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‘Anne with an E’ Review: A ‘Breaking Bad’ Producer Updates ‘Anne of Green Gables’ for Our Darker Times

The Netflix reboot will enchant kindred spirits with progressive souls, and already delivers on six of IndieWire's eight "Anne" must-haves.

Amybeth McNulty, "Anne with an E"

Amybeth McNulty, “Anne with an E”

Caitlin Cronenberg/Netflix

<<Page 1: Main titles, Amybeth McNulty

4) Great female friendships: Anne’s friendship with the neighbor girl Diana Barry (played with easy cheer by Dalila Bela) is the foundation to her growth as a child, since she’s never had a true friend or playmate in her life until now. While the character Diana could come off as rather simple, here she appears to have a bit more awareness of how adults operate, sometimes unfairly. This version of Diana may be straightforward, but she already appears to have strong integrity and spirit that could help her support Anne in unforeseen ways in the future.
Wishlist status: Achieved.

READ MORE: Rachel McAdams Reading You ‘Anne of Green Gables’ Is Your Fantasy Come True

5) Feminism and other social issues: While Anne has always been a bit ahead of her time (another reason why the theme song “Ahead by a Century” is apropos), her enlightened outlook is put front and center in a speech she makes, trying to convince Marilla to keep her at Green Gables: “It makes no sense that girls aren’t allowed to do farmwork when girls can do anything a boy can do and more. Do you consider yourself to be delicate and incapable? Because I certainly don’t.”

Beyond this, the first two episodes pack in so many issues ranging from bullying and birth control to child predators and even the Greenhouse Effect (the first official use of that term was in 1901, so it checks out) that we wonder if someone in Avonlea is running for office. While we applaud pushing the series to be progressive, the execution of these additional scenes are uneven. Anne climbing on a soapbox to decry sexism makes sense when her very existence at Green Gables is threatened because she’s not a boy. In contrast, Anne’s flashbacks to more violent times in her past are abrupt and heavy-handed. Then again, there are times when Anne dealing with the misery of a situation brings out our ghoulish fascination. Call it the Lemony Snicket effect.
Wishlist status: Achieved.

Amybeth McNulty, "Anne with an E"

Amybeth McNulty, “Anne with an E

Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix

6) Shenanigans: While the initial episodes haven’t reached the scrapes and adventures that Anne is known for yet (such as ones involving cows, a raspberry cordial or a ridgepole), we do see the plucky girl in all-new escapades necessitated by various digressions from the story. Even in these new scenes, Anne’s imagination and bold spirit do her justice and therefore feel natural fits for her larger story.
Wishlist status: Achieved

7) Puffed sleeves: It’s too early to see Anne in the coveted arm coverings, which to a girl with nothing is the pinnacle of elegance and extravagance, but she lays the groundwork very well in her raptures over the prospect of someday wearing them. We’ll take this as a given since the show is properly invested.
Wishlist status: Guaranteed.

8) Megan Follows: Including the actress who formerly played Anne Shirley in some sort of cameo may seems like a longshot, but we’re holding out hope that a later episode will fulfill our wish.
Wishlist status: Nope, but there’s hope!

If the Follows-led “Anne of Green Gables” is the gold standard, new adaptations must try something different to set themselves apart and make a reboot worthwhile. “Anne with an E” dares to get bold and messy. It might push the messaging too far sometimes, but like its heroine it rarely feels insincere. We’ll be watching to see where Anne takes us for the remainder of this journey.

Grade: B+

All eight episodes of “Anne with an E” are currently available on Netflix.

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