An inspection at the hospital excites Nurse Hastings as she vies for greater power, but causes Dr. Summers great anxiety as he tries to hide the escape of a Confederate prisoner. Meanwhile, the Green family struggle to maintain their position in the community while remaining loyal to the Confederate cause, and Sam finds himself in danger when he tries to protect Aurelia.
In the penultimate episodes of the series, Mercy Street finally begins to brim with the excitement, drama, and emotion that a show set in a Civil War hospital ought to contain. The characters no longer seem like stock pieces–the abolitionist, the Southern belle, etc.–but like flesh and blood. They have been wronged and wounded and betrayed, they have struggled to find the meaning in war and violence, they have asked themselves where they stand. And the disparate threads of the show finally being to come together.
I still wish that Mercy Street would focus more on it patients. The wounded men lie around like scenery when the show is presumably about them, through the eyes of the nurses. After all, shouldn’t a nurse be interacting with and affected by her charges? How does Mary find so much time to make tea, to start new hygiene initiatives, and to have tete-a-tetes with Dr. Foster? When does she actually attend to the men? Showing her talking to one now and then simply does not represent the nursing experience.
Aside from this quibble, however, I find that the show is beginning to find its voice. The Green family are facing tough realities. Dr. Foster and Mary are finding respect for each other. And Sam and Aurelia are experiencing the terrible reality of being black in 1860s America. The show sometimes seems afraid to look at racism and slavery. In this episode, Mercy Street acknowledges America’s bloody past.
It is a shame that the show took so long to understand what it could be. However, if the series is renewed, I think that Mercy Street is set up to be in a good place. With fewer threads to keep track of, the show is more cohesive and thus more powerful. If it continues to look at history head-on, it will find all the drama it could wish.