Take Back America
If there’s one thing that The Plot Against America has managed to absolutely nail up until this point it’s the atmosphere. This gorgeously shot, visual spectacle is absolutely dripping in tension and you can feel during every scene of this show that something big is about to happen. Before we get to the bombshell reveal at the end of the episode, this hour of drama essentially works to establish our familial unit and further their place in this increasingly divided America.
Episode 2 of The Plot Against America begins in October 1940 as a plane flies overhead. Sandy bolts upright and scrambles downstairs, onto a bus and across town to see Lindbergh touch down on his plane and deliver a speech. “It’s between Lindbergh or war” he proclaims, as the crowd applaud his every word. Evelyn happens to be in the front row and she too joins in the crowd’s enthusiasm for this new, political figure.
From here the episode essentially fractures out into different sub-plots as we see the world through various different players. The more innocent confusion comes from Philip, who teams up with Earl after stamp collecting to follow rich people around. They make it to a very different neighbourhood to what Philip is used to and after learning a lot of the kids play in their backyard, he finds himself torn between following Earl and playing with his long-time friend Seldon.
Meanwhile, Herman sets up a new job for Alvin but unfortunately it involves driving around Abe Steinheim. As he soon finds out, Steinheim’s a rude and arrogant man, getting under Alvin’s skin as he tries his best to grin and bear the brunt of it. Back home, he clashes with Herman over this as they sit listening to Lindbergh’s repetitive message about war, which seems to be gaining traction with voters. Eventually Alvin has enough and he waits for Abe before cursing to his face and quitting.
Walking away, Alvin instead heads straight for the train station and winds up enlisting in the army. “I’m here to kill Nazi’s.” He proclaims sternly, which is the last we hear from him.
Evelyn has a meeting with the Rabbi and he invites Evelyn out to the airstrip with him, promising to try and change her family’s minds about Lindbergh. Elizabeth confronts Evelyn over this though before going for a job interview and being successful in her application.
That evening, Herman heads to the movie theatre with Sandy and Philip where they hear Lindbergh pedaling the same message repeatedly about it being war or him. Philip tries to comprehend the bombing in Britain, confused by this new aspect of war, while Elizabeth feigns a smile at work after seeing several women wearing a new “Vote For Lindy” badge.
As the episode closes out, the Rabbi delivers a scathing political speech, one that works to elevate Lindbergh as a strong political candidate while spelling bad news for the other patriotic Jews like Herman, who listen to this address on the radio with anger bubbling up inside him. He tells the crowds they should not go to war and goes on to publicly declare his support for the political activist.
The polls open soon after and millions vote. As the family sit anxiously awaiting the results, the early evening hopes and anticipation soon fade and dissolve, replaced by a much more incredulous and despairing reaction. The final scene ends with a chilling promise for the country from Lindbergh, echoing the current political climate of the US. “Tonight, we have taken back America” He says as Herman sits, stern-faced in the theatre and the only one not clapping and applauding in the crowd.
Beyond Lindbergh becoming elected as President, there isn’t an awful lot else going on in this episode. Ultimately, the main draw of this comes from the characterisation and establishing the different roles the family have to play in the subsequent terror to come in the upcoming episodes. Having not read the book, the series has done a great job capturing the feel and tone of the time and some of the scenes are eerily similar to what we’re going through now, both politically and socially.
The Plot Against America is both a timely and surprisingly gripping alt-history show and this week in particular, the episode does a wonderful job capturing the uneasiness and tension clinging to every character. Quite what the future holds remains to be seen but one thing’s for sure – America has certainly been taken.