Synopsis: Netflix has produced its own Anne of Green Gables show, oddly synchronized with that of the PBS remake. But where the original and PBS nearly identically follow one another, Netflix has found a way of making Anne a little more serious, without losing the charm and spunk of the young girl. Anne Shirley, by mistake, is placed in the care of Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew, and quickly wins over their hearts with the zeal and wide-eyed optimism that only a red-headed orphan like her could possess. 

I feel there must be a caveat to this review. First, I have to say that the original CBC Anne of Green Gables and the subsequent Anne of Avonlea are two of my favorite television mini-series of all time. I watched them many a time with my best friends, and the lines from that show are a regular piece of my vernacular. Second, I have not watched all of Netflix’s Anne with an E, so this is only my first impression. I may update this once I have completed the show, but for now, I am basing this review on the first four episodes of the series. 

Stylistically, Netflix has done a fantastic job in crafting a show that captures, through cinematography and music, the wonder and hopeless abandon with which Anne views the world. There have been many moments where I catch my breath, enjoying so much the scope and beauty of this new Green Gables.

However, a detraction that many have seen is in the change from the more wholesome and overly positive story arc to a more gothic and sinister backstory for Anne. For me, I viewed these changes positively. While this Anne has not quite captured my heart in the way that the original did, I do appreciate a backstory that helps me understand, more completely, the young girl I’ve always identified with. 

This Anne is plagued by the abuse she faced in the orphanage and with several of the families she has been placed with. Yet, she does not allow that pain to take the joy and enthusiasm she has for life. It is also what fuels her stories; she needs an escape and finds that in her magical stories of Cordelia. 

Now the second episode is a bit drawn out. Matthew frantically tries to fetch Anne from the orphanage after realizing it was a mistake to send her back, but his entire journey is waylaid by disaster after disaster. It’s a little trying for the viewer. But Anne continues to show her her personality and bold decision-making even through the trying period.

The third and fourth episode feel very much like one would expect of Anne. They follow her as she tries to fit in at school, as she saves the day, as she meets Gilbert Blythe. I never thought I could love any other Gilbert than Jonathan Crombie, rest in peace, but somehow Netflix has done it. They found someone nearly as charming and lovable as the original. Anne shows her temper and lack of social courtesies, but mostly she shows her heart. And she brings out the best in the hearts and souls of those around her, even cold Marilla. 

Apart from all of that, what perhaps makes this a series worth watching is the story’s ability to weave in concepts of social reforms and feminism, without it seeming heavy handed. Anne disagrees with the minster about a girl’s place being in the house without an education, and Marilla agrees.

A group of young mothers meet together to discuss education for their girls and getting women the vote. And Anne strikes up a friendship with the field hand, encouraging him to be more. This show seeks to inspire. Using the strengths and weaknesses of a young girl from the early 20th century to show us what we can each be. 

Anne with an E may not have the innocence of the original, but it still has all the fire, spunk, heart, and hope of it. And Anne would know, after all she “ha[s] a worldly outlook.”

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