Monday, 13 January 2014

TV Review - Hatfields & Mccoys: Episode 1

So far my writing is going well, with 1912 words added to a short story in the last week, over 1000 of that on Saturday. Hopefully it means my new way of achieving goals is working - only time will tell. In other news I've just started Hatfields and McCoys and if the first episode is anything to go by the series is a good one. I've been meaning to watch this for a long time, being a fan of anything set in America around the time of the American Civil War. It's also caused me to add some samples to my Kindle for history books based on the real events the show is based on and the Civil War itself. I think we can agree that's a win for the History Channel.

At an hour and forty minutes per episode this show is actually a trilogy of movies. It's based on the actions of two families, whose feud after the end of the civil war threatened to tip the country back into conflict again. We see the two patriarchal heads of the families fighting for the Confederates and how the first initial split begins when Hatfield deserts in the night, convinced they're going to lose and believing that there's no point in staying to fight. McCoy practically begs him to stay but in the end lets him go, even though as the man on watch it was his job to shoot any deserters.

Months later everyone is back from the war and McCoy is not in the forgiving mood. Petty differences between him and Hatfield escalate to the point where neither family will have anything to do with each other. Matters are made worse when Hatfield's son, Johnse, and McCoy's daughter, Roseanna, fall in love and want to get married. All through this there are killings on both sides, justified or otherwise, and the whole feud becomes deeper and nastier.

I really enjoyed the first episode but then I've always been a sucker for wild west style films. The irony is that historically I don't think the areas they were living in (Kentucky and West Virginia) were all that similar to the towns we see in westerns, with a saloon and a brothel or two. Saying that, I particularly like the effort to make it seem realistic and tangible, with plenty of blood and mud everywhere. I also like the effort to show the experiences of those who weren't in the war; when the men come back the reactions of their wives are all different. Some are bitter, some are overjoyed and one points a gun at her husband's back until she's sure it's him. Everyone in this has been touched by that conflict, for better or worse, and it clearly plays a huge part in what is to come.

The love story is made into the main plot line as the episode goes on and I'm hoping it doesn't get more focus than is necessary. All the time Johnse and Roseanna were running off into the woods together I kept being reminded of the book Lorna Doone and I wonder how much of that story they've "borrowed" to build up the doomed romance plot line. Then again, the star-crossed lovers plot has been one of the most popular throughout time, so it's no wonder they might make it a more important part of the storyline than history would tell us.

With excellent production values and some good acting so far from the whole cast (even Mr Costner, who I sometimes find a bit bland) I'm looking forward to the rest of the show and if you haven't caught it yet it's worth giving it a go.

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