Characters live in an alternative history in which Franklin D. Roosevelt was defeated in the U.S. presidential election of 1940 by Charles Lindbergh. You must be a registered user to use the IMDb rating plugin.
“The Plot Against America” undeniably does exactly that, offering complex, character-driven drama that will linger in your head long after it’s over less for what it says about our past and more for what it’s trying to warn us regarding our future.
There are incredibly subtle, complex issues at play here (which is no surprise from the writers of “The Wire,” of course), including the concept that not taking a bold stance against something like Antisemitism creates a tacit approval of it, emboldening racists and monsters by giving them air to breathe. The six-episode mini-series starts in 1940, introducing us to the Levin family, led by the headstrong Herman (Morgan Spector) and compassionate Bess (Zoe Kazan). The police nod knowingly at violent counter-protesters, shades of Hong Kong. (On my mind as a new parent, I guess — but it’ll be wrong if she doesn’t get an Emmy.).
“Hey, Juden! The adaptation moves freely among the renamed Levins and branches off to follow Herman’s nephew Alvin (Anthony Boyle) and Bess’ sister Evelyn (Winona Ryder). You didn't really expect a clearcut happy ending from David Simon, did you? The children have hobbies: teenage Sandy (Caleb Malis) always with the drawing, little Philip (Azhy Robertson) curating a stamp collection. Newsreels proclaim Hitler’s war machine is on the march through Europe. Their love is the real America, and no s—hole president will ever take that from us.
Entertainment Weekly may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. The third episode, in which the Levins travel to DC amidst rising tension that Herman seems almost defiant to recognize as real, is one of the most impressive hours of television of the last few years.
Then Lindbergh wins. The Levins are caught up in a nightmare — Robertson gives maybe the best scared-kid performance since Danny Lloyd in The Shining — but there’s an inviting warmth here, too. Plot is too tough-minded to deliver simple hope, but it’s openhearted enough to build an inspiring portrait of a family struggling to survive the days of perpetual fear. Its period setting provides the obvious bad guys, and this isn’t even the only current dystopian TV series in which the nice characters ponder escape to Canada.
Is America itself just a comfortable bedtime story, empty ideals awaiting the violent moment when the mask comes off? As much as The Plot Against America serves to assess an era or a nation, it’s about the crack-up of a family at the core, the real-life toll exacted by these big political ideas.
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