David Simon in The Plot Against America’s Grim Finale

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Alvin (Anthony Boyle) in the final of the plot against America.

Alvin (Anthony Boyle) in The plot against America final.
Photo: HBO

The end of the HBO miniseries The plot against America is quite different from the ending created by Philip Roth in his novel. In both versions of the story, which imagines an alternative political history of America in World War II, Charles Lindbergh defeated President Roosevelt in the 1940 elections. Lindbergh’s nationalist and anti-Semitic positions pushed the United States toward fascism, but in Roth’s book, a combination of fate and national indignation ultimately restores democratic government and the course of history: Lindbergh’s plane mysteriously disappears without a clear explanation – Roth floats several ideas, ranging from ‘a plane crash accidental to a Nazi plan of several years – and the novel ends when the FDR is re-elected.

In the adaptation of David Simon, the ending is more focused and more ambiguous. In the finale, which aired Monday night, Simon and his writing partner Ed Burns rope the young American Jewish head-to-head Alvin Levin (Anthony Boyle) in a conspiracy to bring down Lindbergh’s plane, the attaching more closely to the great political mechanisms of history. But Simon was not comfortable giving his adaptation the same clean, restorative conclusion that Roth ended up with. The series ends just before the election results are announced, leaving the audience on the verge of a historic turning point that never falls in one way or another. The finale also adds an element of deprivation of voting rights that was missing from Roth’s novel, making the election results even more unfair and uncertain.

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