The Plot Against America is the newest drama from HBO and tells the story of an alternate reality in which the 1940 presidential election was won by Charles Lindbergh (most known for his nonstop flight from New York to Paris) instead of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Based on the novel by Philip Roth, The Plot Against America introduces us to the Levins, a middle class Jewish family whose lives are being changed through jobs and family. But for the most part, life was good with families socializing on their porches, watching their children play with the other adolescents.
The story may not look like controversial one, because why would Lindbergh be a terrible choice? He’s an American hero after all, right? In school we learn that Lindbergh was a heroic man – achieving something that hadn’t been done before. But what our U.S. history classes so conveniently leave out is that Lindbergh was also known to have sympathies towards the Nazis before Hitler officially declared war on the U.S. in 1941. Now, you can see why Lindbergh may be a terrifying choice during a time when the Jewish people were outwardly discriminated against in their everyday lives.
Now that the history lesson is over, let’s get into the plot. Part 1 introduces Herman (Morgan Spector) and Bess (Zoe Kazan), the heads of the Levin family, and their two sons, Sandy (Caleb Malis) and Philip (Azhy Robertson). Their family time is also shared with their nephew Alvin (Anthony Boyle), and Bess’ sister, Evelyn (Winona Ryder). These two are the more wild ones of the bunch as neither of these two have their life figured out, and are often caught up in irresponsible situations with the people around them. At the beginning of the episode we find Herman at a crossroads as a Union employee on the verge of receiving a promotion. His new position will take him farther from his home, so a family move is likely to be in the works. But as the Levins take a look at their soon-to-be home, Bess notices the stares of the surrounding neighbors. The hostility from one neighbor seems to ooze from his pores. Bess thus warns Herman that all he knows is the comfort of the Jewish neighborhoods. As they drive down the street from the new home, the family notices a German pub, with a healthy amount of patrons singing and dancing. These patrons, too, look with distain at the Levins. This only shows how Bess’ warning is more like an alarm that rings loudly in Herman’s ears. In an effort not to subject his family to harm, or maybe he can sense the trouble in the distance, Herman finally comes around and turns down his promotion.
This first episode of The Plot Against America is incredibly realistic. I don’t mean that in relation to the dark cloud of political aggression we find ourselves now. However, I’m sure we’ll get into that throughout the season. Part 1 serves as a perfect basis for the series as we peek into the lives of these families. Their moments with each other, whether its politics, job, or family related, creates a narrative we can all relate to. Even the Sandy and Philip’s relationship has the love perfectly intertwined within the animosity one can have with their sibling. In fact, I believe that’s what all these family relationships come down to: love intertwined within animosity.
Part 1 is the perfect jumping off point for a series of this caliber. At least for now, even with the growing tension, the Levin family can sleep well. Because as far as they know, the war has no chance of arriving on their doorstep.