Based on the novel by Philip Roth, ‘The Plot Against America’ follows the story of a family that finds itself embroiled in the increasing unrest against them and people of their religion in their own country. In six-episodes, the HBO series paints a brutal and unnerving picture of an alternate world, while staying in touch enough to show the audience that it could very well become their reality. The ending pushes this idea forward, leaving the story on a cliffhanger. If you haven’t yet caught up with the show, head over to HBO. SPOILERS AHEAD!
The show imagines America under the Presidency of Charles Lindbergh, who was known to be an anti-Semite. Focusing on the Levin family, who live in Newark, it examines the situation from the lens of different family members, capturing all the perspectives to deliver a complete story.
After the disappearance of Lindbergh, the turmoil escalates tenfold. The riots threaten to tear apart the country, and the unrest in the Levin family reaches a breaking point. It gets worse for Rabbi Bengelsdorf, who had been a staunch supporter of Lindbergh all this while. He finds himself totally cut off from the White House, and is eventually arrested by the FBI. His reputation is wholly tarnished in the Jewish community, and the anti-Semites label him as a bad Jewish influence on the President. Evelyn runs to Bess for help, but it is too late now. A few months later, ahead of schedule, Presidential elections are held, and the Levin family holds their breath, waiting for the result.
What Happened to Lindbergh?
Charles Lindbergh maintains his distance from Rabbi Bengelsdorf as well as the media while horrible things happen on the streets of America. When he does show up, it is too brief to alleviate anyone’s fears. And then, his plane suddenly disappears. The show doesn’t address exactly what happens to him, but it gives us enough to deduce on our own.
In the previous episodes, Alvin had been followed by a man he thought was the FBI. It turns out that he is British, and coupled with Canadians and Americans, he is working on a plan to bring down Lindbergh. Alvin comes into the picture with what he had learned while serving in the War. His task is to triangulate the position of Lindbergh’s plane, which they knew would be flying back from Kentucky.
When he is suddenly asked to stop, it seems to Alvin that they failed. In the morning, however, he reads about Lindbergh’s disappearance in the newspaper. This means that they succeeded after all. He may or may not have been killed, depending on the damage he suffered, if any, at all. But it does mean the end of the Presidency.
The Plot Against America
The question of why the rabbi was so supportive of Lindbergh even after his openly anti-Semitic thoughts is also addressed in the finale. Evelyn tells Bess that Lindbergh’s child was not murdered, but kidnapped by the Nazis. The child was in Berlin, raised as a part of the Hitler Youth, as leverage against Lindbergh. They were forcing him to encourage the Nazi policies in America.
Because there is no other evidence to support it, and because we know how deluded the rabbi could be, it is possible that he concocted this theory to convince himself that Lindbergh was, in fact, a good man. He also believes that the disappearance of Lindbergh was owed to the Germans who wanted him to do his bidding, considering that he had been doing his best to resist their demands. But as we see from Alvin’s point of view, it is not true.
What Happens to America?
‘The Plot Against America’ covers the fiction of “what would have happened to America if”, but the ending of it tilts the scales towards the reality in a manner that confronts the viewers with the question: what happens to America now? The story might be set during the Second World War, but the relevance of it echoes strongly in the current political environment. There are undeniable parallels to what’s going on in America, as well as in other parts of the world, right now. “There is a lot of hate out there, and he knows how to tap into it”- this statement stands true for several political figures all over the world.
If things don’t already seem bad to you, then watching the events unfold in the series should give you some idea. The timeliness of the story is eerie, and ‘The Plot Against America’ isn’t the only novel that predicted such things long before anyone imagined they would come to pass. The show extrapolates this unease, and you can feel the volatility brimming on the streets even if it is quiet outside.
As Herman and Bess wait by the radio, once again, listening to the results come in, their anxiety channels into you, but the show does nothing to curb it. It does not tell you whether Roosevelt won this time or not. It does not tell you whether fascism won again. It does not tell you what eventually happened to the Levin family. Why? Because the answer lies within yourself.
The adaptation of ‘The Plot Against America’ comes in the time when the country is on the verge of a significant political decision. Four years ago, you chose your America. It is 2020, the election year, and once again, the fate of America is in your hands. Hence, to decide or predict what happens to the America that the Levins live in was not considered wise on the part of the showrunners. They deliberately left it at that because the story was not theirs to end. In true sense, the finale of ‘The Plot Against America’ will air on the day the results of the next Presidential elections are revealed. It is then that you will know what happens to America and whether families like the Levins should start packing their bags for Canada.