The Green family resents the commandeering of their home for a Union ball, but then Emma’s beau Frank offers a startling plan. While Emma and Alice divert the Union officers with their feminine charms, Frank will help Tom escape from the hospital. Meanwhile, Dr. Foster attempts to recover from his morphine addiction. But when a patient needs his help, will he be sober enough to work?
As Mercy Street enters the second half of its season, the show finally begins to hit its stride. Instead of trying to juggle all its characters at once, it chooses a few to focus on –Aurelia, Dr. Foster, and Tom–and manages to interweave the stories of the others into these larger stories. Once the show chooses its focus, it finds the freedom to delve more deeply into its characters and begin to make them come alive.
Previously I complained that the show seems hesitant to address the true nature of the horrors it depicts. Slavery, PTSD, rape, addiction, and more have been depicted on the show, sometimes with sympathy and nuance, sometimes more glancingly. But in this episode the show seems determined to delve into this issues without holding back. By the end, the tragedy of war is apparent and the sorrows and horrors of racism, poverty, and abuse all too clear. This episode was heartbreaking. And it should have been. This is war and it isn’t pretty.
I hope that Mercy Street continues in this trend, showing how the war changed individuals and the lengths people would go to in order to survive. There is passion and sorrow and joy and love in the lives of these people–and they can make a story that would be unforgettable.