Gaslit season 1, episode 1 recap – “Will”

April 25, 2022
Jonathon Wilson 0
Starz, TV, Weekly TV
4

Summary

“Will” makes the necessary introductions without sacrificing watchability, and the premiere’s ending suggests much more absurdity will swiftly follow.

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4

Summary

“Will” makes the necessary introductions without sacrificing watchability, and the premiere’s ending suggests much more absurdity will swiftly follow.

This recap of Gaslit season 1, episode 1, “Will”, contains spoilers. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.


The first episode of Gaslit, “Will”, is very much an introduction. Yes, to the show itself – that goes without saying. But also to each of the key characters who you know, by their names or reputations or both, are going to factor into the Watergate Building break-in that is teased at the end of the episode. At times, this premiere even feels a little like moving through a dinner party, or perhaps a fundraiser to be more on-trend, and smilingly shaking hands with people who’re introduced to you one after another.

Gaslit season 1, episode 1 recap

Despite that, though, “Will” is really a game of two distinct halves. One is about Watergate’s political context, the attempts by Richard Nixon’s administration to sabotage the Democrats ahead of the re-election, and the other is about Martha Mitchell, who was well-known at the time as “the mouth of the south”, a socialite who wasn’t afraid to give her full and honest opinions on everything from Vietnam to the current administration, whether it causes her husband, Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell, problems or not.

The premiere isn’t divided down the middle, but there’s a clear shift in tone and focus when things shift from one location to another. Our way into The Committee for the Re-election of the President (abbreviated to CRP, mocked as CREEP) is through the eyes of John Dean, a junior counsel played by Dan Stevens who is willing to tolerate the idiocy and illegality of his superiors if it means he’ll get cosy with Nixon. Dean is a relatively serious POV character who must navigate what are essentially cartoons. Sean Penn is unrecognizable as Mitchell, slathered in prosthetics, and Shea Whigham’s depiction of G Gordon Liddy is scene-stealingly insane.

We get a sense, though, of Dean’s weakness, which is obviously power, or at least being close to it. His softer side comes out in his slowly burgeoning relationship with Mo (Betty Gilpin), a woman he meets through a dating service who agrees to accompany him to a Nixon fundraiser simply because she’s enamored by Martha Mitchell. “Everyone’s so evil here,” she says at one point, “I’m having so much fun.” What she doesn’t realize, at least not at first, is that this absolutely isn’t fun for Dean, who is possessed of a kind of self-loathing that manifests in what he believes is a private conversation between him and Martha’s daughter, Marty (Darby Camp).

The reason Marty is hiding in a closet smoking a cigarette is that Martha is far too occupied with her husband, who is far too occupied with Nixon. Julia Roberts is fantastic in this. She adds a human contour to a socialite who is seeing her marriage degrade before her eyes, and who is beginning to feel as if she must suppress who she is and what she feels. As the season progresses and she presumably takes on much more of a central role, it’ll be very interesting to see what Roberts, her co-stars, and the creative team of Gaslit do with this absurd, infamous pocket of American political history.

You can stream Gaslit season 1, episode 1, “Will”, exclusively on Starz.

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