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The First Lady Episode 1 review: Viola Davis starrer anthology series has a lot of potential but fails to strike a chord with you

Created by Aaron Cooley, the series also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Gillian Anderson, O. T. Fagbenle, Aaron Eckhart, Dakota Fanning, Kiefer Sutherland, Jayme Lawson, Judy Greer, Rhys Wakefield, Regina Taylor and Lily Rabe. The first episode of the drama includes narratives of three lives with shallow characterisation.

2.5rating
  • Akhila Damodaran

Last Updated: 07.42 AM, Apr 16, 2022

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The First Lady Episode 1 review: Viola Davis starrer anthology series has a lot of potential but fails to strike a chord with you

The First Lady

Story:

The ten-episode anthology series is directed by Susanne Bier who is best known for works like The Night Manager and The Undoing. As the title suggests, the story of the first episode is told from the perspectives of the first ladies - Michelle Obama (Viola Davis), Betty Ford (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Eleanor Roosevelt (Gillian Anderson).

Review:

The concept and story of the episode of The First Lady are quite interesting but despite having a strong cast and creative team, it is quite disappointing. Though the show takes a good angle, covering the stories of women behind the successes of the politicians at the White House, it, unfortunately, fails to impress. As the title suggests and mentioned earlier, the story of the episode is told from the perspectives of the first ladies - Michelle Obama (Viola Davis), Betty Ford (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Eleanor Roosevelt (Gillian Anderson).

As one episode focuses on multiple first ladies, it fails to do justice to either of them with shallow characterisations. It does not tell enough about each first lady, even though it covers almost all aspects with the stories of three women - public scrutiny, security, how men in black suits affect their personal lives, mental health, how corruption by one affects another political associate and their families and more. It just touches the surfaces of these issues and hence, fails to hit a chord with you. Even great performances by the stellar cast do not help save the episode.

The montage editing with the bits of anecdotes from the childhood of the first ladies that are intertwined into the narrative makes it lose focus. It, of course, demands your attention throughout the run with complete attention to what's going on, making it an exhaustive watch.

The show, with a feminist tone, does have a few interesting and impactful scenes. The scene where Eleanor Roosevelt realises that Franklin D Roosevelt has been diagnosed with polio and afterward, continues to help him walk with assistance and prepare him for his political campaign is quite impactful. The way she tells her mother-in-law that she is sure that he will win the presidential elections with confidence leaves a lasting impression. But these few scenes get lost in the whole episode as it does not give a chance to each woman to tell their complete story.

Had the episode of the series focussed on one First Lady at a time and not told the parallel story of three women, it could have done justice to these characters.

Verdict:

The 52-minute-long episode requires your eyes glued to the screens, totally focussed, as a miss can make the story even more confusing. One can watch it if they are fans of these Emmy and Oscar-winning actors and want to see them after a long break due to the pandemic.

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