Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Mercy Street, Episode 4

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 8, 2016

Mercy Streey S1 E4 01
Alice, Emma, and Jane Green react angrily to the news that the occupying Federal officers will be using their home for a fancy ball.

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Thoughts on the fourth episode of Mercy Street, which brings us two-thirds of the way through the first season. Spoilers follow.

The mention of the recent fight at Drewry’s Bluff places this episode in the latter part of May 1862.

The death of Tom Fairfax (Cameron Monaghan) was not unexpected, but the circumstances struck me as very modern, informed by current views and concerns about veterans and mental health. I suppose that’s to be expected. The courtship between Tom Fairfax and Alice Green (AnnaSophia Robb) is fictional, as the real-life Alice died before the war, so what becomes of her character is open-ended. It will be interesting to see how Frank Stringfellow handles this event, and what he shares with Emma and Alice.

The central event of the episode is a fancy ball, held in the Green family home for the benefit of the families of U.S. soldiers. The event — which the Greens cannot well refuse — further tears at the family, who cannot understand the willingness of the family patriarch, James Green (Gary Cole), to accommodate them. Things get much more complex, though, when Jane Green (Donna Murphy) reviews the planned menu for the event and decides that, Yankee occupiers not withstanding, it’s her reputation as a hostess that’s on the line. Perhaps unwittingly, Jane’s pride in her superior southern manners and style ends up making the Federal officers’ ball a culinary success.

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Mercy Street S1 E4 02
Nurse Phinney, Dr. Foster and Samuel Diggs perform emergency surgery on Aurelia Johnson.

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The most dramatic part of the episode, though, belongs to Aurelia Johnson (Shalita Grant) and, in particular, Samuel Diggs (McKinley Belcher). It is wrenching and graphic, a story line that pushes the boundaries in broadcast television. As that subplot plays out, Dr. Foster (Josh Radnor) discovers Diggs’ medical skills during the course of a dramatic, emergency surgery. It will be interesting to see how the relationship between Diggs and Foster evolves, going forward.You have Foster with the advanced academic training and up-to-date theoretical knowledge, but somewhat limited surgical expertise; Diggs offers a complimentary practical skill set.

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6 Responses

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  1. James F. Epperson said, on February 9, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    One of my first comments on the series (perhaps here or on Kevin’s blog) is that some of the story arcs seemed predictable. I called the death of Fairfax about the time he was handed the pistol. But I still like the series.

  2. Will Hickox said, on February 9, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    The standout howler for me was when the two black men dropped a table and Mr. Green said “gentlemen, please!” The word “gentleman” had a very specific meaning at the time and a wealthy white southerner certainly would not have conferred it on an African American.

    • Andy Hall said, on February 9, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      Mr. Green is trying very hard to come to terms with the new order of things.

  3. Scott Ledridge said, on February 18, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    So, does ep 5 introduce us to The Lost Cause with Stringfellow making up a grandiose tale to save Fairfax’s honor?

    I hope Diggs isn’t gone for good.


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