May 30, 2012

THE SKED REVIEW: “Hatfields & McCoys” Episode 2

More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


The second 2-hour chunk of the newly anointed most popular scripted show in the history of basic cable, History’s HATFIELDS & MCCOYS, was much like the first episode:  a strong opening hour followed by a second that didn’t quite live up to it.  Oddly, Hour 4 even failed for many of the same reasons as Hour 2.  But overall, as the feud escalated and became progressively more deadly, the show became increasingly compelling.


The first hour of Tuesday’s installment, directed again by Kevin Reynolds and written this time by Ted Mann with Ronald Parker, could have been subtitled:  How They Started Killing Each Other.  At a local gathering–because no matter how much they hate each other, the Hatfields and McCoys insist on socializing with one another–Anse Hatfield’s (Kevin Costner) brother Ellison (Noel Fisher) made the mistake that many a horror movie co-star has made before him:  he became the supporting character who for no reason suddenly had something to do, which of course marked him for death.  He was promptly stabbed and shot by 3 of Randall McCoy’s (Bill Paxton) sons, which led the Hatfields to track down the boys and, despite powerful pleas to Anse by Randall and his wife Sally (Mare Winningham) for mercy, execute them.  Randall, of course, required recompense for that, so with the help of lawyer Cline (Ronan Vibert), who’s supposed to be a McCoy relative but acts like he’s in the cast of Revenge, and after a certain amount of dithering about Kentucky and West Virginia territorial law, he put bounties on the heads of the Hatfields.

Hour 4, unfortunately, delved once again into the life of the dumbest man in either West Virginia or Kentucky, Anse’s son Johnse Hatfield (Matt Barr).  His Romeo and Juliet romance with Roseanna McCoy (Lindsay Pulsipher) over–she was sent away to bear his baby, and he wasn’t allowed to see her–he instantly allowed himself to be romanced by Roseanna’s cousin Nancy (Jena Malone).  Dramatically speaking, Nancy is a big trade up from Roseanna, all long-term scheming and barely-hidden resentments, so even though any scene with Johnse is just a matter of waiting for him to do something stupid, at least Nancy made his storyline more interesting.  However, it meant less screen time for Costner and Paxton, which is where the show’s tastiest meat is located.  Meanwhile, in the main plot, Randall and Cline, seeing their kin being killed by the Hatfields, were forced to hire the viciously unscrupulous ex-Pinkerton “Bad” Frank Phillips (Andrew Howard)–you can’t ever really trust a guy whose nickname is “Bad”–to head the posse and go after the Hatfields once and for all.

Now that characters are getting picked off by marauders on one side or the other, Hatfields & McCoys is building up a good head of steam to tomorrow’s finale.  If the show can concentrate on its strong points and leave Johnse to moon at himself in a mirror for the 2 hours that remain, it should make its way to a powerful conclusion.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."