By Jennifer Abella
Previously on “Emma Approved” … Emma started over with a perfect record.
Episode 33 (Back in the Saddle): So now that Izzy’s happy, Emma can get down to bidness. She is officially Unstoppable. First up is throwing a party for prospective clients. Alex of course worries about $$$; dude probably set up his retirement accounts when he was 10. But savvy Alex sees an opportunity here: He asks Emma to help Maddy Bates, who has some great ideas about how they can be more efficient. Maddy could use the business. She’s going through a rough patch, and Emma’s habit of canceling their lunch dates isn’t helping. And if, in the process, Emma learns some financial best practices from Maddy, well, hey. Emma reluctantly agrees.
Episode 34 (Attitude and Gratitude): Before Maddy (who was once Emma’s Dad’s “Harriet”) arrives, Emma orders Harriet to interrupt the meeting after 10 minutes. That’s just about when Maddy will start raving about her niece, Jane Fairfax: the Oxford grad, Rhode scholar, Carnegie Hall performer(!?), social-policy master’s degree holder and all-around Perfect Girl. Also Emma wants to avoid the gross jams that Maddy makes with flavors like: Peach-guava-turnip. Okay, Emma’s got a point there. Ew. Anyway, Maddy’s warm and friendly if a bit loquacious. And … cue the Jane rave. Jane is heading a charity for inner-city youth in London; Jane is running the Surrey half-marathon (fun little shoutout to the book’s setting!); and most important Jane is coming back to town to help with Maddy’s business soon. Maddy is SUPER EXCITED, y’all. Emma is less so. She volunteers to help with Maddy’s business. As agreed — albeit a little late — Harriet interrupts, saying Emma has a phone call from um, er, uhh, the queen of England. That cements Harriet’s bright future in improv.
Alex Q+A: Blahblahblah I’m Alex Knightley. The answer to all the questions is: WHO CARES? ALEX IS PERFECT.
Episode 35 (Flies to Honey): Alex surmises that Emma is helping Maddy in an effort to one-up Jane Fairfax. Maddy comes with yet more gross jams. Holier-than-Jane Emma works with Harriet to plan the company’s party and help Maddy gain clients.
Episode 36 (Internal Troubles): Emma tells Alex they’ve come up with a win-win: Maddy is going to sponsor a charity fundraising event with a celebrity guest. But Emma doesn’t know the venue. Or the charity. Or the celebrity. Ooooo-kay. Good plan! Meanwhile, Harriet’s got other things on her mind. Namely, Bobby, who has just shown up, still as cute and awkward as ever. Before he leaves he reminds her to back up all her files — “Don’t want to lose something important to you.” Fairly sure he’s not talking about her data.
I feel like not much has happened in these episodes — lots of planning but not much doing. So here’s one more:
Episode 37 (Cinderella in the Making): Ruh-roh, 10 days to the party and the team’s in the weeds. Harriet can’t find a venue. Emma assumes they can fall back on the Coles’s ranch — but Harriet hasn’t heard back from them. Emma is flabbergasted: They’ve wanted Emma’s business for years! And on another front, she has to tactfully stop Maddy from bringing her jams as party favors, and Maddy says Jane can find a celebrity because lady’s got connections. Of course Emma refuses. Then Maddy drops the bomb: JANE’S COMING TO THE PARTY! I’m excited to see this Jane Fairfax, who’s always been a little flat to me, in every adaptation. She always seems so perfect yet kind of lifeless.
So this is about halfway through the series at this point. I found it dragging most when it veered from the canon. As someone familiar with the novel and other adaptations I just kept waiting for the story to get going — especially with Annie storyline. After that it gained traction until it stalled again when Izzy showed up. There’s a brief bit in the book about the Knightleys vacationing by the sea, but expanding Izzy’s involvement into a story arc was tedious to watch. At that point we knew already that Emma would do what she wants and that eventually Alex would either comfort her or get frustrated (or both), so nothing came as a surprise. Still, for a viewer who isn’t familiar with the story, it reinforces Emma’s modus operandi.
Jennifer Abella is a TV/movie/pop culture/knitting/sewing/Jane Austen geek. Oh, and a total Anglophile. Follow @nextjen on Twitter. And remember to like Jane Austen Summer Program on Facebook and follow @JASPhotline on Twitter.