Now that I have seen the entirety of the first season of Mercy Street, I thought I should update my musings on the first few episodes. Although I enjoyed the conclusion of the season, I agree with this reviewer that the plot to assassinate Lincoln was “unnecessary” and “a distraction,” not to mention grossly historically inaccurate. The incorporation of John Wilkes Booth as a conspirator came across as especially gratuitous. Why do so many Civil War movies and TV shows feel that they have to include Lincoln and Booth as characters? Obviously, they are important in telling the story of the Civil War, but Booth, at least, is rather cliché at this point, unless the film deals with the actual assassination of Lincoln in 1865. The non-famous characters of Mercy Street carry the show quite well on their own, and their struggles, temptations, and trials provide ample compelling material for the viewer.
In Episode 5, a number of simmering conflicts erupt into full-blown antagonism, including that between free African American Samuel Diggs and the hospital steward and that between Confederate-sympathizing James Green and the Union officers who have been doggedly insisting that he sign a loyalty oath. In Episode 6, tensions rise as the hospital prepares for Lincoln’s visit. The story line involving formerly enslaved Aurelia Johnson reaches some degree of resolution. The relationship between a pair of lovers is strained, and new flickers of romance appear. Although the plot to assassinate Lincoln is the heavy dramatic focus of the episode, I was pleased that the episode ended with a scene incorporating the kind of character-driven drama that Mercy Street does best – a poignant, quiet incident playing out at a lone soldier’s hospital bed.
The season finale of Mercy Street set the show up for some very interesting developments in the next season, which I hope we will see produced.