The most intriguing (I haven’t watched Good Girls Revolt yet) of the new Amazon pilots is Z: The Beginning of Everything, a period drama about the infamous Zelda Fitzgerald. If you aren’t familiar with Amazon Pilot Season, it’s when Amazon premieres different TV pilots and then based on audience reaction decides which series will be picked up for a full season. In other words, you have the power! With less than 30 minutes to hook you, Z is off to a promising start and deserves a full season pickup. So all you period drama lovers (who also love books) – this is the show for you. Check this out – and then if you like it (if you don’t – well just do the rest of us hopeful fans a favor and keep it to yourself!) make your voice heard and let Amazon know.
Z: The Beginning of Everything tells a somewhat fictionalized account of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the iconic ‘20s flapper, writer, dancer and wife of The Great Gatsby’s F Scott Fitzgerald – an unusual concept for a TV Series, but one I rather appreciate. Most bio stories are presented as feature films or miniseries, so it will be fascinating to see how this works as a full episodic series.
The pilot is mainly from Zelda’s perspective – this is her story after all. The story picks up in 1918, right before she meets future husband F. Scott Fitzgerald. She feels bored in her role as Southern Belle and rebels against the conservative control of her father (played by the Oscar-nominated David Strathairn). She goes out dancing at night, runs wild and goes skinny-dipping. She even kisses soldiers (it is during World War I) for anyone to see. She’s spontaneous, witty and longs for a life outside of Montgomery, Alabama.
Ricci shines in the part and perfectly captures the essence of Zelda and all her wildness and charm.
Christina Ricci is perfectly cast in the lead role (she’s also a producer) and pulls off the teenage Zelda with surprising youthfulness (considering Ricci is in her ‘30s and looks the same she did 15 years ago I say props to her) and charisma. No doubt, if the series is picked up, Zelda will continue to age – making Ricci more appropriate for the role. Still, Ricci shines in the part and perfectly captures the essence of Zelda and all her wildness and charm. You’ll find yourself easily rooting for Zelda, even if she is a little bit selfish.
Gavin Stenhouse as F. Scott Fitzgerald appears only briefly in the pilot, but he’s in it long enough to make an impression. Stenhouse has an intellectual aura fitting to Fitzgerald and it’s easy to believe his instant attraction to Zelda – especially after meeting some well-intentioned but ill-educated young women in a funny scene. History wise, we know that this relationship will quickly become toxic, but it’s certain to be an entertaining and even quite the romantic ride.
Besides the performances and romance, the writing is mostly clever and well-paced with a lot of potential for a full blown out series. I also appreciated the female aspect of the series. There are a lot of women in this pilot and many conversations about more than just boys. Fans of L.M. Montgomery may appreciate the very Anne Shirley and Emily Byrd Starr schoolgirl type scenes with fun dialogue between Zelda and her best friend.
This is a pilot, however, and the series does have a bit to improve on. Some of the “period” feel of the series isn’t always quite right for the time period. The dialogue, for instance, could be a little stronger in relation to Southern period conversing. I also think it should run as an hour-long drama series rather than in half hour segments. But this is the pilot, so it has plenty of time to work out any minor kinks.
Overall, I rather enjoyed this romantic period drama series. While it’s not perfect, there’s enough magic, wit, gorgeous costumes, period romance and memorable performances to leave you wanting more. I know if Amazon picked this up, I’d binge watch it in a heartbeat. There aren’t enough good period drama TV series or female driven series out there – and this one works as both.
Content Note: The episode is TV-14 (even though it claims to be TV-M when you press play) for briefly showing some nudity when Zelda goes skinny dipping. It’s mostly shown in the shadows and is not overly explicit.
“You had me at hello.”
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