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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Apple TV ‘hunts’ down success with newest conspiracy thriller

Courtesy of Apple TV+
Anthony Boyle in “Manhunt,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

The infamous assassination of former President Abraham Lincoln has gone down in history and Apple TV’s latest conspiracy thriller mini-series “Manhunt” gives viewers an exciting and chilling look into the chase for Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth. 

Created by Monica Beletsky, the seven-episode series follows Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, played by Tobias Menzies, as he pursues Booth in a 12-day hunt. 

The series is loosely based on the novel, “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer” written by James L. Swanson. While the novel is known for its historical accuracy, the miniseries takes the story of Booth’s capture and builds an action-packed thriller that broadly checks the boxes of being historically accurate. 

“Manhunt” takes the conspiracies and theories that existed surrounding the notorious killing and puts those stories onto the screen for viewers to see alternative perspectives of what this point in time looked like.  

Beletsky took the facts and added fictional elements based on theories surrounding the infamous chase, something that was highly beneficial to the story and made each episode highly engaging and thrilling. 

The acting in “Manhunt” is beautifully diverse and incredibly impactful. 

Most recently known for his portrayal of Harry Crosby in Apple TV’s “Masters of the Air,”  Irish actor Anthony Boyle delivers one of the most powerful portrayals of Booth that is seen in media. His authentic Southern drawl and devilish demeanor are hidden behind a calculative charm and prove Boyle’s prodigious range as an actor. His performance felt incredibly raw and he brought Booth’s terror to life. 

It would be unsurprising if Boyle was able to pull an Emmy nomination and win from this versatile performance, and it will undoubtedly go down as one of his best. 

Other notable performances were from Menzies, known for his roles in “The Crown” and “Game of Thrones,” and Lovie Simone, known for the series “Greenleaf,” who portrayed Mary Simms, the enslaved young Black woman who ended up testifying in the trial of Lincoln’s conspirators. Both Menzies and Simone wonderfully embodied each of their characters. This created real and honest characters who were easy to empathize with and root for. 

Simone especially took a character that carries so much rich history and brought her to life on screen. Viewers were able to see the portrayal of someone who experienced grand marginalization and racism during the crucial time of Reconstruction. Simms’ personality outside of her life as a slave provided a strong and impactful story that made her character come to life and showed she was an integral part of bringing Booth and his conspirators to justice. 

When it comes to period pieces, costuming, hair and makeup accuracy are essential to building a world on-screen. The “Manhunt” crew excelled at creating captivating wardrobes and transforming the actors into their Civil-War era counterparts. Hamisk Linklater was wonderfully turned into 16th President, where he was virtually unrecognizable as himself. Boyle was also completely transformed into his character, from Booth’s signature mustache and tamed hair to a curly-headed, shaven mess throughout the 12-day chase. 

Their attention to detail for each character made the series encapsulating and extremely period accurate, making it easy to get sucked into the world of the story. 

The visuals in the series, especially those surrounding the recreation of the actual assassination were incredibly well-done and extremely well-thought-out. Seeing the assassination play out on screen with Booth’s famously shouted words, “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” was captivating and kept viewers on the edge of their seats. 

The show bounced around timelines, showing Lincoln’s journey in fighting for civil rights and his plan of Reconstruction in the United States in hopes of Confederate states agreeing to abolish slavery. Through these timelines, we also see Booth and his struggle with his sense of self as an actor within his family and his strong beliefs against Lincoln. 

This timeline detail was incredibly effective in providing backstory to the various characters audiences meet without making scenes that took place in their current year feel overworked and forced. 

Varying time skips worked not only to show the events pre-assassination but also the events that occurred after the prosecution of Lincoln’s conspirators. Seeing the characters that audience members became invested in getting their closure no matter what that looked like, made the series feel complete, despite the short series length. 

Episode six of the series, “Useless,” was one of the series’ best episodes. It followed Booth and his accomplice David Herold, played by Will Harrison, on the final day of the manhunt. The acting in the episode, from Booth himself down to every extra, was impeccable and enthralling. Boyle’s fervent performance of Booth’s death was emotional and sophisticated, it was easy to forget the villain’s true intentions as he called out for his mother before mumbling his final words, “Useless, useless, useless.”

The well-written episode proved itself by bringing the high-stake journey to a brilliant climax, making viewers excited to finally see the trial in the final episode. Which itself, brought the series down to a satisfying resolution as viewers see characters brought to justice and those who were being rooted for throughout the series were finally able to receive their own gratifying ending. 

“Manhunt” is a brilliantly nuanced and thoughtful take on the heavily misunderstood assassination. The series is a must-watch for not only historical fiction fans but those who are looking for their next bingeable thriller. 

Now streaming on AppleTV+.

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Brooklyn Leighton
Brooklyn Leighton, Managing Editor & Opinion Editor | she/her
Brooklyn is a senior English major with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in journalism from Falmouth, Massachusetts. When she isn’t writing poetry and prose, she is listening to Taylor Swift, watching Marvel movies, or reading. She loves cats, baking, history, and spending time with her friends. After graduation, Brooklyn plans on attending graduate school to receive her master's degree and then work as an author and a literary agent. 
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    Steve HagerApr 25, 2024 at 7:18 am

    There is nothing realistic in the series. Stanton was involved in the assassination, along with Jay Gould and Thomas Eckert. They were war profiteering on Wall Street using inside info. Charles Dunham (Sandford Conover) was their fixer. He bribed and coached most of the witnesses for the tribual, which was a kangaroo court. Ask why Jefferson Davis was charged, but kept incommunicado in secret until the tribunal was over. Booth could have been taken alive. He was assassinated. Stanton had to rip out several pages of his datebook as they likely made reference to Gould. Stanton had several agents placed into Booth’s orbit. They easily thwarted the kidnap attempt orchestrated by Mosby and twisted it to murder.