Amazon released the first season of “Z: The Beginning of Everything” on Friday Jan. 27, an adaptation of Therese Anne Fowler’s novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.
The series makes creative use of some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous quotes and references throughout many of his literary works, cataloguing the relationship between Zelda Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald as one of the literary world’s most famous couples. As the title implies, this series does not focus on F. Scott Fitzgerald—instead, it centers on his wife, Zelda.
The series opens in Montgomery, Alabama in 1920, where we see Zelda Fitzgerald as a feisty young woman. Zelda Fitzgerald regularly disobeys her father, attends dances with soldiers and spends time with her friends. Her desire to get out of Alabama, to find a man with whom she can communicate with on an intellectual level and to break out of the gender limitations placed upon her results in an obvious strain upon her relationship with her father.
When Zelda Fitzgerald meets her future husband, the audience witnesses the instant physical and intellectual connection between the two. Both Zelda Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald prove throughout the series to be impulsive and hotheaded individuals, and it is this shared recklessness that initially bonds the couple.
Quickly though, these moments end up stressing their relationship more than strengthening it. When F. Scott Fitzgerald reveals that they’re running out of money while they’re driving from New York City to Montgomery, Zelda Fitzgerald decides to speed through a toll booth, saying that she’s “trying to save some money.” All is fun and games until she hits a deer, at which point an argument breaks out between them.
The final episodes focus on the sexism that Zelda Fitzgerald faces and battles with head on. At one point, the couple is denied room at a hotel because Zelda Fitzgerald is wearing pants—a habit considered “improper” for a lady at the time. Zelda Fitzgerald comes up against these sexist expectations both in her appearance and behavior time and time again, and it is because of her nonconformity that she is remembered so well.
Zelda Fitzgerald’s struggle to find her place in a society that rejects her, however, is captivating. It is enticing to watch her retain a relationship that came to define her fame and to see as she tries to find what place she holds within her famous husband’s writing process.
When it comes to F. Scott Fitzgerald himself, though, we see a very different figure than we’re used to. Critics of the show have disapproved of the author’s apparent lack of passion in his writing and in his relationship with his wife.
But the show is centered on Zelda Fitzgerald, not F. Scott Fitzgerald, and those critics would do well to remember this. The series is instrumental in showing how it was Zelda Fitzgerald who ran emotional interference regularly for her husband. As an alcoholic and a somewhat self-destructive writer, The Great Gatsby mastermind gets himself into some tricky situations.
This series is just one amongst three new film and television stories centered on Zelda Fitzgerald and is a part of a surge in stories that work to give real historical women their dues. There’s no doubt that “Z: The Beginning of Everything” deserves to join the ranks of such recent historical movies such as Hidden Figures and Loving.
Zelda Fitzgerald was certainly a woman ahead of her time, as she was far too witty and smart to conform to the expectations of the age and place in which she lived—making her a perfect role model for today’s modern woman.