'The Plot Against America' Episode 2 Review: What Charles Lindbergh's victory means for America's Jews?
There is a gnawing uncertainty about elections — anywhere for that matter. The feeling of sitting in our living rooms, listening to the news with every ounce of idealistic hope and frenzied energy and believing till the last minute that things could just turn out the way wanted.
The gradual descent into uneasy acceptance and helplessness. The final acknowledgment that nothing will change. HBO's 'The Plot Against America', the alternative history of the USA, reflects these emotions with perfection.
The second episode of the show focusses on the popularity of Charles Lindbergh and the mystifying charm he exudes — enough to enthrall most of America in the 1940s.
The anti-Semitism and Jewish hatred are disguised well and only a handful can see through the smarmy facade of fancy airport landings and eloquent speeches. However, that's not enough. It will never be enough as history through the years has taught us.
For most of the episode, idealistic Herman Levin (Morgan Spector) maintains with the firm conviction that Charles Lindbergh cannot defeat Franklin D Roosevelt. He yells it to anyone who will listen within the comfort of his living room.
However, there are fractures within the family as even the elder son Sandy rushes out of the house to see the man. He is unable to comprehend his father's hatred of Lindbergh and has already mugged up the reasons why America should not be involved in World War II. And so, he continues to be drawn to Lindbergh.
His aunt Evelyn (Winona Ryder) is there too, though she has different reasons. She is in a blooming relationship with Rabbi Bengelsdorf, who believes that Lindbergh means only well for America.
Though Evelyn is a little uneasy about supporting Lindbergh, she staunchly defends the Rabbi when her sister Bess (Zoe Kazan) expresses concern. She repeats his lines of "anti-war" and it's unsure whether she is trying to convince herself or she actually believes it.
As we saw in the previous episode, Evelyn has been on the hunt for true love, and also, more importantly, someone who pleases her mother. And who could be better than a Rabbi? However, she's rather uncomfortable when she hears his speech at Lindberg's rally.
Herman's brother Alvin realizes that Bengelsdorf's speech is an excuse for non-Jewish people to vote for Lindbergh. If people believe that a Jewish person is voting for Lindbergh, then there is nothing Nazi or fascist about him, and it is perfectly correct to vote for him.
How familiar is this line of thought? Alvin has had enough by the end of the episode and is off to unleash war — by himself.
The episode ends with an evocative montage of the Levins sitting in their living room listening to the radio. The cheer and optimism devolves into misery and helplessness by the end of the night.
What does this mean for the Jews? "We have taken America back," Lindbergh says. That sets the tone for the disturbing events yet to come.
'The Plot Against America' strikes hardest with subtlety and uneasy moments of silence. The atmosphere of strife and worry about an uncertain future is captured masterfully in the episode.
It drives home the fact that dark times don't always come with a warning siren, but with soothing and calming music along with some fancy PR stunts. While the political climate is given much thought and care, there are of course a few shaky things on the show.
As things stand, Bess still doesn't have much of a role other than displaying her wifely or maternal love. To put these arguments at ease, she has a job now. Let's see what comes from that.
Meanwhile, Evelyn sticks to the trope of being a woman, desperate to hold on to love at all costs. The men discuss politics, the women discuss love and family.
Nevertheless, let's see what the rest of the episodes bring. 'The Plot Against America' airs on HBO every Monday at 9 pm.