Retrospective: Z: The Beginning of Everything

The Roaring Twenties offered some of the publishing industry’s greatest successes. From this large pool of talent, America has fixated on its ex-patriots especially. Our cultural admiration for the Ernest Hemingway and the Scott Fitzgerald we learned in schools goes a long way. Then we became adults and realized there was more to the story. Books started coming out about their wives, their editors (please read “Max Perkins: Editor of Genius”), and their associates, and plenty of movies, too. Every four or five months we’ll get a book with an alternative take on one of America’s favorite subjects: the lives of ex-patriots. Recently we have received Another Side of Paradise, a fictional piece about one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s affairs. What better time to revisit this great series on Zelda then?

Last year Amazon released a high-quality series on the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. From all the reading I’ve done around the Fitzgeralds’ circle, she has always stood out as a caustic bright light. It was from her letters that Scott formed so many of his most meaningful manuscripts. It’s evident there is a big cultural hunger right now (see the sales figures) for even-handed takes on the wives’ stories. We want to see the women behind the great men. In a time where we make women visible and put them in the center, we want to do the same for our past.

Z: The Beginning of Everything

I’m a bit late to this series. I had given it a few shakes before and never caught on with it. In that time, Z’s been renewed and then canceled before it ever got back off the ground. The thing is I now adore this series. It is genuinely for me. Before its untimely exit from streaming, it was only able to build a solid foundation. It’s quite a remarkable and well-told foundation at that.

We have Christina Ricci playing Zelda, going all the way with the Southern Belle charm. She’s incredible for the role. She can range from charming to schizophrenic, depending on what’s called of her character moment-by-moment. We already know how it’ll end—how Scott will go and the way she’ll die in the fire of mental hospital. But before then, we get to see how brightly and furiously the couple lived. Scott is represented well by a confident David Hoflin. We see his inner turmoil around the relationship; everything between these two is readable in the acting. These are performances with excellent subtext about them.

Z: The Beginning of Everything

We only get ten episodes for everything to begin and end. It’s a mad dash toward an unceremonious ending. The story of Zelda’s own writing is that it just didn’t sell on its own. She could be Scott’s muse but when Scribner’s went to publish her own book—”Save Me the Waltz,” a semi-autobiographical account of her relationship with Scott—the public wasn’t hungry enough. The book market’s proven that’s not true and with the success of “Z: The Beginning of Everything” by Therese Anne Powler—on which this series is based—it seemed that now was the time. I think it still is the time. While the show has been unceremoniously canceled, the book still has so much more to say that hasn’t made it in.

Mostly I’m writing to implore you to give the show some attention. The only rotten thing that could happen will be only getting one season. This show takes a deep dive into Zelda’s family, Scott’s alcoholism, their promiscuity, and the time when “This Side of Paradise” was being written. What an absolute shame we get nothing of the Paris years and “The Great Gatsby” (that’s what you’re here for right?)—except all the foundations that would go to inspire it.

Z: The Beginning of Everything

This is the right time and place for Z. I sincerely hope Amazon comes around on this in the future.


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