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'Mrs America' Episode 7 Review: Attacked by loved ones, Phyllis is still Bella and Gloria's biggest threat

Even though it's a separate committee, Phyllis going rogue reflects on what a new Citizens Review committee does for the ERA
UPDATED MAY 13, 2020
Bella Abzug (Hulu)
Bella Abzug (Hulu)

Spoilers for 'Mrs America' Episode 7 'Bella'

There is no changing the past, and there is no spoiling history reenacted on screen. We all know what exactly happens to and with the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, despite pioneers like Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), Shirley Chisolm (Uzo Aduba), Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Betty Friedan (Tracy Ullman), and Jill Rickelshouse (Jill Ruckleshouse) toiling so earnestly for it, and for so long.

But as we inch closer to the imminent tragic reality of the ERA, there has to be some respite and solace derived from watching Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) have her face slammed by a giant cake at one of her own luncheon events, right after speaking spitefully about the ERA and the women's liberation movement.

That isn't the only time Phyllis falls in this episode, even though our titular Bella is the one the pity party-esque premise follows. For the longest time of the hour-long installment, Phyllis continues to fall as Bella rises among the ranks and powerful enough to make decisions that are beyond risky for their cause. And in the end, when a rogue Phyllis is driven enough to want to 'blow it up', facts are slammed into our faces once again. We are again reminded why vulturous allies have always snubbed radicalism.

It begins with the cake-slam which leaves Phyllis injured enough for the board members of the Stop ERA, now including evangelical Christian Lottie Hob, oppose she remains the front face of their movement. Never wanting to displease anyone, Phyllis agrees and Rosemary is ever so quick to express her 'honor' is becoming the front face, while also opening an ad-hoc committee solely under her own jurisdiction.

Nobody opposes and thus begins the Citizen's Review Committee, yet another threat for the ERA to brave, while planning a newly resurrected National Commission for Observing International Women's year. Appointed as the presiding officer, thanks to the president's first-ever female secretary Midge, who is also closeted. Bella charges her duties with full gusto; the first agenda of the commission being a face-to-face debate with Phyllis, probably to outweigh her past wins in every debate.

But Phyllis is traumatized, even though she immerses herself in the work she is carrying forward as a facade for her own climb into the president's defense strategies. While her subordinates in the movement overstep her boundaries and decide to replace her on their own, rebellion strikes her family life too, with her daughter Phyllis Jr changing her name to Liza to avoid public embarrassment.

There's a reserved pain as Phyllis tells off her daughter for being embarrassed by her own mother. It is only away from her family's eyes that she breaks, the last straw being her son also going against their decision for college. And as Phyllis crumbles into a maniacal obsession to find some way out of this grave loss, her first instinct is ruthlessness, beginning with her own sister in law for knowing about Liza and keeping it from her. 

Phyllis's minor fall from grace is paralleled by Bella rising from the ashes. Taking the center stage by storm, Bella is fierce as a lioness, with controlled pouncing on preys only where she needs to, reminding us once again why Martindale was just the right person to play her onscreen. But even as she is able to convince Phyllis's three cohorts that the family woman touting conservative has turned them into her own working women, back home, Bella devastates her strongest ally in the game - Gloria.

Under the flagship for equal rights, equal pay, and equal hiring, there are a lot of little tiffs that Bella labels as 'playing politics' that Gloria albeit unwittingly, did want to play. The commission's agenda includes gay rights, which would be contradicted by Bella's wishes to welcome Betty onboard. And even with Midge practically putting her in a position of power to exercise these duties Bella is ready to break her heart and take controversial agendas like abortion and gay rights off their list with the growing bane of the Citizen's Review Committee.

Even though a separate committee, Phyllis going rogue reflects on what this 'review' chapter does for the ERA. After being traumatized by the cakeslam, Phyllis doesn't attend the same convention where Bella is able to get to her girls' impressionable minds. So when Rosemary, Alice, and Pamela finally get into the commission and Phyllis doesn't, she spirals further. From staying up all night, forging tapes of the ERA-members' speeches to relay venomous sentiments to eventually joining forces with Lottie and deciding to meet her firm racist believes surround the Klan - Phyllis is relentless on a whole other level.

And that is something even Bella coming to her sound senses can't counter. Getting accused by Gloria of not being radical enough gets Bella to keep sexual preference on their list of agenda with Betty on the committee, but unbeknownst to them, the evangelical war waging on their progress is the bigger enemy. Of course, we know who wins the war and who are still fighting the battle, but the onset of Phyllis' insidious, imminent win is devastating nonetheless.

'Mrs America' drops new episodes on Wednesdays only on Hulu.