We know the adage that if we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it. And as we live through this current dark timeline you’d assume it’d be too much to watch a nine-episode series about the continued oppression of women and the creation of the political divide we’re seeing play out today. In reality, what creator Dahvi Waller does with “Mrs. America” is tell a story about the numerous ways to be a woman — and that lack of unity is what ultimately keeps us divided. The A-list directors and cast do their part to create a work with so many moving parts, so many storylines and nuances worthy of their own series, that the series could easily lend itself to a book of essays.
Taking place between 1971-1980, it’s remarkable that each episode packs in so much history in a way that never feels superfluous. Each episode is titled after the woman who is the primary focus, with the first being conservative gadfly and face of the conservative women’s movement Phyllis Schlafly Cate Blanchett. With her pearl necklaces and toothy grin, Blanchett is the picture perfect embodiment of the happy housewife that Schlafly spoke for, raising six children with her husband, Frank John Slattery by her side. It’d be easy for the script to turn Schlafly into a one-dimensional, fire-breathing harridan — and with Blanchett simultaneously inhabiting the role of elegant villainess so many times before, her casting implies a lean in that direction — but, like womanhood in general, that’s too simplistic and easy.
With its marketing heavily using the Guess Who’s “American Woman,” it would imply “Mrs. America” to be more rebellious than it is. What Waller and the various directors — including Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, as well as Amma Asante — do is interweave the ERA fight with all the nuances of feminism that have kept women divided to this day. Schlafly’s crusade is the obvious adversary, but the series actually brightens to life more when it’s looking at the role of privilege and status that plays between the lines. Schlafly’s “Stop ERA” group becomes a cadre of mean girls on the small scale, led by Melanie Lynskey’s brown-nosing Rosemary. Schlafly’s desire to win at all costs eventually opens the group up to accepting racists and attracting the Klan.
Sarah Paulson’s Alice, Phyllis’ best friend who brings the ERA into Phyllis’ worldview, takes the reins for the second half of the series, turning in a bravura performance. The character appears to be fictional, which allows for her to develop from Phyllis’ lapdog to a woman who wishes to be better: more outspoken, more dignified. Presented alongside her is Pamela Kayli Carter, a scared housewife so desperate to escape her life yet...
Though “The Plot Against America” took its time to get going, it’s full steam ahead for David Simon’s Philip Roth adaptation by Episode 4 — but to what end? With just two episodes to go, the drama has certainly flared up: The Levin familial bonds are being pushed to the brink as Sandy falls increasingly under Lindbergh’s spell, with the help of Aunt Evelyn and her new boyfriend Rabbi Bengelsdorf. The lines have been drawn, and it’s not looking good for either side. While this was by far the most exciting episode so far, it still feels as though Simon is obligingly following Roth’s outline rather than forging his own path.
In both the novel and the series “The Plot Against America,” there’s an unmentioned but implicit rhetorical question reaching out from beyond the page and screen. To borrow from the musical “Cabaret,” one of the only pieces of pop culture to artfully grapple with this unthinkable dilemma: What would you do? If a fascist were elected president of your country, if your sister started dating one of his shills, if your son was secretly sketching his visage by flashlight — how would you behave? Would you flee to Canada, organize the resistance, or stick your head in the sand and hope for the best?
The fourth episode hones in on these questions with laser-like precision, enjoying the fruits of the preceding three episodes that felt, both in retrospect and in real time, mostly like set-up. Having returned from his “Just Folks” adventure in Kentucky, a Hitler Youth-esque recruiting tool of Rabbi Bengelsdorf’s John Turturro design, Sandy has quite literally become the poster child for assimilationist Jews. Evelyn Winona Ryder proudly features him in a brochure for the program, against Bess’ Zoe Kazan wishes.
Sandy’s transformation has been building since the pilot episode, which ended with him surreptitiously sketching Charles Lindbergh from of a newspaper clipping. Having planted the seeds deliberately, the show earns its most uncomfortable moment so far when Sandy spits at his parents, calling them “ghetto Jews — narrow-minded ghetto Jews.” His transformation is complete. When Bess slaps him across the face, it’s hard not to let out a silent cheer. Your Jewish firstborn becoming a Nazi sympathizer may be the rare instance when a kid deserves a good wallop.
Less effective is a Shabbas dinner argument between Herman Morgan Spector and Bengelsdorf, where Herman puts aside any last shred of civility to tell the Rabbi what he really thinks of his man Lindbergh. Maybe it’s the fact that only the men are talking while the women make sidelong glances of...
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Schitt's Creek Comedy Central, Pop TV 8:00 p.m. — Fans of this cult-hit series should prepare to be wrecked as the sixth season winds down to an end. The good news is that beloved shows don't die in the streaming era, and Dan Levy is open to a reunion down the road. With self-isolation being the name of the game right now, this and the show's unintentional pandemic banger might truly end up being a collective viewing event.
Parasite Hulu, Wednesday — Alright, so this biting, social-class satire officially does not arrive on Hulu until midnight on Wednesday, but it's worth celebrating Bong Joon Ho's history-making masterpiece landing on a streaming service near you. The film received a hefty box-office bump after winning so many awards that the director apologized to Oscar engravers, so if you still haven't watched, shoot your shot now.
The Resident FOX, 8:00 p.m. — Derek's improvement falls into jeopardy when he suffers a severe complication, and Kit's afraid that this might be more evidence of Cain's cover-up.
The Conners ABC, 8:00 p.m. — Bev is spreading happiness through her finances and decides to fund Mark's coding camp tuition.
Bless This Mess ABC, 8:30 p.m. — Jacob's after-prom event sounds potentially dicey after Kay suggests that Rio and Mike step up as chaperones.
Empire FOX, 9:00 p.m. — Cookie and Lucious have Andre committed to a treatment facility following his breakdown. Meanwhile, Cookie's feeling guilty about Andre's whole situation and wonders how her own troubled history may have contributed.
For Life ABC, 10:00 p.m. — After Cassius put white supremacists in the hospital, Aaron comes to his defense, while Marie's having more feelings for Aaron.
The Last O.G. TBS, 10:30 p.m. — The third season begins for Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish's show about an ex-con attempting to readjust to the world after a 15-year prison stint.
Conan — Guest TBA
The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon — Kerry Washington, Russell Wilson, Ciara
A Little Late With Lilly Singh — Adam Rodriguez, Kelsey Cook
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah — Noah's reporting live from his couch, and naturally, the subject of the night will be the ongoing pandemic and social distancing.
Alex Garland's 'Devs,' starring Nick Offerman and Sonoya Mizuno, has launched as FX on Hulu's first original series. The sci-fi show oozes futuristic paranoia and pairs a beautifully frightening aesthetic with charismatic performances, all of which bring a disturbing parable to life. Here, we'll break down the show's many mysteries as the season unfolds around the works of a tech CEO with a possible messianic complex.
The sixth episode of Devs finally got down to doling out answers about what Amaya's mysterious Devs program does and what Forest and his right-hand, Katie believe. The answers are not entirely comforting ones, neither for Lily nor the audience, but this week, writer-director Alex Garland gives everyone tons to think about while staring down the two remaining episodes. It's particularly nice to receive these answers after last week's agony-filled turn from Nick Offerman after we saw the accident that killed his family and forever changed his outlook on life.
Now, we've got an exposition-filled installment that doesn't answer every question, but it sure gives us some hefty clues. As far as recapping goes, the structure of this episode is startlingly simple: a fed-up Lily and an accompanying, doting Jamie decides to visit Forest and Katie at his home. No one is surprised to see them show up because this probably popped up as a vision in the Devs machine. What does it all mean, though?
Is Forest good or evil?FX On Hulu
Throughout this season, and even more so during this episode, I kept thinking about that quote that's frequently misattributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The actual quote comes from John Stuart Mill and goes like this: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” Same effect, and both condemn Forest.
Basically, we've watched Kenton do bad sh*t all season long while Forest stands there, looking haunted but doing nothing. He watched Sergei's murder happen, and the Devs group accepted the death as predetermined. Forest truly believes that he cannot interfere in such things even after he orders them to happen because whatever happens was meant to happen. It sure looks like Forest is attempting to justify his own bad behavior at best, he's an accessory to murder! by claiming that nothing happens without a reason. It's all in the cards. In the machine. Don't blame him, man.
The infuriating aspect of Forest's belief system is that he genuinely appears to think he's inherently “good.” As in, he's doing nothing wrong, and he actually extends this claim to Jamie while reasoning that he had no idea that his “attack dog” broke Jamie's hand. Sure, Forest knew that...