Set during the time of the Civil War and afterwards in the United States, this series was PBS’s second most watched drama after Downton Abbey during its first season. That is nothing to sneeze at! There are some heavy hitters behind it with Ridley Scott, David W. Zucker (The Good Wife) and David Zabel (ER) all on board as producers. The Civil War is rife with story possibilities with all the horror, drama, death, violence and testing the fabric of the United States that went on. Fictionalized history (though it is based on real events) has become uber popular of late, so this series makes total sense.
The Civil War has always been an interesting (and horrifying) period of American history to me. The two sides were worlds away and split families apart. Brothers fought brothers. It also was time that put a serious test to the medical world with all the gruesome injuries that were occurring. Surgery and the way it is being done is called into question. Soldiers were made to do awful things and we see that PTSD is not a new phenomenon; we just have a name for it now.
We see this particular period in American history from the point of view of doctors, nurses, soldiers and African Americans (free and enslaved) living in the city of Alexandria, Virginia. The city has been rendered a mess due to all the fighting.The fighting is getting even more intense bringing all sorts of repercussions. The Seven Days Battle plays a big part here.
We shift out of focusing primarily on the hospital that has been established in the Green’s house/hotel in the South. Several characters that played a big part in season one have disappeared. This season looks deeper into the lives of African Americans and how they are affected by the war. The contraband camp where some are living (illegally) is rife with disease and despicable living conditions. At the beginning of the season we are also introduced to some new characters who are free African Americans. One is a new nurse Charlotte Jenkins (played by Patina Miller) and she soon becomes aware of the outbreak of smallpox in the black camp outside the hospital. Mary (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) becomes gravely ill with the disease. What follows are reunions, romance, difficult decisions, hiding of secrets, escapes, rescues and shocking truths.