“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” (1986) – Episode Three “September 1862 – August 1863” Commentary

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“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” (1986) – EPISODE THREE “September 1862 – August 1863”

I have mixed feelings about Episode Three of “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II”. Fortunately, most of my feelings are positive. This episode featured the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Gettysburg, and a major schism in the Main family, regarding Madeline Main and her two sisters-in-law – Brett Hazard and Ashton Huntoon. But there was still certain aspects of this episode that I did not find particularly appealing.

I found the first half of this episode to be rather dull. Those reading this article would find this statement surprising, since the Battle of Antietam was featured in this first third of the episode. But I did. Following President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, one of the Mains’ slaves, Jim, decided to take matters into hands and run away. Unfortunately, he was caught and killed by the Mains’ former overseer, Salem Jones. I will admit that the reaction to Jim’s death proved to be slightly interesting, thanks to the excellent acting by Erica Gimbel, Beau Billingslea and especially Forest Whitaker; who portrayed Semiramis, Ezra and Cuffey. I was especially impressed by Whitaker’s performance as he conveyed Cuffey’s bitterness over being owned by the Mains. However, I found Brett and Madeline’s presence at Jim’s funeral to be a touch patronizing. But that is merely a private opinion.

Now, I had no problems with Kevin Connor’s direction of the Battle of Antietam. I believe he did the right thing by keeping the battle solely focused upon Billy Hazard and Charles Main. This allowed their brief reunion to be not only surprising, but dramatic. But I do have one major quibble about this particular sequence. How did Charles and his fellow officer, Ambrose Pell go from being cavalry scouts to leading large bodies of infantry troops on the field? If the miniseries had earlier included a small band of scouts under their command, I could see them leading these men into battle. But large bodies of infantry troops? Were the officers of these troops dead? And what kind of troops were they leading? Infantry or dismounted cavalry? I found this kind of inconsistent vagueness very irritating. The Battle of Gettysburg was better handled . . . somewhat. Considering it was one of the major conflicts of the war and fought in the same region – Southern Pennsylvania – as the Hazards’ hometown of Lehigh Station, I was surprised that the screenplay did not focus too highly on it. The battle was simply used as a literary device for the reunion of George and Billy Hazard and an excuse for the latter to go AWOL and see Brett.

The second half of Episode Three turned out to be a big improvement. Most of the slaves left Mont Royal and I did not blame them one bit. Orry’s reaction to their departure was interesting, considering how “BOOK I” had established his slight aversion to slavery. More importantly, his character came off as increasingly conservative. I found this surprising, considering that in the novel, “Love and War”, his views on slavery and racial relations had become slightly more radical. I found that little moment in which Orry bid his mother Clarissa Main good-bye, following his furlough, rather lovely and touching, thanks to the performances of Patrick Swayze and Jean Simmons. But I have mixed feelings about Billy’s decision to go AWOL in order to see Brett in South Carolina. Frankly, I found it disturbing. I do not blame him for missing Brett. But if the writers had not sent her to South Carolina in that ridiculous story line in Episode 2, she would have remained in the North and Billy would not have went AWOL. And his decision to head for South Carolina will prove to be troublesome for Episode Four‘s plot. I am also remain dumfounded by George’s position in the Union Army. During his reunion with Billy before the Gettysburg battle, he claimed that he had been transferred to field duty. And he was seen commanding artillery units. Yet, after the battle, he was seen attending another meeting with President Lincoln and his Cabinet. What the hell? The screenwriters really screwed up this time.

The episode’s second half, Ashton Main Huntoon’s appearance at Mont Royal really stirred things a bit. I found it to be the episode’s most enjoyable segment. Before I explain why I enjoyed it, I have to say a few words regarding Ashton’s reason for visiting her home – namely to confront Madeline about her African ancestry and drive her from Mont Royal and Orry’s radar. If I must be frank, I found Ashton and Bent’s revenge against Orry by using Madeline’s family secret, a bit . . . anti-climatic. Frankly, I thought they could have exposed Madeline’s secret in a more dramatic and satisfying moment – like during a political party in Richmond (which happened in the novel) or expose the secret to the Mains’ neighbors. However, their act of revenge did result in a marvelous scene well acted by Terri Garber and Lesley Anne Down. Semiramis’ rant against Ashton, thanks to another great piece of acting from Gimpel, was nice touch, although a bit fruitless. But it was Brett’s confrontation with Ashton that really did justice to this episode. Kudos to Garber and especially Genie Francis. Francis also shared an excellent scene with Parker Stevenson, who as Billy Hazard expressed his growing discontent with the war.

There is one major problem with this sequence. When Ashton arrived at Mont Royal, she carried foodstuff for the plantation. This makes no sense whatsoever. Ashton was traveling from a state – namely Virginia – that had been ravaged by two years of war. The amount of foodstuff she was carrying from Virginia should have been rare. South Carolina, on the other hand, had been freed of any battles by 1863, aside from the Sea Islands and the forts off the coast of Charleston. There should have been plenty of foodstuff at Mont Royal, thanks to Madeline, Brett, Semiramis and Ezra.

Anthony Zerbe made his first appearance as General Ulysses S. Grant, whom George had traveled all the way to Tennessee to meet, on behalf of President Lincoln. Veteran stars James Stewart and Olivia De Havilland appeared near the end of this episode. Did anyone know that those two had once dated in the late 1930s? Anyway, Stewart gave a charming performance as Madeline’s Charleston attorney, despite his Midwestern accent. However, De Havilland’s portrayal as Virgilia Hazard’s field hospital supervisor, Mrs. Neal, proved to be more interesting and complex. I could not decide which character was more irritating – Virgilia’s arrogant disregard for Mrs. Neal’s advice, or the latter’s patronizing concern for Southern patients at the expense of the other patients and her unfounded suspicions that Virgilia was ignoring them. Both De Havilland and Kirstie Alley gave superb performances in their scenes together.

Although Episode Three had its flaws, I cannot deny that Kevin Connor did an excellent job as the director. But I believe he was ably supported by the miniseries’ crew. Once again, Jacques R. Marquette’s photography provided a good deal of color and style to this episode – especially in the Battle of Antietam sequences. Jospeh R. Jennings continued his excellent production designs, ably transforming viewers back to the United States of the early 1860s. I could say the say about Robert Fletcher’s costume designs. I was especially impressed by his wardrobe for Maude and Isobel Hazard, along with Ashton Huntoon, who ended up being the best-dressed character of the episode. Below are examples of Fletcher’s work:

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Despite a some quibbles and a dull first half hour, Episode Three was an improvement over Episode Two. I was surprised by the number of excellent dramatic moments and first-rate acting in this episode. Also Kevin Connor’s direction of the Battle of Antietam and Gettysburg struck me as pretty damn good. I could say that Episode Three was the highlight of the 1986 miniseries. But I do not believe I would go that far.

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“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.17) “Hyde School Reunion”

 

“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.17) “Hyde School Reunion”

”Hyde School Reunion” is an episode from Season Six of the TV series, ”CHARMED” (1998-2006). It is viewed as controversial by many fans of the show. I wish I could say that its controversy revolved around any innovative storytelling. I wish I could say this . . . but I cannot. Because ”Hyde School Reunion” is without a doubt one of the worst ”CHARMED”episodes to air on television.

In this episode, Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) inadvertently cast a spell – written in her high school yearbook – that allowed her wild personality from her “troubled” adolescent to take over her. And this all happened at her tenth high school reunion. At the same time, Piper (Holly Maries Combs) is trying to figure out why Chris (Drew Fuller), who had recently been revealed as her son from the future, has been avoiding her. She recruits the help of her dad Victor Bennett (James Read) to delve into the big mystery. In the end, Piper and Victor learned that Chris is wary of Piper’s presence, because she is destined to die fourteen years in the future. Ugh. Also, Chris is being hunted by Scabber demons. As for Phoebe . . . oh God, it resulted in one big mess.

In a nutshell, younger Phoebe or ”Freebie” – as one of her old schoolmates had nicknamed her – wrecked havoc with magic by plotting the escape of an old classmate named Rick Gittridge (Rodney Rowland) from jail. When Rick realized that his former classmate can use magic, he wants her – namely Phoebe – to help him rob an armored car. I would loveNOT to go into details of how this all unfolds. Must I? Must I do this? Sigh! I suppose I must. Anyway, the other two Halliwells whisked Phoebe back to the Manor before she could do anything about Rick. When she returned to Rick, Phoebe learned that one of her old school mates, Ramona, is missing. Rick had kidnapped her to secure Phoebe’s help. They robbed an armored car, but Phoebe cast a spell upon Rick, making him believe that the cops are almost upon them. They fled back to the Manor, where Rick ended up insisting that Phoebe give him a new face before he tells her where Ramona is. Paige appeared and Phoebe suggested that the younger sister give Rick Chris’ face. Chris – who is being hunted by Scabber demons. Rick ended up pleased – until the Scabber demons show up and killed him.

The positive aspects of ”Hyde School Reunion” came in the subplot involving Chris, Piper and Victor. Although I could not understand why Chris could warn his grandfather to stop smoking in order to avoid emphysema and prevent Paige from being killed by Titans (see ”Oh Goddess!” from late Season 5), prevent Wyatt from turning evil, yet could not warn his mother that she will be dead in fourteen years for fear of changing the timeline? What the hell? What saved this subplot were the performances of Chris Fuller, Holly Marie Combs and James Read.

Unfortunately, the major plotline for ”Hyde School Reunion” revolved around Phoebe’s high school reunion and her messy little ”flashback” to her adolescent past. There was so much wrong with this story that I had to make a list:

*Phoebe graduated from high school in 1994? In 1994, she was eighteen, going on nineteen. What happened? She had to repeat a grade?

*Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan’s outfits at the reunion – questionable. Poor Rose looked as if her jacket was made from the fur of a dead animal that had the bad luck to be dyed in a garish turquoise blue. Alyssa’s boobs looked as if they threatened to pop out any minute. Even worse, her nipples are so obvious that they seemed toshout at the television screen.

*In the previous episode, ”The Courtship of Wyatt’s Father”, Leo finally managed to boink Piper and plant baby Chris in her. Yet, in the following episode – namely this one – Piper is “months” pregnant. How many months had passed between the two episodes? I realize that Holly Marie Combs was pregnant at the time, but talk about ill timing!

*Why do nearly every Halliwell sister either seemed to possess that hideous hairstyle that consisted of long hair and bangs, braces or all? Do you think I am exaggerating? Take a gander at the photos below –

Prue transformed back to her seventeen year-old self in “Be Careful What You Witch For”

Piper’s high school yearbook photo in “Coyote Piper”

Phoebe’s high school yearbook photo in “Hyde School Reunion”

Paige transformed back to her seventeen year-old self in “A Paige From the Past”

*Phoebe wrote a poem in her high school yearbook . . . that turned out to be a spell? My God, how lame!

*How is it that one of Phoebe’s old gym teacher, Miss Hickok, has no idea that Phoebe is now a famous columnist, whose mug is plastered on billboards all over San Francisco?

*I realize that in this episode, Freebie has adult Phoebe’s powers. Could someone please explain how she learned how to use magic? Please? Adult Phoebe knew nothing of magic until she was two months shy of her 23rd birthday? How did adolescent Freebie suddenly learn how to cast a spell and turn her old classmates into teenaged Neanderthals? Hell, the only magic that Phoebe knew around 22 and 23 were the old ”The Power of Three will set us free” chant and her premonitions, over which she had (and possessed) no control.

*Chris, who is the son of a chef, had no idea what mutton was? Being a vegetarian is no excuse. Unless mutton no longer exists in the 2020s.

*Why were Scabber demons after Chris? That story plot had evaded me.

*Could someone PLEASE explain how Freebie managed to shapeshift Rick, who was disguised as a guard, back to his old self with a flick of her wrist? HOW? Even adult Phoebe lacked this ability. She would have had to use a spell or chant to do this. Shapeshifting was not one of her psi abilities.

*Between the time Piper and Paige had teleported Phoebe from the warehouse to the Manor and back took less than a minute. How did Rick managed to tie up Todd – another Freebie classmate – and hide Ramona in that short space of time?

*Why didn’t Phoebe simply use a spell to coerce Rick into revealing where he had hidden Ramona . . . instead of aiding him in his so-called crime spree?

The major faux pas of ”Hyde School Reunion” centered around the death of Rick Gittridge. Many fans have commented on certain acts surrounding the unfolding events. One, why did Paige fail to teleport orb the shotgun from Rick’s hand? Two, why did Phoebe suggest that Paige turn Rick’s face into Chris’ face before Rick could verify where he had hidden Ramona . . . so that the Scabber demons would go after him? Why did she not do the dirty deed, herself?

Some member of a ”CHARMED” message board once commented that this entire scene lacked sense because as ”good witches”, the Charmed Ones would have never set up a human to be killed by demons. I say . . . bullshit to that! The Halliwells have proven in the past how murderous and self-righteous they could be. How many times has Prue – believing to be wronged – allowed her temper to get the best of her? In “P3 H2O”, a very self-righteous Phoebe had accused Sam Wilder – Mommy Dearest’s whitelighter and Paige’s dad – of failing to save Patty before the latter was killed by a water demon. Paige was stupid, murderous and self-righteous enough to attempt to kill Cole when he had finally given up on getting Phoebe back in ”Centennial Charmed”. ”Mortality Bites” is a prime example of how murderous and self-righteous the Halliwells can be. I will tell you exactly what really bothered me about ”Hyde School Reunion”:

Phoebe: How do we know you’re telling the truth?

Rick: You don’t. Now, my face. Make it different. Heartbreaking, charming, young.

(Phoebe gets an idea.)

Phoebe: You know, I’m thinking maybe you should use our nephew for inspiration.

Paige: “Who you were, you’re now another, take the face of Wyatt’s brother.”

(Rick turns into Chris. He looks in the mirror.)

Chris: Yeah, I like it. This’ll work.

Paige: Pheebs, watch out, this could get messy. (Phoebe and Paige hide behind a wall. Three Scabbar demons appear in the room. Rick shoots at them but doesn’t harm them. They spit the green acid goo at Rick which melts him to nothing. The demons disappear. Phoebe and Paige come out from behind the wall.) You okay?

Phoebe: Yeah.

Paige: You know you had to, right?

Phoebe: I know.

She had to? Phoebe had to give Chris’ face to Rick, knowing that her nephew was being hunted by Scabber demons? Why was it necessary for Phoebe to set Rick up to be murdered? Who in the fuck approved this episode? Oh yes, some joker named Brad Kern. If he is still producing television, the son-of-a-bitch should give up and take up a profession that suits his lack of talent. Moron. And I wonder if Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan had expressed concerns about what Phoebe and Paige did to Rick. If they did not, they should be ashamed of themselves.

This episode truly ranks as among the worst of the series’ eight year history. Honestly. And the fact that it climaxed into the murder of a human, thanks to the scheming of two of the three major characters really sticks in my craw. But what really pisses me off about ”Hyde School Reunion” is that Kern actually believed that the viewers would sit in front of a television set and accept that Phoebe and Paige’s murderous act was ”necessary”, is an insult not only to my intelligence, but to the intelligence of the series’ many other viewers and fans.

“CHARMED” – Things That Make Me Go . . . Hmmm?

The following is a list of questions regarding storylines that have been featured in past episodes of “CHARMED”. If you have an answer to any of my questions, please feel free to reply.

“CHARMED” – Things That Make Me Go . . . Hmmm?

1. In Season 7’s “A Call to Arms”, how did Inspector Sheridan and nearly everyone else know about Chris’ death in the Season 6 finale, “It’s a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World II”, when just about everyone – except for Leo and the Halliwells – had lost their memories of that alternate dimension, following Gideon’s death?

 
2. Why did Vinceres tell Prue that her powers were no good, when she was using martial arts and not magic, against him in Season 3’s “Primrose Path”?

 
3. Why did Cole in S7’s “The Seven Year Witch” confess to deliberately impregnating Phoebe in late Season 4, when he was actually possessed by the Source at that time?

 

 

4. Why did warlocks in Season 1 morph into vampiric game faces? Are they not suppose to be witches (who are mortals) that had simply gone bad?

 
5. Speaking of warlocks, why were they portrayed as immortals? Was Constance Burge, Brad Kern and their writers trying to hint that when witches become warlocks, they become immortals?

 
6. Why do the Charmed Ones keep referring to their witch ancestors as the “Halliwell women” or the “Halliwell line” in their conversations and spells? According to family tree depicted in Season 2’s “Pardon My Past”, their mother, Patty, was the first in their family to be born as a Halliwell.

 

 

7. And why did Grams remind Prue and Piper in S3’s “Just Harried” that the women in their family kept their maiden names after marriage? She used the name of Halliwell, which belonged to her first husband. And her maiden name was Johnson.

 
8. And what was the first name of the Charmed One’s maternal grandfather – Jack (S2’s “Pardon My Past”) or Allen (S6’s“Witchstock”)?

 
9. Why did Leo claim in S3’s “Exit Strategy” that he was born in 1924? Does this mean that he was attending medical school at the age of 17, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941?

 

 

10. Why would the BAY-MIRROR’s editor-in-chief, Elise Rothman, leave Phoebe, an advice columnist, in charge of the newspaper for a whole day in order to teach the witch a lesson in S7’s “Scry Hard”? Was she crazy?

 
11. Why did Leo tell Victor that the sisters were NOT mortals, when nearly every demon on the show has referred to them and other witches as mortals?

 
12. Both Cole and Vinceres had discussed that mortals (witches included) who were not natural empaths, could not handle an overload of emotions in “Primrose Path”. Yet, Prue had claimed demons could not handle such a large amount of emotions, despite the fact that Vinceres had carried Father Thomas’ empathy power for at least two years. Did the writer(s) of “Primrose Path” create a contradiction?

 

 

13. Why was the Source so contemptuous of Phoebe’s psychic abilities in Season 4’s “Charmed and Dangerous”, when he had relied so heavily upon seers like the Oracle and the Seer?

 
14. Why did Darryl take orders from Inspector Sheridan, when as a police lieutenant, he ranked higher?

 
15. How did Cole get his job back at Jackman, Carter and Kline at the beginning of Season 5?

 
16. Why are other witches on the show portrayed as helpless or semi-helpless?

 

 

17. Why did Leo assumed that Cole was automatically “good”, when the latter had lost his powers in S4’s “Black As Cole” and S7’s“Sympathy For the Demon”? Had he forgotten the evil humans that the sisters had confronted in the past?

 
18. Why did Phoebe assume that she would die on the same date that her past self had died, back in 1924 in “Pardon My Past”? She made this assumption before acquiring any real proof.

 
19. And why did Phoebe say in the above episode that she was the same age in February 2000, as her past self – P. Russell – was in February 1924? Phoebe was 24 years and 3 months old at the time. Her past self was 29½ years old at the time of her death.

 
20. Why did the Charmed Ones and Leo had automatically assumed that using the Hollow made Cole the Source? He had the old Source’s powers when the sisters killed the latter. And possessing Piper and Paige’s powers did not make the Source two-thirds of the Charmed Ones.

 

 

21. Why didn’t the Source simply kill the Charmed Ones after he had failed to turn Paige in “Charmed Again II”?

 
22. Why did Cole have such difficulty fighting the Halliwells in S3’s “Power Outage”, when had had managed to kill the more formidable Triad so easily?

 
23. Why are whitelighters (guardian angels) given authority over witches?

 

 

24. Why does the show feature witches engaged in demon hunting/slaying ONLY?

 
25. Once they had discovered that Cole was the Source in late S4, why didn’t the Charmed Ones bother to investigate on how he had become the Source in the first place?

 
26. How did Darryl explain Andy’s death inside the Halliwell manor in Season 1’s “Déjà vu All Over Again” to his supervisor?

 

 

27. Why didn’t Paige simply orb the gun out of Rick’s hand in S6’s “Hyde School Reunion”?

 
28. When Phoebe was taken over by the spirit (karma) of Mata Hari in S6’s “Used Karma”, why was she speaking with a French accent, when the former spy had been born in Java to Dutch parents?

 
29. Why did Phoebe become hostile toward Cole between the S4 finale, “Witch Way Is Now” and the S5 premiere, “A Witch’s Tail” after he had saved her life from the witch hunter, F.B.I. Agent Jackman?

 

 

30. Why would the supernatural world depend ONLY upon the Charmed Ones to fight demonic activity? What about other witches and demon hunters who were around long before the sisters had first retrieved their powers in the S1 premiere, “Something Wicca Comes This Way”?

 
31. Why is pyrokinesis (fire power) regarded by Leo and the Charmed Ones as evil in most of the episodes, and neutral in S4’s “Lost and Bound”?

 
32. Why did Cole have to become increasingly demonic in order to kill another half-demon in S4’s “Black As Cole”, when he did not have to do so in order to form an energy ball strong enough to kill the Source in “Brain Drain”?

 
33. Why would the Vampire Queen’s death enable Paige to avoid remaining a vampire in S4’s “Bite Me”? This does not make sense. Surely she should have remained a vampire, once she had been bitten.

 

 

34. How can the Charmed Ones travel to or exist in the past and their powers cannot, especially since their powers are supposed to be a part of themselves?

 
35. How can the Charmed Ones be witches, when they have never taken oaths or taken part in an initiation ceremony to become one?
36. According to the show, a witch becomes a warlock in the first place when he/she breaks his/her oath as a witch. So, why are warlocks described as immortals on the show?

 
37. Why does the Halliwell Museum of Witchcraft in “Chris-Crossed” featured the outfit Phoebe wore as a mermaid and the outfits the sisters wore in “Witches in Tights” (shudder!) on display? All outfits should have no longer existed, since Phoebe reverted back to being a human and the superheroine outfits were figments of that kid’s imagination.

 

Top Five Favorite Episodes of “LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN” (Season Three)

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Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Three (1995-1996) of “LOIS AND CLARK: The New Adventures of Superman”. The series starred Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher:

TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN” (SEASON THREE)

1 - 3.17 Seconds

1. (3.17) “Seconds” – In this finale of a three-episode arc about Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s aborted wedding, Clark races to find Lex Luthor and an amnesiac Lois before the former billionaire can convince her to kill Clark and leave Metropolis forever.

2 - 3.13 The Dad Who Came in From the Cold

2. (3.13) “The Dad Who Came in From the Cold” – A visit from Jimmy Olsen’s father to Metropolis prompts a revelation of the latter’s profession as a spy.

3 - 3.22 Big Girls Dont Fly

3. (3.22) “Big Girls Don’t Fly” – AFter successfully passing the tests set by Kryptonian survivors Zara and Ching, Clark learns that they want him to leave Earth and go back with them to rule New Krypton, or the planet will be ruled by the evil Lord Nor.

4 - 3.04 When Irish Eyes Are Killing

4. (3.04) “When Irish Eyes Are Killing” – In an effort to make Clark jealous, Lois dates her old boyfriend, Patrick Sullivan. But she and Clark eventually learn that he is planning to use her as a Druidic sacrifice.

5 - 3.01 We Have a Lot to Talk About

5. (3.01) “We Have a Lot to Talk About” – While Clark and Lois deal with the ramifications of her discovery of his Superman identity, Intergang leader Bill Church’s attempts to go straight are hampered by his new wife and his son.

“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” (1986) – Episode Two “July 1861 – August 1862” Commentary

 

“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” (1986) – EPISODE TWO “July 1861 – August 1862” Commentary

Episode Two began with the aftermath of Bull Run. It also featured Brett Main Hazard and Semiramis’ journey to South Carolina, Orry Main’s wedding to his widowed neighbor Madeline LaMotte, and Elkhannah Bent and Ashton Main Huntoon’s smuggling operations. I wish I could be objective about this particular episode, but I cannot. I dislike it too much. It is one of the main reasons why I have so much difficulty with “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” in the first place.

My main beef with this episode centered around the plot line that featured Brett and Semiramis’ journey south to Mont Royal, following the Bull Run battle. First of all, I believe that this particular plot line was badly written. Brett and Semiramis should not have had any difficulties getting past Union lines, since nearly the entire Union Army had fled to Washington in disarray, following the battle. Second, once they had reached Richmond and delivered the message about Clarissa Main’s injury, they could have accompanied Orry back to South Carolina. They would have arrived at Mont Royal in late July or early August 1861, instead of November 1861. And why did it take them so long to reach South Carolina in the first place? Surely, the two could have traveled by train. The Union Army had not began destroying Southern railroad tracks during the summer of 1861. And one last question – why on earth was a message sent to Brett in Washington D.C. in the first place? An accommodating neighbor of the Mains or a local doctor could have sent the message about Clarissa to Orry in Richmond. It would have been a lot easier. And quicker. Talk about bad writing!

I have a few other qualms about Episode Two. I find it odd that Justin La Motte never suffered any legal repercussions for his attack upon Mont Royal in Episode One. Nor did Orry Main encountered any repercussions for La Motte’s death, when he rescued Madeline from her venal husband. And could someone please explain Orry’s war duties to Jefferson Davies and the Confederacy? It is bad enough that he managed to procure such a high position within the Confederate Army, considering his previous military history. But what exactly was his duty? Was he the main quartermaster for the Confederate Army? Was he involved in investigating war profiteers? Or was he some unrealistic jack-of-all-trade? In fact, I have the same complaint about George Hazard’s position with the Union Army. Like Orry, his previous military history was very limited. Yet, he managed to become a military aide to President Lincoln and serve other duties for the Army – duties that seemed to be very varied. I was especially shocked to find George attending one of Lincoln’s Cabinet meetings. Really? Are they serious? This is incredibly sloppy writing. Both Charles Main and his fellow officer Lieutenant Ambrose Pell continue to unnecessarily cart around their swords, during their duties as scouts. And I still see no signs of enlisted men under their command. Episode Two also featured a moment when President Lincoln announced his“Emancipation Proclamation” to his cabinet . . . and George Hazard. I realize this should have been a profound moment, but the pretentious dialogue left me feeling cold.

However, there were some good moments in this episode. George and Orry had a bittersweet reunion inside a barn, while both were traveling to their respective capitals. Charles visited the widowed Augusta Barclay’s farm after being injured by Union cavalry. Stanley and Isobel Hazard scheme to profit from the war and make enough money to take over Hazard Iron. And in one brief scene, Congressman Greene had an embarrassed reaction to a wounded soldier that did David Odgen Stiers’ skills proud as an actor. Of all of these scenes, the one that really impressed me proved to be the one that featured Stanley and Isabel’s scheming. For me, this was a step up from their narrative in John Jakes’ 1984 novel. The reason I was so impressed by these scenes was due to the first-rate performances from the cast.

Aside from the Stanley and Isabel story arc, I feel that the rest of the scenes benefited from the cast’s excellent acting. This was especially apparent by James Read and Patrick Swayze’s performances in the scene that featured George and Orry’s reunion, and also the performances by Lewis Smith, Kate McNeill and first-time actor John Nixon. Both Philip Casnoff and Terri Garber continued to amazing heat in their portrayals of Elkhannah Bent and Ashton Main Huntoon. Kurtwood Smith gave an intense and fascinating portrayal of Billy Hazard’s commander Hiram Burdan. And Whip Hubley, an actor I have never been that particularly impressed with, gave an interesting performance as Billy’s regimental rival, Lieutenant Stephen Kent.

Kevin Connor continued to handle his actors with skill. And the miniseries’ photography by Jacques R. Marquette continued to strike me as colorful, but not particularly impressive. But there is one aspect of this production that continued to really impress me was Robert Fletcher’s costume designs – especially for the women. Below are examples of his work in this episode:

But if I must be brutally frank, Episode Two featured some of the worst writing in this miniseries, and probably in the entire trilogy. No amount of excellent performances or dazzling costume designs could improve my opinion or save what proved to be an otherwise dull episode.

“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” (1986) – Episode One “June-July 1861” Commentary

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“NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” (1986) – EPISODE ONE “JUNE-JULY 1861” Commentary

Judging from past articles I have written about the “NORTH AND SOUTH” Trilogy, one would surmise that of the three miniseries that have aired in the past decades (two in the 1980s and one in the 1990s) that I seemed to have the most problem with the second miniseries in the trilogy, namely “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II”. And if I have to be honest, one would be right.

It is odd that I would choose the second miniseries as the most problematic of the three. “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II”is set during the four years of the Civil War – a historical conflict that has heavily attracted my attention for so many years that I cannot measure how long. “HEAVEN AND HELL: NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK III”, which had aired at least seven-and-a-half years after the second miniseries, was set during the early years of Reconstruction and has a reputation among the “NORTH AND SOUTH” fans as being inferior to the other two. But for some reason, I have had more of a problem with “BOOK II”. So I have decided to examine each of the six episodes of the 1986 miniseries to determine why this chapter in the “NORTH AND SOUTH” trilogy is such a problem for me.

Without a doubt, Episode One of “BOOK II” is my favorite in the entire miniseries. It re-introduced the main characters from the first miniseries in the story. It also set the stage for the main characters’ experiences during the war, for the rest of the miniseries. It featured an excellent opening shot on the streets of Washington D.C. that introduced both Brett Main Hazard, and the slave Semiramis. It also featured a well shot sequence that centered around a colorful ball at the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, attended by Ashton and James Huntoon, and Elkhannah Bent. Most importantly, it featured one of my favorite battle scenes – namely the Battle of Bull Run that was fought near Manassas, Virginia on July 18, 1861. If I have to be frank, this interpretation of Bull Run remains my favorite. Director Kevin Connors filmed the entire sequence with great style and skill and composer Bill Conti injected it with a brash, yet haunting score that still give me goose bumps whenever I watch it. Even better, the sequence ended with actress Wendy Kilbourne uttering one of the best lines in the entire trilogy.

I certainly have no problems with the miniseries’ production values. Jacques R. Marquette’s photography struck me as rather beautiful and colorful. This was especially apparent in the opening Washington D.C., the Spotswood Hotel ball and Bull Run sequences. If I have one complaint, I wish the photography had been a little sharper. Joseph R. Jennings and his production designs team did an excellent job in re-creating the United States during the Civil War era. Bill Conti continued his excellent work as composer for the saga’s production. But if there is one aspect of the miniseries’ production values that really blew my mind were the costumes designed by Robert Fletcher. I was especially impressed by the following costumes:

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I do have a few quibbles about Episode One. First of all, it introduced Charles Main’s role as a cavalry scout for the Confederate Army. Considering that he started out as a Captain in this miniseries, it made no sense to me that he and another officer – a first lieutenant – would be participating scout duties without the assistance of enlisted men. I guess one could call it as an example of the story being historically inaccurate. And I wish someone would explain why the Mains’ neighbors (or slaves) sent word to Brett Main Hazard in Washington D.C., of the injuries her mother, Clarissa Main, had suffered when Mont Royal’s barn was set on fire by Justin La Motte. Would it have been a lot easier (and quicker) to send word to Orry Main, who was on duty in Richmond, Virginia?

I find the idea of both George Hazard and Orry Main serving as military aides to their respective political leaders – Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis – very improbable. Following their graduation from West Point in 1846, the two friends had only served at least 18 months in the U.S. Army before resigning for personal reasons. Yet, after the outbreak of a civil war, thirteen years, the audience is supposed to believe that both were able to secure such high positions within their respective armies? Especially when one considers the fact that neither were politically active between 1848 and 1861? I find this very illogical . . . even for a work of fiction.

My last major quibble featured the character of Elkhannah Bent. What was he doing with the portrait of Madeline Fabray LaMotte’s mother? The audience knew that he had procured it from an expensive whorehouse in New Orleans. But Bent had no idea that Madeline was romantically involved with one of his nemesis, Orry Main, until after Ashton Main Huntoon informed him. So, why did he bother to get his hands on the painting at a time when he was ignorant of the romantic and emotional connection between Orry and Madeline?

I certainly had no problems with the episode’s performances. The cast, more or less, gave solid performances. But I was especially impressed by a handful. Two of the better performances came from Parker Stevenson and Genie Francis, who portrayed the recently married Billy and Brett Hazard. I was especially impressed by one scene in which the two nearly quarreled over Billy’s decision to transfer from the Corps of Engineers to Hiram Berdan’s Sharpshooters Regiment. Terri Garber and Philip Casnoff literally burned the screen in their portrayal of the early stages of Ashton Main Huntoon and Elkhannah Bent’s affair. This episode featured another quarrel . . . one between George Hazard and his sister, Virgilia, who had arrived in Washington D.C. to become a nurse. Both James Read and Kirstie Alley were superb in that scene. And finally, I have to single out Forest Whitaker, who did a superb job in expressing the resentful anger that his character, Cuffey, felt toward his situation as a slave and toward his owners, the Mains.

Although Episode One featured some stumbling blocks that I have already mentioned, I must say that it turned out rather well. For me, it is probably the best episode in the entire 1986 miniseries. Not only did it featured some excellent performances, it was capped with a superb sequence featuring the Battle of Bull Run, directed with skill by Kevin Connor.

The Major Problems of “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” (1986)

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THE MAJOR PROBLEMS OF “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” (1986)

In the eyes of many fans of the trilogy of miniseries based upon John Jakes’ saga, ”The NORTH AND SOUTH Trilogy”, the only miniseries not worthy of the entire saga is the third one – ”HEAVEN AND HELL: North and South Book III”. I wish I could agree with them. After all, the production values for ”BOOK III” had not been as impressive as the other two. And of the three miniseries, ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” had the best costume designs. But looking at the three miniseries from the prospective of a writer, I have finally come to the conclusion that it was ”BOOK II” (set during the Civil War), and not ”BOOK III” that ended up being a lot more disappointing to me.

None of the three miniseries were exact copies of the novels from which they had been adapted. Changes were made in all three. Despite some flaws, I had no problems with most of the changes in “BOOK I” and “BOOK III”. But I found some of the changes in ”BOOK II” to be very questionable. In fact, some of these changes really did nothing to serve the miniseries’ story, except pad it unnecessarily in order to ensure that it would last six episodes.

Below are some examples of the questionable plotlines I found in “BOOK II”:

*Around the end of Episode I, Brett Main Hazard (Genie Francis) – a South Carolina belle who had recently married Pennsylvania-born army officer, Billy Hazard (Parker Stevenson) – and her maid, Semiramis (Erica Gimpel), had left Washington D.C. just before the Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861). The former had received a written note about Madeline LaMotte (Lesley Anne Down)’s kidnapping by her estranged husband (David Carradine) and the injuries that Brett’s mother – Clarissa Main (Jean Simmons) – had suffered following a barn fire at the Main’s South Carolina plantation, Mont Royal. Brett and Semiramis finally reached Mont Royal in November 1861. I have a lot of problems with this.

1) Why was the message about Clarissa and Madeline sent to Brett in Washington D.C. and not to Brett’s older brother, General Orry Main (Patrick Swayze) in Richmond? It would have been easier to reach him, since Richmond was inside Confederate territory.

2) Would it have been easier for Brett and Semiramis to remain in Richmond and wait for Orry to depart for South Carolina? What was the point of them leaving him a message and continuing their journey south? They would have reached Mont Royal a lot sooner.

3) Why did it take them three to four months to reach South Carolina? It took them at least less than a week to travel from Washington D.C. to Richmond, Virginia – despite being delayed by Union troops. They were on horseback. So why did it take them an additional three-and-a-half months to reach Mont Royal in South Carolina?

*Episode I revealed that both George Hazard and Orry Main served as military aides for their respective political leaders – Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Between Episode I and early Episode III, George provided information to Lincoln on battle results and on the President’s behalf, interviewed General Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee, to see if the latter was the right man to take over the Army of the Potomoc in Virginia. George became a field commander right before the Battle of Gettysburg. Orry not only provided battle results and other information to Davis, he also served as some kind of quartermaster and investigator of corruption within the Confederacy. He became a field commander right before the Battle of Fort Steadman in Episode Six. I had a lot of problems with this.

1) Although both George and Orry had graduated from West Point’s Class of 1846 and served in the Mexican-American War, they only served for a duration of at least eighteen months. Both men, due to personal reasons, had left the Army by the late winter/early spring of 1848. How on earth did both managed to acquire such high positions – militarily and politically – at the start of the Civil War, thirteen years later? Even the younger members in their families – Billy Hazard and Charles Main – had more military experience before the war – nearly five years apiece.

2) Neither George or Orry had acquired any further military experiences or participated in any political movements or organizations in their respective home states of Pennsylvania and South Carolina, during those thirteen years between 1848 and 1861.

3) Although George primarily served as an adviser for Lincoln before becoming a field commander, Orry served in a confusing mixture of duties that included military adviser, quartermaster, and investigator. What the hell? It almost seemed as if the screenwriters could not make up their minds on what capacity Orry had served in the Confederate Army, before becoming a field commander during the war’s final month.

4) In the early summer of 1863, George became an artillery commander in the Army of the Potomoc. I am aware that he had graduated from West Point near the top of class, ranking sixth. But in 1846, George had decided to choose the Infantry in which to serve. His only previous military experience before the Battle of Gettysburg was fifteen months as a junior infantry officer during the Mexican-American War. How on earth did he end up in artillery, with no previous experience in that particular field?

George and Orry’s military experiences during the war smacked of a great deal of bad continuity, lack of logic and confusion in this production. I will further explore the

*In Episode Three, despondent over being unable to see Brett for two years, Billy decides to go AWOL following the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) and head south to South Carolina to see his wife Brett. Upon his arrival at Mont Royal, he stays there less than 24 hours and leaves to return to the Army. He returned to duty in Hiram Burdam (Kurtwood Smith)’s Sharpshooter regiment in late April/early May 1864, in time to participate in the Battle of the Wilderness. And I had problems with this.

1) It took Billy less than a month to travel from Southern Pennsylvania (Gettysburg) to Mont Royal in South Carolina. Yet, it took him at least eight to nine months to rejoin his regiment, who were back in Virginia by the time of his arrival. Why did it take him longer to travel from South Carolina to Virginia, than it did for him to travel from Southern Pennsylvania to South Carolina? He was on horseback.

2) Billy had been AWOL from the Army for at least nine to ten months (July 1863 – late April/early May 1864). Why did Colonel Burdan fail to punish him for abandoning his post without permission . . . for so long? In the spring of 1864, the Union Army was not exactly desperate for an increase in manpower, unlike the Confederate Army. In fact, Billy never even faced a court martial or trial of any kind for his actions. His only punishments were a stern lecture from Burdan and being passed over for a promotion to the rank of captain. This is illogical . . . even for a fictional story.

*Charles Main (Lewis Smith) and Augusta Barclay (Kate McNeil) first met each other while the former was on a scouting mission for the Confederacy and the latter was smuggling medicine in July 1861. They met again, the following year, when Charles appeared at her farm, wounded. In the spring of 1864, following the Battle of the Wilderness, they began a love affair that lasted until they said good-bye for the last time in February 1865. Two months later, following the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox, Charles returned to Barclay Farm and learned that Augusta had died while giving birth to his son, Augustus Charles. Charles learned that Augusta’s South Carolina relatives had taken custody of Charles Augustus Main and returned to Charleston. There, Charles took custody of his son for the first time. I have a problem.

1) Charles and Augusta saw each other for the last time in February 1865. When Charles returned to her farm, two months later, her former servant – Washington (John Nixon) – informed him that she had recently died from giving birth to Charles’ son. Yet, Augusta certainly did not look pregnant, during Charles’ last visit two months ago – when the unborn baby should have been at least six to seven months old. And she was wearing a corset.

2) Following his discovery that he was a father, it did not take Charles very long to return to South Carolina and claim his child. Yet, the recently born Charles Augustus Main looked at least between one to two years old. If that had been the child’s real age, Charles and Augusta’s son would have been born a year earlier – before they had consummated their relationship in May 1864.

*After being driven from Mont Royal by the discovery of a family secret by Ashton Main Huntoon (Terri Garber), Madeline Main (Lesley Anne-Down) settles in Charleston around July-September 1863. The following spring in May 1864, she meets a former slave/refugee named Jim (Bumper Robinson) and his sick mother. Because of this meeting, Madeline decides to offer aid to many of Charleston’s war refugees – whether they are ex-slaves or poor whites. She also learns about Jim and his mother’s personal history. Apparently, they were Tennessee slaves who were freed upon the arrival of Union troops at their former master’s plantation, who decided to make their way to Charleston.

1) WHAT IN THE HELL IS THIS? Why on earth would recently emancipated slaves make their way deep into Confederate territory? Did the writers of the miniseries honestly believe that slaves were that stupid? Jim and his mother were from Tennessee. They could have easily made their way to any of the following cities:

*Nashville, Tennessee – which fell to Union troops in February 1862
*Memphis, Tennessee – captured by the Union in June 1862
*New Orleans, Louisiana – fell to Union troops in April 1862
*Louisville, Kentucky – which remained in the Union throughout the war

*Vicksburg, Mississippi – which fell to Union forces in July 1863

Any of the above cities were closer to the plantation owned by Michael’s former owner and could have provided safe refuge for him and his mother. Certainly not Charleston, South Carolina, which was too far and still Confederate territory by the spring of 1864.

2) The writers could have written Michael and his mother as South Carolina slaves. And yet . . . they would have been wiser to head for Hilton Head, the only safe haven for runaway slaves in South Carolina, until February 1865.

As I had stated earlier, the flaws mentioned in this article are merely samples of many I had spotted in “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II”. Do not get me wrong. I do not dislike the 1986 miniseries. But it featured flaws in its screenplay that makes me doubt the prevailing view among the saga’s fans that it is superior to the last chapter in John Jakes’ tale. Mind you, “HEAVEN AND HELL: NORTH AND SOUTH BOOK III” is far from perfect. But the flaws featured in “BOOK II”makes it easy for me to regard it as my least favorite chapter in the trilogy.