It’s time to focus on the marital struggles of the ladies, which existed even before their husbands became president.
|Directed By||Susanne Bier|
|Written By||Jennifer Westfeldt, Hunt Baldwin, Ellen Fairey, Cathy Schulman, Aaron Cooley|
|Introduced This Episode|
|Clara||Patrice Johnson Chevannes|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
I Almost Forgot Who I Was (Eleanor) – Eleanor, Lucy, Franklin, Sara, Hick
While there was never a time Eleanor wasn’t using her intellect to further causes and give speeches, there did come a point where she seemed to forget her power as a Roosevelt. It came soon after discovering Franklin was having an affair with Eleanor’s secretary Lucy. Learning of his affair inspired Eleanor to seek a divorce, but it was 1918 and not as common as now so Sara was hearing nothing of a divorce or the tarnishing of the family name. So, she coerced the two to stay together unless they wanted to end up destitute.
Punished for wanting to keep her dignity, Eleanor decided she would live with Franklin but not sleep in the same bed, which seemingly would limit what their marriage would mean beyond the possibility of friendship. This is why when Eleanor first met Hick and started to enjoy her time in Greenwich Village, it was a bit of a jumpstart to find like-minded individuals. Especially since she had been praised for how capable she was all her life, yet her sex has long made her executing her capabilities limited.
Fairness Isn’t Just About The Court System (Michelle) – Michelle, Barack, Susan
Raising children is a struggle, but when your husband is a bit more dedicated to politics and helping others outside your home, it makes the task even more challenging. Hence, Michelle wants to be supportive of Barack being a State senator yet also makes sure he recognizes they have bills and other responsibilities increasingly on her.
But, in time, they come to see eye to eye. When Sasha has bacterial meningitis, the same hospital Michelle’s dad was dying in, she finds herself with her daughter, and nothing has really changed. Well, besides her having to tier insurance which made it so, rather than wait 5 hours to see a doctor, it was maybe ten or so minutes, based on what we see on screen.
This bothers Michelle, and she just so happens to run into Susan, the head of the hospital, after Sasha is better and Michelle brought thank you gifts for the nurse who attended to Sasha. Their conversation over Michelle’s complaints is what led Michelle to leave her corporate job to work in healthcare and get on a parallel track to Barack when it comes to providing a public service.
A Path Not Taken (Betty) – Clara, Betty, Jerry
Settling is a tough thing to ask most people to do. However, it is an easier decision when the thing you want, in Betty’s case, to be a dancer, doesn’t become a dream that could be brought into reality. When she was younger, she tried to go to New York and make it, but the failure was humbling and took down her confidence. So, after marrying Jerry, being a housewife seeming wasn’t so bad.
However, he was often away, and even with Clara, who was hired to help, it wasn’t enough to handle 4 kids. After all, Clara wasn’t always there, and it’s not like these were nice and quiet children. One liked to blast rock music, another had an alligator as a pet they never cared for, and always being outnumbered led to incidents. Be it burnt food, accidentally breaking a window and getting hurt, or nearly having a breakdown – partly due to a drug and alcohol cocktail.
It was all too much, but, unlike Eleanor and Michelle, we don’t see how Eleanor got over.
Things To Note
What Could Happen Next
- Like in episode 1, we see more of how the kids came into play, but once they were no longer dependent on their parents.
What is really pushing Betty to the forefront to me is that there is a real sense of struggle for her. Eleanor has a name to back her, and she was born rich. So as much as you feel bad for her husband cheating on her, you know she’ll be alright. Then with Michelle, she is highly educated and has a job that pays more than her husband. And even though she had a humble upbringing, it was in a two-parent household, with one older brother, so even if not rich monetarily, she was in terms of family.
Betty? She didn’t have that. The way it seems, she was not close to her mother, hence her first husband. She tried to follow her dreams, but they deflated, so she returned home. She worked hard to become a buyer at a store and got passed over. In many ways, she has this underdog story that hooks you and seeing her overwhelmed with the kids only furthers you feeling for her and all she endures.
On The Fence
The Varying Ways Marital Struggles And Solutions Were Shown
While I get the point of the episode was showing the marital strife of each relationship, before the ladies’ husbands became president, it didn’t get executed in a way to really have the impact needed. Eleanor bursting into tears and dashing out of the room was one of the most awkward scenes featuring Eleanor Roosevelt on this show. Betty’s issue was just her husband not being there, and he wasn’t called out on it, and Barack? Honestly, sometimes I feel like they play it safe when it comes to Barack and Michelle.
Why? Well, for one, both are still alive. But also, I do sometimes wonder if, with Michelle calling Barack negro as often as she does, if they don’t want to take it too far. I mean, in general, the show leans towards being respectful and doesn’t really try to villainize Franklin D. Roosevelt as much as it does his mother. However, something about Barack and Michelle feels weird. Like they don’t know how to show Barack’s flaws without making Michelle look like the mean sitcom mom in the process. So they keep trying to figure a way to make it so his charm doesn’t make Michelle look bad, but they haven’t gotten the formula right.