Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Apple TV+ from creator Monica Beletsky based on the Edgar Award winning non-fiction book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer from James L. Swanson and directors Carl Franklin, John Dahl, and Eva Sorhaug is the stunning look at the chase for an assassin with MANHUNT.

It is April 14, 1865 and the states are celebrating the end of the Civil War welcoming home troops with parades and good cheer but some are not. President Abraham Lincoln (Hamish Linklater) and Mary Todd (Lili Taylor) is preparing for their own night of celebration at the theatre asking good friend Edwin Stanton (Tobias Menzies), who is the Secretary of War, to join him. What they don’t know is that a man named John Wilkes Booth (Anthony Boyle) has his own night of plans.

Booth, known in a few circles as an actor, sets up all that are part of what is about to happen. The timeline begins with an assassination attempt on the Secretary of State Seward. Stanton is alerted the horrific attempt on the Seward household and rushes to their aid. The Ford Theatre prepares as the performance of Our American Cousin is set to bring in the President. Enjoying the performance, the night rings out with a shot that reverberates into the future. Boothe makes his escape and now begins the biggest manhunt of its time.

Stanton arrives back in Washington only to find out that President Lincoln has been shot. Arriving at his home, Stanton walks into chaos of screaming, yelling and a doctor who is trying to save him. Mary and son Robert (Maxwell Korn) are full of rage and fear as Stanton tries to calm everyone but seeing the President, he, himself, is shaken to the core. Now, along with the help of Thomas Eckert (Damian O’Hare), the race is on to uncover the conspirators!

Menzies as Stanton is not only a friend to the President but works in his cabinet so the pain of his death is more than he can bear at moments yet, he gets what needs doing done. I have been following Menzies career since I first saw his performance in the 2005 series Rome, then really captured me in the 2014 Starz series Outlander in 2018 playing good guy Frank Randall and bad guy Jack Randall and I loved both characters, then, in the series The Terror as the Duke of Cornwall, got his time in with HBO’s Game of Thrones andNetflix’s The Crown as Prince Phillip. Each of these series and performances stand out with Menzies in the mix.

In Apple TV+ MANHUNT, he truly sets the standard leading this cast in an extraordinary direction. Menzies gives us the character of Stanton that understands what President Lincoln was trying to accomplish and is going to fight, almost to his death, to keep that legacy alive. He wants all those responsible for killing his friend and his president to be held accountable. Menzies performance is so rich, powerful and to the point where it is mesmerizing to see his characters struggle. This truly is one of his finest performances to date.

As the series progresses, there are outstanding ensemble cast performances as well. O’Hare as Eckert is equally determined to help Stanton discover every dirty little plan and where it came from. Taylor as Mary Todd Lincoln gives us the performance of a woman who clearly loved her husband but also has other issues and Taylor gives it all.

Boyle as Booth is just eerie and not just because of what historically Booth was clearly capable of and did with narcissism. Boyle takes on the character of one of the most hated men in human history and lets us take a peek behind the Booth curtain. Watching Boyle twists, turn and slink his way through capture, there isn’t a moment where feeling sorry for him was even an issue. That’s what makes a strong performance, when 159 years later Booth still gets a second in the spotlight and all those years of the wrong kind of fame with Boyle’s performance reminding us why. Boyle shows his excellence and I am here for it.  

Each performer in the cast is truly fantastic and that includes Lovie Simone as the very strong-willed housemaid Mary Simms, the liar and manipulator Dr. Samuel Mudd played by Matt Walsh, the next-in-line president who I came truly not like Gleen Morshower as Andrew Johnson, and the seriously intense Patton Oswalt as Lafayette Baker who didn’t take any guff from anyone either wanting to help capture those who tried to bring down the country.

Other cast include Brandon Flynn as Edwin Stanton Jr., Betty Gabriel as Elizabeth Keckley, Will Harrison as David Herold, Timothy Sigmund as Jebidiah Diggler, Anne Dudek as Ellen Stanton, Mark Rand as Salmon P. Chase, Tom McCafferty as Edward Gorsuch, Larry Pine as William Seward, William McCullough as Boston Corbett, Josh Stewart as Wallace, Spencer Clark as Lewis Powell, John Billingsley as Edward Bates, Josh Bowman as Freddie Seward, Joshua Mikel as John Surratt and Carrie Laar as Mary Surratt.

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Episodes include the pilot which Premiers March 15th, 2024 as it sets up the rest of the series to follow these episodes:

Post-Mortem: Facing a nation without a president, Stanton grapples with funeral arrangements, suspects, and piecing together a larger conspiracy. Premiers March 15th, 2024.

Let the Sheep Flee: The hunt expands to Quebec, where a nest of Confederate spies and expats reorganize. Booth is taken underground in Maryland. Premiers March 22nd, 2025,

The Secret Line: Stanton and Detective Baker investigate ties between Manhattan’s most elite Wall Street traders, the Confederacy, and Booth Premiers March 29th 2024.

A Man of Destiny: President Johnson interferes with Lincoln’s vital plans; Stanton’s health deteriorates as he closes in on Booth. Premiers April 5th, 2024.

Useless: Stanton gets a win, but not the way he wanted. He plans for the conspirators’ trial, which he must conquer to keep Lincoln’s legacy alive. Premiers April 12th, 2024.

The Final Act: In the series finale, risking his personal and professional standing, Stanton produces the trial of the century to seek justice against everyone responsible. Premiers April 19th, 2024.

MANHUNT is an intense story that is brilliantly told in this seven-part series. There is not a moment to rest as the manhunt is fast paced and maddening race to find not only those involved but the man responsible for murdering the President. The cast is extensive and the performances are stellar in every way. Each take their characters and show us what was/is possible in one of the most infamous assassinations in history.

Also drawing me into the story is the costuming and set designs. The feel of authenticity lends itself to telling the story and it is one of the things I love about period pieces. Surrounding the viewer with an easy way into the story takes one simple thing, the right visuals and MANHUNT definetly brings that in every way. As a reader of historical events, I am always thrilled to see how a series or film can do well in the telling and MANHUNT far exceeded my expectations.

Creator, Showrunner and Executive Producers Monica Beletsky says of the work, “The book is a treasure trove of research and an excellent jumping-off point to imagine an emotional, cat and mouse thriller. I designed the series as a conspiracy noir. Not a whodunnit, but a who else dun it? Every generation has the immense responsibility to tell a version of Lincoln’s story on screen and I am deeply honored to have this turn”.

In the end – the assassination was just the beginning!



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About the Author

Jeri Jacquin

Jeri Jacquin covers film, television, DVD/Bluray releases, celebrity interviews, festivals and all things entertainment.