so this event also allowed me to have a new blogging experience! Looking back on Emily of New Moon, I am impressed with what I saw! Even though the show does have its flaws, I believe the overall production is solid! Each acting performance was strong, bringing to life characters the audience could become acquainted with as each episode carried to the next. The show’s historical accuracy gave viewers the illusion traveling back to a different time was possible. Having a smaller cast worked in the show’s favor, as it allowed each story to be told to a satisfying extent. Since I enjoyed watching season one, I do plan on checking out season two! Who knows? Maybe I’ll read L. M. Montgomery’s Emily trilogy someday?
Rating: A 4 out of 5
Have fun in New Moon!