Follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War - New England abolitionist Mary Phinney and Confederate supporter Emma Green.Follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War - New England abolitionist Mary Phinney and Confederate supporter Emma Green.Follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War - New England abolitionist Mary Phinney and Confederate supporter Emma Green.
The basic premise is simple: a widowed woman is sent to become head nurse at a military hospital converted from a hotel in Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia. On top of this premise, the show's writers have piled enough dramatic crises and neurotic characters to populate a full soap opera. Everyone is constantly shouting at each other and plotting behind each other's backs.
Given the setting, conflict and friction is understandable, and of course a drama needs, well, drama. But with only six episodes, they've created enough plot lines to easily fill a US-standard 22-episode season, if not more. Everything is just so busy that the only way we learn anything about the characters is through their conflicts. Calm moments are few and far between. Most performances border on scenery- chewing, except of course when they jump well past that border.
That said, there are a number of things to enjoy. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, always a treat, seems so comfortable with the trappings of the period you'd think she was born into it. Donna Murphy is exquisite as the quintessential Southern matriarch, turning borderline overacting into a virtue. Tara Summers has channeled all the snarky disdain of Alan Rickman while Jack Falahee is the spitting image in looks and charm of a young Johnny Depp. Gary Cole, one of the few cast members not constantly gnaw at the walls, adds just enough temper to his usual near-deadpan dryness to be a realistic Southern businessman trying to hold onto what little he has left after the Union takes everything.
The real surprise, though, is Josh Radnor. If you've only seen him in How I Met Your Mother, you'd have no idea that he's capable of the quietly powerful performance he turns in here. Yes, he does spend a lot of time chomping on the set, but he balances that with more subtle moments that reveal significant talent he hasn't had much opportunity to utilize. In many ways, he reminds me of Mandy Patinkin in his younger days.
Ultimately, the show is entertaining enough to be worth watching if you like fictionalized history. Just don't expect more from it than it is.
- Feb 28, 2016