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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The plantations of the south are nothing less than black breeding
farms. Gigantic bordellos, sanctioned, maintained and perpetuated by a
degenerate aristocracy which rides roughshod over the Christian beliefs
of the few - the very few - southern yeomen whose voices cry out in
faint futile protest against these crazed satyrs..." (Virgilia Hazard
at Philadelphia, excerpt from her speech derived from the novel by John
I begin my review on Episode Three of NORTH AND SOUTH with these harsh words as they appear to be the key for understanding the extreme point of view of some abolitionist fanatics, who, undoubtedly, fanned the flame of hate against the south. Both the novel and the TV series stress this aspect considerably. In the novel, it is beautifully depicted elsewhere when Jefferson Davis contrasts George and Orry's reasonable approach with the fanatics saying: ""There are too many extremists on both sides these days. We need more voices like yours." On the one hand, there is friendship, there is tolerance between the families of the Hazards and the Mains, there is love growing among the youngest (Billy and Brett). On the other hand, there is a radical point of view that meets acceptance and, in the long run, creates the ground for nation's supreme wounds.
Does Virgilia refer to all plantations down the south? Does Mont Royal manifest the features of a 'black breeding farm?' Is Orry Main a 'degenerate aristocrat?' That would, perhaps, refer more to Resolute where Justin LaMotte treats his wife as a prisoner of his own lusts, forbids her to help the pregnant slaves and whips her disgustingly at the place of her secret love meetings. But Mont Royal? These dilemmas appear in Orry who, out of politeness, sits among the audience (difference from the novel where, actually, it is ONLY George who listens to Virgilia's over-emotional speech). These dilemmas might have arisen in the minds of northerners while listening to their fanatical sister. In spite of some positive facts that lead to promising future of the two families, including Orry's role of the best man at the wedding of George and Constance, a prospect of a mutual business through the Hazard and Main Textile Mills run by George and Orry at Charleston (South Carolina), the pleasant stay of the Mains at Lehigh Station, discrepancies of lifestyles and viewpoints get wider. Why? The answer lies in extreme viewpoints that put aside anything which is not theirs. With reference to another excerpt from the novel, I would like to quote an interesting question: "How many of them (abolitionists) preached hate instead of common sense?" That is an aspect worth consideration not only in case of this particular history but in case of every situation where fanatical beliefs raise their voices. Consequently, peaceful co-existence is in huge jeopardy.
Episode Three shows us adult Orry and George (in the novel, they are adolescent at West Point in the mid-1840s). The action now takes place in the early 1850s. Having been tested severely as soldiers on the battlefield, they are now being tested as the heads of great family enterprises. Orry's father, strict and old-fashioned Tillet Main, dies and Orry becomes the sole heir to Mont Royal (some immediate decisions indeed meet some outrageous rebel). George, as the eldest son, starts to run the Hazard Iron (his mother, no longer relying on younger Stanley, grants the right to George after the terrible accident that takes place at the foundry). Apart from this, both of them are surely left with one common challenge: dealing with siblings...
Episode Three introduces some interesting characters that will play a decisive role in developing storyline. These are predominantly Orry's sisters, Ashton and Brett - or rather Ashton versus Brett. The differences between them get more and more striking. Besides, it is Congressman Sam Green (David Ogden Stiers) - calm, restrained man of caliber taken with Virgilia's appealing power of expression. He clearly shows interest in her person but, her reaction to his attempts is nothing but suspicious and pretty vague. Another character, who is described in the novel already as a kid but who appears in the series as a young man is Cousin Charles (Lewis Stone). He is first ignored by the Mains but in time shows the courage and dignity of a true southern gentleman in the most unpredictable course of events... Among the Hazards, a mention must be made of Stanley (interesting performance by Jonathan Frakes) and his low-spirited wife Isabel Truscott Hazard (underrated performance by Wendy Fulton). Finally, it is Billy (John Stockwell), the youngest Hazard who will make friends with Charles and both will make decision that no one would have foretold.
The memorable scenes of Episode Three include:
- Priam (David Harris) being allowed to escape up north by Orry (on George's request). It is actually one of the most powerful moments in the novel. Does Orry break the southern law or does he merely resort to a token of loyalty within friendship?
- Virgilia's aforementioned speech at Philadelphia (Kirstie Alley plays with all her inner self);
- an erotic but subtly handled love scene of Orry and Madeline;
- George and Constance's wedding - for some a 'joy' for other a 'disgrace;'
- Orry consoling his mother, Clarissa Main after Tillet's death (one of the most beautiful scenes well crafted by Jean Simmons and Patrick Swayze - sorrow, sweetness and intense emotions are nicely combined with subtlety);
- the Mains' visit at the Hazards' at Lehigh Station with some humorous moments of a flirting tigress (Ashton) and a gentle dove (Brett).
Discrepancies and rifts get more widespread and yet, that does not stop the friendship have its younger followers within the families. The 'north' and the 'south' are united by mutual visits. Will they, consequently, result in development?
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