Julia Roberts plays the role of Martha Mitchell, the First Lady of the United States in the Watergate Scandal of the early 1970s. Martha had insider information on everything going on behind the scenes at the White House, being married to one of Richard Nixon’s closest advisors.
She was considered a liability to the Nixon administration because her psychological instability prevented her from keeping her mouth shut about what she knew.
Julia Roberts: The Watergate Scandal Martha Mitchell
The Watergate Scandal Martha Mitchell. In Gaslit, Starz’s new retelling of the Watergate conspiracy, it’s no surprise that G. Gordon Liddy is the first to grab the mic. History isn’t written by the Julia Roberts The Watergate Scandal Martha Mitchell.
Julia Roberts: The Watergate Scandal Martha Mitchell. In Gaslit, Starz’s new retelling of the Watergate conspiracy, it’s no surprise that G. Gordon Liddy is the first to grab the mic. History isn’t written by the In Gaslit, Starz’s new retelling of the Watergate conspiracy, it’s no surprise that G.
For Watergate buffs, here’s what we learned from the first episode of Gaslit
What were the stakes for Nixon? And why did so many of his closest aides decide to act as if he didn’t exist? In the first episode, we learned that even early on, the President’s men saw Watergate as a threat to their reputation.
Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Dean (Jamie Kennedy) had everything to lose. Their jobs weren’t in immediate danger—the House Committee investigation was just getting started—but they knew if Nixon wasn’t re-elected, their careers would be over.
Gaslit imagines that Haldeman and Ehrlichman became increasingly desperate, and it’s easy to see why. [For Watergate buffs, here’s what we learned from the first episode of Gaslit]:
When you’ve spent your entire career working for someone who seems incapable of knowing when to shut up, you learn not to trust him. At least that’s what some people seem to have concluded during Richard Nixon’s presidency; there are signs by late 1971 that Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Dean aren’t taking his conspiracy theories seriously anymore.
They don’t like or respect each other but they know it’s in their best interest not to challenge one another too much or let anyone else get close enough to hear them disagreeing with one another.
But do they care about saving Nixon? On one hand, Gaslit suggests that these three believe saving themselves is all that matters. That’s how things work in Washington D.C., after all—it’s about protecting yourself and those around you.
On the other hand, there may be something deeper at play here—these guys may want to save Nixon because their political careers are tied up with his success.
Though I thought Gaslit got off to a slow start, I liked where it ended up. It made me more interested in learning more about these characters’ motivations and what happened next — though perhaps that was partly due to my unfamiliarity with all things Watergate.
As Julia Roberts said, We wanted to tell an entertaining story…and if we can educate at the same time, great! Let’s hope future episodes continue focusing on how hard everyone worked behind closed doors — including our main characters — trying to make sure no one ever found out Nixon did bug his own office!
Most TV shows start strong before eventually losing steam and then ending abruptly (we’re looking at you, How I Met Your Mother). I think that might happen here as well. While there were a few things in Gaslit’s first episode that surprised me — like how quickly Nixon was removed from office and how far some of his aides went to cover up their crimes — it was mostly what I expected.
That said, I’m still interested in seeing more episodes because Gaslit is smartly written, acted, and directed. It’s also visually interesting; between all of those split screens and its use of real footage from President Nixon’s era, it has a very distinctive look.