‘Anne With an E’ Says Goodbye With Long-Awaited Kisses and College Acceptance Letters
Fans of “Anne With an E” were recently left heartbroken and stunned when Netflix announced it would not renew the show after its third season, following the usual archaic reasons that plague TV politics. Yet the show does exit on a fitting note, bringing its beloved heroine to a point of real growth in her life, while giving devotees some long-awaited kisses and important life discoveries. This update of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” combined its sense of youth with a very mature heart, and the finale is all about how life does indeed go on.
The season begins with Anne (Amybeth McNulty) still pursuing her passion for writing, early on deciding to write an article about a local Mi’kmaq village, which of course inspires a few scoffs at Green Gables from those who see the local natives as savages. But Anne also begins another pursuit inspired by her 16th birthday, she wants to finally track down her actual family tree. This sets her off on a journey which includes a return to Saint Albans Orphanage. As Anne tries to track down the history of her birth, she and her longtime friends are dealing with new developments such as applying for college. But there are also romantic entanglements. Gilbert (Lucas Jade Zumann) is engaged to Winnie (Ashleigh Stewart) but his feelings are actually for Anne. And as dramas of the heart unfold, Anne’s adoptive parents, Matthew and Marilla (R.H. Thomson and Geraldine James) find a gift for Anne that will help explain where she comes from and may help her realize so much of her own potential.
“Anne With an E” gained a following in its three season run by adapting the classic 1908 novel and also updating the characters into quite lovable personas. Under creator Moira Walley-Beckett the original richness of the children’s book was kept intact but with a contemporary spirit. Non-white characters and LGBTQ issues were added into the narrative with sharp subtly and relevance. As played by Amybeth McNulty, Anne personified those smart kids with rapid-fire dialogue who can feel like outcasts as well. She was always a “cool kid” in a sense, but an outsider at the same time, particularly because she was an orphan. The finale for this always charming, well-crafted Netflix series gives Anne her dues. Answers are given about her roots and other character arcs are closed off in heartwarming fashion.
The final season introduces more new characters, like Ka’kwet (Kiawenti’io Tarbell), who brings into the show the topic of how the Canadian government imposed forced assimilation on indigenous communities. But as with most narratives reaching milestones, much of the focus is on how main and side characters begin transitioning to new phases in life. Yet there’s always a homely air to this show, much of it due to warm performances like Joanna Douglas as Miss Stacey, the encouraging teacher who supports Anne’s writing, or Dalila Bela as Anne’s best friend Diana who always tries to keep everything level-headed when Anne can be impulsive. Sebastian “Bash” (Dalmar Abuzeid), the sailor from Trinidad, has a wonderfully hopeful resolution to his storyline by welcoming back Elijah (Araya Mengesha) home after major tensions over the last two seasons.
For fans the two key story climaxes involve Gilbert secretly loving Anne and Winnie knowing about it, sobbing that she’s being used as the second choice. Gilbert and Anne are both applying for college, Gilbert to USC and Anne to Queen’s College, and so the lad feels the clock is ticking. He writes a letter to Anne, pouring out his feelings, which infuriates our heroine. This is when best friends become useful and Diana learns Gilbert isn’t just in love with Anne, he goes so far as to call off his engagement with Winnie. This sets off a chain of events where Diana tells Gilbert about a letter Anne wrote to him, never read, which reveals the feelings are mutual. In a sign of real devotion Gilbert and Anne finally kiss while promising to write to each other while away at school, which in a pre-FaceTime, pre-airplane era means real commitment.
The most powerful revelation comes from Anne’s adoptive parents, who hand the orphan a book that confirms her mother was actually a teacher. It’s a beautiful way of ending the series, because Anne now goes into the future knowing infinitely more about where she comes from, while Matthew and Marilla, who began this saga seeking an adoptive son and getting a daughter instead, teach us what real family is all about. They love Anne so much they are willing to help her find true closure.
“Anne With an E” is a final season with many little twists, journeys and a vast array of characters both likeable and some slightly more villainous, like Josie Pye (Miranda McKeon), who plays that one student in any classroom that tortures others through sheer bullying. But even she finds some redemption this season. It’s a shame this show has to leave, it has a classic style that harkens back to books like “Little Women,” while updating the tone for contemporary viewers who could have a lot of fun while taking in a few life lessons along the way. Anne will be missed, hopefully she’ll have heirs.
“Anne With an E” season three begins streaming Jan. 3 on Netflix.