TV Series Review: ‘Manhunt’ a stunning, fresh account of the murder of Lincoln, J.P. Devine writes

3 months ago
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“Manhunt” comes to Apple TV+ for us in an intense seven-episode series based on James L. Swanson’s best selling book “Manhunt: The-12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer,” created by Monica Beletsky “Fargo” (2014) and “Friday Night Lights” (2006).

Here in Beletsky’s series, we watch the fine work of Tobias Menzies, known for playing Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in the third and fourth seasons of Netflix’s series “The Crown.”

Menzies is the real star of the series, aided by an equally impressive cast that includes a long parade of British and American actors.

You will read and constantly hear about the talented Anthony Boyle (“Tetris” 2023) who deftly reincarnates the assassin John Wilkes Booth, the dashing, facile, and overly theatrical playboy whose brothers were more prominent: Edwin Booth, who was a 19th century American actor, and Junius Brutus Booth Jr. Anthony clearly deserves praise.

It’s Menzies, who plays Edwin M. Stanton, an American lawyer who served as U.S. Secretary of War under the Lincoln Administration during most of the American Civil War, who is the real star of “Manhunt.” Stanton, while heading the hunt, was actually slowly dying of respiratory failure. You will be more than impressed by the switch Menzies makes from Prince Phillip of England to Abraham Lincoln’s (Hamish Linklater) trusted Secretary in America’s bloody Civil War.

The story of Lincoln’s death has been the fountain from which a plethora of films about that fatal night. We all know it by heart. Don’t we? I guess we don’t.

This latest telling takes us, as most have, from April 14 to April 26, 1865, as John Wilkes Booth was chased by Union cavalry troops under Stanton and yet, with generations long gone, the telling of it again still makes us feel the stink of that mendacity and political guile in the air.

This fierce 12-day chase took place from the infamous Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. down through the murky swamps of Maryland, and finally into the forests of Virginia and death in a tobacco barn. It is mesmerizing and beautifully painted.

Beletsky and her collection of a talented crew of writers and directors have put together a stunning, fresh account of the murder of Lincoln, full of new faces and writers.

This reviewer has seen only the first and part of the second segment of this well-made and well-cast historical drama.

The cynical, racist Andrew Johnson, a hero of the Southern leaders, later brought Dr. Mudd, the physician who helped Booth, to the White House and in a ceremony, pardoned him. Pardoned? Really?

It is made clear early on that the ideas of Johnson, who tried and failed to end the dreams of the beleaguered slaves, continue up to this generation.

But it’s thanks to Swanson’s book and Beletsky’s series, that we are reminded that the beat goes on with names written in blood and stone that won’t fade. John and Robert Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

In this series, we are taken back to the end of our bloody Civil War and reminded of the myriad, unbelievable, never ending attempts to turn back the clock. Stay tuned, pay attention. Artists like Beletsky are reminding us that while you’re watching “Manhunt,” the assassination of Democracy is not hiding behind a curtain with simple gun.

“Manhunt” can be viewed on AppleTV+.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.…Read more by Tedda Henry

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