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The Kennedys

January 25th, 2012 | Posted by Annette in Movies | Perspectives | Reviews

This is a three disk col­lec­tion con­tain­ing a total of eight episodes, each about 45 min­utes in length. Over all the series is very well done. I give it five stars. There might be a quib­ble here or there with a few his­tor­i­cal details, but noth­ing too dra­matic. I was, how­ever, dis­ap­pointed by how many things were not included. The last two episodes in par­tic­u­lar rush through some of the most impor­tant his­tor­i­cal events dur­ing JFK’s pres­i­dency. I would liked to have seen this as a ten episode series, but I guess it’s bet­ter to be left want­ing more, rather than less.

Below is a syn­op­sis of each episode, which may con­tain spoilers.

Episode One: Joe’s Revenge Hour I: This first disk is where we meet the fam­ily. We quickly learn that Joe Kennedy had early aspi­ra­tions for the pres­i­dency, but loses the oppor­tu­nity through mis­takes he made as ambas­sador. In his stead, Joe Junior plans to ful­fill his father’s dream. Obvi­ously that doesn’t hap­pen and the oblig­a­tion falls to Jack.

Episode Two: Joe’s Revenge Hour II: Jack has just been elected pres­i­dent, but is still liv­ing under his father’s thumb. In flash­backs we learn that Jack had no ini­tial aspi­ra­tion to become pres­i­dent. He cam­paigns with­out heart to please his father until he finally finds his voice. It’s a beau­ti­ful moment, and I found myself wish­ing I had been there. The flaws of the Kennedy fam­ily are por­trayed in var­i­ous roles, par­tic­u­larly that of unfaith­ful husbands.

Episode Three: Us Against Them: This is the episode where Jack makes his famous big blun­der, the Bay of Pigs. It opens just before the inau­gu­ra­tion. Rose Kennedy asks her daughter-in-law, Jackie, who has recently had a baby, what she will wear to the inau­gu­ra­tion. Jackie men­tions that she has eight weeks to get her fig­ure back, and Rose snubs her by say­ing that it only took her four. (Oh, to be a woman.) We also see Joe Senior’s influ­ence con­tinue. Joe insists that Bobby become Attor­ney Gen­eral.  Jack tells his father that Bobby doesn’t want to be Attor­ney Gen­eral, and Joe responds, “Well, I want it for him.” And that’s that.

Episode Four: Who’s In Charge Here: Joe dab­bles in the mob with both feet out of the pond. As Attor­ney Gen­eral, clean-cut Bobby attacks the mob head-on. Sound like trou­ble? It is. Once again the pres­i­dency becomes off-limits to Joe, all the while the Berlin Wall goes up. Jack con­tin­ues to bat­tle health prob­lems, par­tic­u­larly the old injuries he sus­tained dur­ing World War II.

Episode Five: Life Sen­tences: The civil rights move­ment is in full swing, though it isn’t swing­ing smooth. Lin­don John­son seems to be the only cab­i­net mem­ber able to com­mu­ni­cate with south­ern politi­cians. As the pres­i­dency pre­pares to sup­port James Meredith’s enroll­ment at Old Miss, as ordered by the Supreme Court, Joe suf­fers a debil­i­tat­ing stroke. The fam­ily mem­bers are left reel­ing as they try to cope with their unre­solved feel­ings. Rose, in par­tic­u­lar, is bur­dened by trou­bling mem­o­ries. Simul­ta­ne­ously, law and order dis­solve in Mis­souri as a near civil war atmos­phere engulfs the uni­ver­sity and threat­ens the state.

Episode Six: The Brink: Jack’s indis­cre­tions cause Jackie deep pain. She takes a trip to Vir­ginia with the chil­dren just before the Cuban Mis­sel cri­sis begins. Ten­sions run high as the entire cab­i­net works together to pre­vent dis­as­ter. This is truly JFK’s finest moment, and true to form, Bobby is con­tin­u­ously at his side. Ethel and Jackie have a can­did con­ver­sa­tion, and Jackie returns to the White House as Jack brings the coun­try safely through what could have eas­ily become a nuclear war.

Episode Seven: Lancer and Lace: The episode opens with Wal­ter Cronkite telling the world that the pres­i­dent is dead. The rest of the episode leads up to that point. Jack’s affair with Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe is ref­er­enced, and as usual, Bobby is stuck clean­ing up the mess. Jack com­mits more defin­i­tively to Jackie prior to the assas­si­na­tion, which is left to the imag­i­na­tion, or mem­ory, and the fam­i­lies reac­tion to Jack’s death is explored.

Episode Eight: Bobby picks up where Jack left off, pro­tect­ing Jackie as if she were a blood rel­a­tive. Jackie even­tu­ally remar­ries, stat­ing the need to keep her chil­dren safe. Bobby is deter­mined to carry on in pol­i­tics, and becomes a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. When the polls show him out of favor he turns to his mother for polit­i­cal back­ing. He begins to rise in the polls only to be assas­si­nated a short time later. As he is dying he asks Ethel, “Was any­one else hurt?” And that’s the end of Bobby. With such a grue­some end to the tale, the episode closes by going through some enthu­si­as­tic scenes that leave the viewer feel­ing like every­thing is fine.


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