A promising start for new period drama

Screenshot from Mercy Street
Screenshot from Mercy Street

‘Mercy Street’ pilot review

By Lauren Paulsen, Senior Columnist


Mercy Street is a period drama that takes place in 1862 during the American Civil War. It is heavily steeped in the politics concerning the war, but also examines strong moral issues, such as race and slavery.

This show is actually based on true events that happened in the once-hotel Mansion House Hospital in Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia. The drama focuses on a distinct set of characters and how chaotic life was there in the early years of the Civil War. Two of the main characters are a couple of volunteer nurses who are on opposite sides of the war. New England abolitionist Mary Phinney (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has a very strong opinion concerning slavery and has a hard time sympathizing with the wounded Confederate soldiers who come into the hospital, seeing the war as black and white. On the other side is Confederate sympathizer Emma Green (Hannah James), the daughter of the wealthy owner of the hotel being used as a hospital. She originally comes to the hospital looking for her beau, but once she looks after some Confederate soldiers that were being neglected, she comes to realize she would like to help.

Mercy Street is beautifully crafted. The period detail is wonderful. The characters are very well developed and the actors play them very well. The moral issues surrounding the war are looked at closely, with a diversity of strong character opinions. Human nature is truly explored amid this crisis, both the good and the bad.

This period drama is exquisite and I can see fans of Downton Abbey and similar shows really enjoying this series. Definitely a well-done show that I will continue to follow.