TV Review: “Mercy Street” — Needs Some Work

Written by Michelle Young April 11, 2016

mercy street

Ever think what “Grey’s Anatomy” would look like if they had sideburns and wore corsets? Well, if you do, “Mercy Street” is just for you. However, if you like coherent storytelling or interesting characters, you might want to look somewhere else.

“Mercy Street” is the story of the everyday lives of men and women directly affected by the American Civil War. The series primarily focuses on those residing within the makeshift Manson House Hospital, formed within the Union occupied hotel owned by rebel southerners. The main characters include Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a staunch abolitionist and widowed baroness turned nurse; Dr. Jed Foster (Josh Radner), a drug addicted doctor often dismissed for his modern techniques; Samuel Diggs (McKinley Belcher III), a black hospital orderly secretly skilled in medicine who struggles with threats to his freedom; and Emma Green (Hannah James), the daughter of the hotel’s owner who volunteers to help treat the often neglected southern soldiers. Besides them, there are about a dozen more characters (many of whom either did not make a considerable enough impression or are just not really that consequential to the overall story).

“In a time of pain and chaos, we are instruments of mercy and order.”

The biggest problem with “Mercy Street” is that it has far too much going on for its meager six episode first season. There are simply too many characters involved in such separate stories that each plot can’t get their due credit. I finished the season feeling exhausted, but like I had gotten nowhere; I was like a hamster running in a wheel.

mercy street

There was further disappointment with the cast as well. It was abundantly clear that many of the actors were new to the southern accent, as some of the characters felt aggressively cartoonish and stereotypical. I also think that Josh Radner was way out of his depth and severely miscast as Dr. Foster. He didn’t have enough gravitas to pull off the weight that a tortured, drug addicted, civil war era doctor would need. He felt much too light and awkward, which really hurt his authenticity as a man of great authority. This wasn’t entirely his fault, though, because much of the dialogue on “Mercy Street” is fairly trite and laden with over-dramatic cheese.

 “When medicine fails give faith a try.”

I did really enjoy the costuming and the sets of “Mercy Street”, which for a period piece is pretty much an essential. The sets felt alive and authentic, which was due in part to the fairly unrestrained gore. Nowhere near the levels reached in other shows like “The Knick”, but still enough to make squirm in disgust.

mercy street

“Mercy Street” has a lot of potential, with a great setting, fantastic wardrobe, and the increasingly popular period soap format (“Downton Abby” anyone?), but what it lacks are those incidental pieces that make great shows fit together so well. With some tweaks in their storytelling, character focus, and a more episodes to work with, I wouldn’t mind watching more of it.

My Rating: 6.5/10

mercy street

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Michelle Young

Browse Archived Articles by

No Comments

There are currently no comments on TV Review: “Mercy Street” — Needs Some Work. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

Leave a Comment