The First Lady season 1 episode 1 recap & review: That White House

Season 1 episode 1 of the drama series The First Lady introduces the First Ladies: Michelle Obama, Betty Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt, highlighting their experiences while being in the shadow of their husbands. It is now streaming on Showtime.

Recap

The First Lady opens with the camera shuttering on Michelle Obama’s face, while the camerawoman reiterates that she is more interested in her than her husband, Barack Obama. Susanne Bier introduces the First Ladies — Michelle Obama, Betty Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt — by giving us a glimpse of their experience during the official portrait ceremony that presidential candidates and their spouses have to go through.

Cut to Chicago, 2008, Michelle Obama, with her children, is waiting for Barack Obama to return after defeating the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona. Once he arrives, the presence of an ambulance among the enormous security startles Michelle.

For the first time, an African-American is elected President of the United States. Citizens, especially African-Amerian citizens, are shown to be overjoyed and in tears.

While on a tour of the White House, Michelle comes across a racist piece of art, where slavery is normalised. Laura Bush (former First Lady) reassures Michelle that she has a say in what goes up as decor.

Cut to Alexandria, 1973, Spiro Agnew resigns as the Vice President while Gerald Ford is chosen to replace him. This disappoints Betty Ford as she had planned things differently for her and her family. Gerald promises Betty that her plans would be in motion soon.

Next up, the Roosevelts are shown to be having a good time in Campobello Island, in 1921, as Franklin Roosevelt mentions his defeat in his bid for the vice presidency.

Soon, Franklin Roosevelt contracts polio and suffers, while Eleanor has a flashback of losing her mother at a very young age as she witnesses her father grieve her mother and send her away to stay with her grandmother.

Back to the Fords, Betty announces that she has been seeing a psychiatrist and that her husband has been very supportive of her. She also touches upon the tiring routine of a housewife.

Eleanor Roosevelt is as resilient as Franklin Roosevelt as he tries to get back up on his feet in order to succeed in his political career. 

Six years after the murder of Martin Luther King, his mother is shot in 1974 while she plays the organ during a Sunday service inside her safe haven of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Betty Ford and her daughter show up to pay tribute to the deceased against the wishes of the administration.

In 2007, Michelle Obama is elected as the VP of Community Affairs. She makes it clear that Barack’s campaign for presidentship is separate from her goals in life.

Michelle’s world is rocked by the risks associated with her husband’s political aspirations. Michelle and Barack stand in their kitchen, recently vacated by the secret service, coming to terms with their reality.

Eleanor Roosevelt is pushed by everyone in the administration to follow a set of rules while she takes her own pace. As she resumes to give out her administrative suggestions, it is brought to her notice that her position is that of the First Lady. She clarifies with much disappointment that the First Lady is not a job in the administration as she demanded but her circumstance.

The episode ends with the Fords having an argument, where Betty is unhappy with her situation as Gerald breaks the news that he is to take the presidency of the United States soon. In spite of being frustrated with the development, Betty chooses to support Gerald through his political career, with the condition being that she gets to be herself and speak her mind.

Review

  • The timeline shift is hectic to keep up with as there is no apparent chronology followed and the audience has to travel back and forth twelve times.
  • A commendable performance is given by Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson.
  • The family dynamics portrayed is realistic and makes it easier for the audience to relate to. It brought out how the people of administration are humane too.

Rating: 3.5/5


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