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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TV on DVD: North & South Books 2 & 3

Recently I completed watching the miniseries: North and South Books 2 & 3.  Below is my short summary of the nine, approximately 90 minute episodes, (six from 1986 & three in 1994), which aired on ABC.

North and South Book II focused on the Civil War years. The main characters from the first miniseries returned along with the majority of the cast. Due to the war between the states, the relationship between the Main and Hazard family was strained. The majority of the important battles were reenacted and we saw how the characters fared throughout the crisis.

Orry (Patrick Swayze) and George (James Read) were on the opposite side of the war. They even saw one another in battle, though they avoided killing the other. Later in the story, Orry as a Confederate General along with his cousin Charles (Lewis Smith) broke Union General George out of Libby prison. Orry nearly died in the battle twice and was missing after the war ended until George found him. Charles fell in love during the course of the war with widow Augusta Barclay (Kate McNeil). Sadly their relationship was tragic as she passed away in childbirth before they could reunite.

Madeline (Lesley-Anne Down) was kidnaped by her evil husband Justin (David Carradine). Orry rescued her and in the ensuing fight, Justin was killed. This paved the way for Madeline and Orry to wed during the war. Madeline became pregnant with Orry's son, but left after Mont Royal after her sister-in-law Ashton (Terri Garber) blackmailed her. Madeline, who was 1/8 black, moved to Charleston and helped many displaced slaves by spending her money to feed them.

Billy (now played by Parker Stevenson) and Brett (Genie Francis) were dealing with being separated due to the war. She was up in the North and had to escape back to the South with her loyal slave maid Semiramis (Erica Gimpel). Brett rescued Semiramis from being attacked and they were very loyal to one another. Billy went AWOL to see Brett, but returned to the war after going to the south. He became close to an orphaned drummer boy. During the war, Brett and Madeline worked in the fields along with the former slaves. Semiramis and Ezra (Beau Billingslea) fell in love, and Brett gave them land.

George's sister Virgilia (Kirstie Alley) worked as a nurse for the military. She nearly didn't get the job due to her abolitionist past. A confederate soldier in her care died, and she was blamed. Virgilia freaked out and then attacked her boss. She was scared about going to prison so she became Congressman Sam Greene's (David Ogden Stiers) mistress. Finding out that he lied to keep her dependent on him, she took a gun and shot him in cold blood. George wasn't able to get her a stay of execution, and she was hung for the crime.

Ashton's marriage to James Huntoon (Jim Metzler) doesn't survive after she has an affair with Elkanah Bent (Philip Casnoff). Bent doesn't really love her, but sees her as a source of money and used her aid to get boats through the blockage. She also was a  way to help destroy the Main and Hazard families as he loathes Orry, George and Charles. Orry chased down Bent and he was presumed dead in an arms explosion, as he planned on overthrowing Jefferson Davis.

George's brother, Stanley (Jonathan Frakes) and his wife Isabel (Mary Crosby) also caused problems for George as they made canons using lower grade materials. These canons caused people to die during the war.

Mont Royal survived the war, but ultimately was destroyed by Salem Jones (Tony Frank) the former overseer and Cuffey (Forest Whitaker), one of the former slaves. They burn the plantation's mansion to the ground and sadly Clarissa (Jean Simmons) dies before she is reunited with her son Orry who returned from the war.  Orry, George and Madeline return during the fight or else more of the family would have died in the ambush.

Book two ended with a scene of renewed friendship between George and Orry, who vow to get the plantation back in order after the fight.

Book three wasn't as expansive in scope as the first two miniseries from the 1980s. The story starts up again during reconstruction. Bent lured Orry out in the fog and murdered him with a knife. Ashton, who thought Bent only wanted to destroy Orry financially, then threw him over a waterway. Unfortunately Bent didn't die again. Ashton spiraled out of control and became a prostitute in Santa Fe. She became involved with a former john named Fen (Tom Noonan), and eventually married him.  Fen was a piano salesman who eventually made a special instrument for her called the Ashton. They had a good life together though he knew she was unfaithful to him. Ashton was devastated when she returned to Mont Royal to see it in ruins.

Eventually Bent made his way to Lehigh Station, Pennsylvania and killed George's wife Constance (Wendy Kilbourne). George had been helping Madeline with the plantation and was away from his family. He felt a lot of guilt over Constance's death especially since he developed feelings for Madeline. Brett visited George in the north and shared how she and Billy were happy living in California.

Charles (now Kyle Chandler) was a mess after losing Augusta and lacked direction. He tried being in the military again, but due to people from the north couldn't hack it. He also became involved with an actress named Willa (Rya Kihlstedt). Willa developed a relationship with his son Gus, who was staying with friends. Charles ended up as a scout for the military in Indian territory after spending time on the run there. Charles and George team up to bring Bent down and hang him once they rescue Gus.

The Ku Klux Klan goes after Madeline as there is a new school for former slaves at the planation. Cooper Main (Robert Wagner) becomes involved in this, though at first he seems sympathetic to his sister-in-law. Gettys (Cliff DeYoung) convinces him to attack Madeline to get the planation back, though earlier he and Isabel Hazard (Deborah Rush) try to undermine the situation. This action caused Stanley to end his marriage to his wife. Cooper dies a hero as he is unable to kill both Madeline and George.

The story ends with Madeline and George being a couple at Mont Royal. Charles, Gus and Willa also are a new family.

Unfortunately, book three wasn't as strong a story as the first two books. Of course, the story may have been hampered by being half as long. Also reconstruction isn't as glamourous as the antebellum South or as haunting as war. Seeing Orry die so early in book three also caused the story to lose one of its focal points. That said if one wants to see how everyone fares they should watch book three, though if one "ships" George and Constance or Orry and Madeline stopping at the end of book two may be preferred.

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