The Plot Against America is a new HBO limited series based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Philip Roth. The series is an alternate history following a working-class Jewish family living in New Jersey as Charles Lindbergh wins the Presidency over FDR. Lindbergh is most known for completing the first solo transatlantic flight, his belief in eugenics, as well as his Nazi-reminiscent views on race and religion.
The series will consist of six episodes, the first having premiered on Monday. Critics and viewers have already drawn parallels to the current political climate, with celebrities-turned-politicians and America being taken over by hatred. As the source material was initially interpreted as a commentary on the second Bush administration, it’s interesting that the text is still relevant 16 years later. However, the series almost tries too hard to remind viewers that many individuals today can relate to this anxiety and grief. For example, the father of the family says “But we’re American,” in response to a radio broadcast of one of Lindbergh’s speeches. This rhetoric is very on-the-nose, as well as a very present-day thing to say. The line was evidently added in to jump out at viewers, but it comes across as too jarring and trying too hard. Critic Ani Bundel who has seen the series in its entirety has said the show would be more poignant if it were more subtle: “HBO’s refusal to respect the audience’s intelligence to make the connections themselves erodes the impact the series might have had otherwise.”
Ultimately, this isn’t to say the series doesn’t have any potential. Although there is a stereotypical tough guy character, many of the other characters provide varying insights and opinions on their situation. For example, the older son of the family, sees Lindbergh as a pilot and hero. His parents provide an interesting dynamic: the mother grew up as a member of the only Jewish family in her area whereas his father had never felt uncomfortable about being Jewish, and denies the rise of fascism in the US.
We will see whether the show picks up in the next few episodes, how it will conclude, and if its message gets lost along the way. The Plot Against America airs on HBO every Monday at 9PM.