Sunday, April 24, 2022

REVIEW: 'Gaslit' - Martha Mitchell Refuses to Be Silent Despite What the Nixon Administration Wants From Her in 'Will'

Starz's Gaslit - Episode 1.01 "Will"

Martha Mitchell struggles to balance the demands of a re-election campaign with that of her marriage. John Dean's ambition as White House Counsel is tested as he finds himself drawn unknowingly into a conspiracy inside Nixon's re-election campaign.

"Will" was written by Robbie Pickering and directed by Matt Ross

Martha Mitchell will not be silenced. She won't take on the role of supportive wife who is quiet to showcase how she agrees with everything her husband believes. She has her own opinions. She will speak on them. The public appreciates her. She provides an insight into the Nixon administration. Several people in D.C. recognize her as one of the few honest people in this ugly business. She is a Republican but will speak out if there is a policy decision she doesn't agree with. That aggravates the various members of the administration who want her to toe the company line. Nixon is incredibly popular at this specific moment. He will sail through to re-election. And yet, so many people are full of worry and dread. The poll numbers could shift at any moment. Anti-war sentiment is only getting stronger. That appears as the one campaign promise he hasn't kept. The war in Vietnam continues. Martha worries every day for her son serving overseas. She also dreams of the life she once had with her husband. They were happier when he was in private practice. He could run his own law firm while still making time for his family. And now, they are public figures. The world has been invited into their marriage. Martha believes she has a responsibility to respond to questions. She enjoys the attention. The journalists love having someone speak candidly with them. She can be a very valuable source. She refuses to adjust to the way this town operates. John Mitchell has no problem wielding the power he now has to achieve his own personal goals. Martha acknowledges how government functions as a battle between warring personalities. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger both want the other to get in line behind their vision for the country. Everyone is incredibly petty about who gets the most attention and praise from the public. Martha steps into that role quite easily. It infuriates Pat Nixon. She will stage events just so it conflicts with Martha's schedule. Martha then has to adjust because she can't be more important than the First Lady. She recognizes that succession of importance. However, she won't dim her light just because others project more importance onto themselves. She is deserving of her own fulfilling world. She had it for so long. It has only gotten more complicated by delving into politics. She and John no longer resemble the young couple madly in love they once more. John Dean and Mo Kane aren't a couple. Yet Martha can see a reflection of the past in them. She yearns for that even though it can never be achieved again.

All of this sets up the conflict coming on the horizon. Individuals within the Attorney General's office are plotting to illegally monitor and steal from the Democrats to secure Nixon's re-election. John Mitchell is the head of the re-election committee. The judiciary is not seen as independent. It's all an arm of the administration. That extends to the campaign now as well. John Dean idolizes the job he has. He is proud of the job the administration has already done. He can tout the various accomplishments. However, he has never met the President. He is barely a power player in this world. He simply provides legal advice in the hopes of providing clarity on the various developments happening in the country. Mitchell views him as the perfect man to head up this espionage unit. Dean even brings in Gordon Liddy to pitch ideas. These people are complicit in a crime. They view it all as necessary to maintain their hold on power. They can't let anything jeopardize the good they are apparently doing. All it takes is a play to ego for Dean to go along. He just needs to know that the President recognizes his talents. That's enough to keep him from examining the immorality too closely. He is ready to turn in his letter of resignation. He fails to do so simply because Mitchell isn't in the office and a note praising Dean is on his desk. Great things can be accomplished if Dean simply sticks it out. He can envision that so clearly. Of course, he becomes just as entangled as everyone else who indulges in this blatant corruption to maintain power. It doesn't matter that he has a burgeoning connection with Mo. She sees him as an inherently good person. He cares about the people around him even though he frequently comes across as crass. He spies on her. He hopes it's charming. It does win a second date. That's more of the appeal of meeting Martha Mitchell. She is the celebrity meant to be observed up close. She is the one bravely doing what's right for the country. So many people believe they are acting in inherently patriotic ways. The moments that open and close this episode are all about epic displays of masculinity as defined by Gordon. He views strength and endurance as the true test of a man. Because he can endure so much and is excited by uncertainty, he is viewed as the noble lead meant for greatness. He does live on in infamy for his actions at the Watergate hotel. That's the slimmed down version of his master plan. It still gets the approval of the Attorney General. That sign off for surveillance is treated so casually. Yet Martha still has that glint in her eye upon reading the document over her husband's shoulder. People are intrigued. That doesn't mean they are doing the right thing.