It's the penultimate episode of season 1 of Anne this week.
And it feels like a doozy, because a lot of things are happening.
The CBC episode link is HERE.
And SPOILERS BELOW.
I think that Remorse Is the Poison of Life is an episode that focuses on grief and regret. More often than not, these emotions are things that people reflect upon in hindsight. It's not something you look ahead and then plan on how you will respond. It's not something that has a specific shape or symptoms. You can't expect everyone to cry or become visible angry or that it'll last a specific amount of time.
The episode starts with Diana rushing desperately to Green Gables in the winter at night to get help. Almost everyone is at Charlottetown to see the premier (of the province), so Diana has been home alone with Great Aunt Josephine Barry and Minnie May, who is extremely ill with the croup. Marilla is at Charlottetown as well, so Anne takes charge - she has experience with treating croup after looking at Mrs. Hammond's children, so she goes to Diana's house while she sends Matthew to get the doctor at Carmody. Despite Josephine's doubts (though having no children of her own, Josephine admits she's clueless as to how to help Minnie May), Anne saves Minnie May and the next morning, after learning how Anne saved Minnie May, Mrs. Barry asks for Anne's forgiveness. Anne and Diana are delighted that they can be together again.
And then we start getting into the very sad stuff in the episode. Josephine has decided to extend her stay in Avonlea - her lifelong female friend has recently died and she wants to stay with family. When Diana brings up how Anne has been bringing Gilbert his homework over the past month, Anne realizes for the first time how ill Mr. Blythe has been - so ill that she suspects that Gilbert won't return to school until after Mr. Blythe passes away. And sadly, that's exactly what happens.
As I mentioned, this episode is one that focuses on grief, which is a strange and difficult thing to really understand. We can often be sympathetic, be kind and patient, but it's really hard to really empathize, to really understand how someone feels. Anne doesn't really know how to react, she tries talking to Gilbert, speaking from her own experience as an orphan and how he was lucky to have known his father, but he doesn't respond well to it and calls her out on thinking about herself. Anne's thoroughly confused by how she feels towards Gilbert and is venting in her secret hideout (same place the story club has been meeting) when Josephine Barry comes by. She's already taken a liking to Anne and supports Anne's thoughts on marriage (Anne doesn't want to be a housewife) and career ambitions and romantic love, and Anne thinks she's found the perfect role model (along with Matthew and Marilla, of course).
Anne decides to help Diana and Ruby make a shepherd's pie for Gilbert, since Ruby is hoping to impress him while he's sad. The moment is a very sharp contrast in why Anne is so different from her peers. Diana and Ruby genuinely think that it would be lovely to wives and to be loved for how well they keep their homes and family, and there's a clear sense that both girls have lived very comfortable lives. Anne wants to be loved for who she is (for her intellect and personality) and can't imagine being a wife to anyone. As they're contemplating these things, Anne realizes what the nature of grief really is - the idea of losing someone you love deeply and never seeing them again. And Anne can't bring herself to say this to Gilbert, that she really understands his grief, which makes for an awkward scene where Ruby and Diana are absolutely sweet and polite when they drop off the shepherd's pie while Anne's at such a loss that all she can say is that she'd make a terrible wife and runs away. When she visits Josephine Barry, the older woman helps Anne realize that Josephine is enduring the same sort of grief as Gilbert, because Josephine loved her friend, Gertrude, deeply and grief is the price of love. It's not wrong to love someone without compromising who you are.
And meanwhile, Marilla has her own thoughts about her relationship with Gilbert's father - one that it's implied to have been romantic. But she's left wondering at all the what ifs and the things that stopped her from having a future with him - the death of her older brother and obligations to her mother, and I'm guessing how Matthew never married, so Marilla felt that she needed to take care of him. And just not feeling brave enough to leave Avonlea for a future with a man who wanted to travel the world and see the big cities. When she tells this to Gilbert, he's a bit surprised at Marilla's past would-be relationship with his father, I suppose in the way that anyone would be surprised at learning about a loved one's life that they never knew of. To Gil, his father was a man who travelled as the military posted him, who loved living out west with their large family in Alberta, who came back to Avonlea where Gil was born, and now has left Gilbert alone.
And what of Gilbert now? He doesn't know what to do with the farm, since he's got no interest in farming when Matthew offers himself and Jerry to help out in the spring. None of the other boys at school understands how he feels, they just want him back so he can outsmart Anne. Since Billy Andrews is being a jerk again and insulting Anne by saying that she needs to be put in her place, Gilbert warns him not to insult her and then beats him up when Billy decides to continue being an idiotic jerk before taking off with a very large sack. According to my brother, a large sack always means the same thing. So when Anne figures out what she wants to say to him, she finds the Blythe house empty. Looks like Gilbert is running away.
And one more thing. Matthew has gotten some very bad news. Now, I'm not entirely sure of what it is, but it seems the Cuthberts' finances are tied to a mercantile ship (I guess they were selling crops from Green Gables) that was uninsured and lost at sea. Matthew is deeply concerned and goes off to the bank alone...
There's a lot going on, as I mentioned. Anne is struggling with what it means to be the "heroine of her own story" and learns maybe too late that to be her own person doesn't mean denying love of any sort at all. The introduction of Josephine Barry has a lot more emotional gravity in the series than in previous adaptations; she's not a surly wealthy spinster who is amused by Anne, but someone who never compromised who she was and is now mourning (I think it's implied that she and her friend loved each other romantically). Marilla is trying to reconcile her own regrets at refusing Mr. Blythe in their youth, and Gilbert is struggling with being alone. I haven't talked about it in a while, but there's a lot of strong performances this episode from the key actors, I think especially with Gilbert. Lucas Jade Zumann has portrayed Gilbert as a boy who has displayed a remarkable amount of maturity for his age and the ability to respect others. And like Anne, he's a boy who doesn't fit in with his peers; maybe this is why he's attracted to Anne, because she's the first person his age who has seen the world beyond Avonlea and loves to learn, and has been forced to deal with decisions that someone his age would not normally need to.
But I think the previews are implying that the season finale has some frightening things coming up relating to Matthew's visit to the bank. It's pretty ominous... I'm looking forward to it, but I'm not sure I'm going to make it through it without getting emotional.
Please share your thoughts on the episode!