I would like to first congratulate the History Channel on their fine production, though it was shot in Romania, it was really good. Part one of Hatfields & McCoys drew the biggest audience ever for a “non-sports show on ad-supported cable” with 13.9 million viewers, until final numbers for the conclusion just came in: 14.3 million for the finale, incredible. It’s not surprising at all considering the summer re-run season has started. Another difference, this story was told with real actors and it wasn’t one of those historical re-enactment shows, I cannot stand those. The mini-series reunites star Kevin Costner with his buddy and director Kevin Reynolds, Reynolds directed one of Costner’s first films Fandango, and went on to direct Costner again in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld. Costner served as an executive producer, and his band, Modern West provided the soundtrack for this mini-series.
So how did all this start? The history of the feud goes back to before the Civil War ended Randall MCoy‘s cousin Asa, a Union soldier, was killed over (?) though the mini-series has Asa insulting Anderson Hatfield‘s Uncle Jim Vance, therefore Vance avenges his honor. By the way, I saw the name Tom Berenger in the credits but I could never figure out his role, Berenger is nearly unrecognizable as Vance and Vance is pure evil. But the official beginning of the feud is true, it was over a Hatfield stealing one of Randall’s hogs. And yes, Anderson’s son, Johnse, fell in love with Roseanna McCoy, and Johnse, it would seem, is the reason the feud kept going on as long as it did.
Matt Barr plays Johnse and Lindsay Pulsipher, last seen as Crystal one of the Were Panthers on last season of True Blood, plays Roseanna.
I asked my Dad, who used to be a history teacher, if guys looked like Johnse back then. I mean, Johnse had a rocking six-pack! My Dad said “Sure”, I forgot all the hard work our forefathers did with their hands, so muscle definition was possible and the Hatfields ran a logging company. Unfortunately, my heredity is sans six-packs, my Dad’s family, a lot them have big guts, some as big as a beer belly. Not me! I will probably never have rocking abs, but I do have a little bit of a gut. Johnse also marries another McCoy, Nancy, played by Jena Malone, who it looks like went to great lengths have the appearance of bad teeth.
Parts two and three were definitely better and they were a lot more bloodier, duh! Eye for an eye is an understatement. And who can play a weathered, old pioneer woman better than Mare Winningham as Sally McCoy?
Bill Paxton plays Randall, who seems to be the only one who isn’t totally hell-bent on killing every Hatfield in sight. Which brings me to the argument, who is better, Hatfield or McCoy? Although the Hatfields were the more affluent family, due to their logging business, they seemed to be more blood-thirsty. Whereas the McCoy clan, though wronged, were still blood-thirsty, I found myself sympathizing with them more. Or maybe it’s my Kentucky pride.
I do want to touch on that ending. “Devil Anse” Hatfield proclaims the bloodshed to be over after his nephew Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts is hanged for the murder of McCoy daughter Alifair, it’s the only time we see a trial verdict handed down instead of an eye for an eye. Meanwhile Randall lopes off into seclusion to drink away what days he has left, after Sally is institutionalized following the same attack that killed her daughter. Then cut to “1914 Kentucky” and Randall is seen burning all the news clippings about the feud and when he decides to fuel the fire with whiskey, he sets himself and his cabin on fire. On the other side of the babbling brook state line in WV, Anse is seen being baptized and that’s the end. Huh? I was a little insulted, was the History Channel trying to tell us, the McCoys were a bunch of drunken fools? or were the Hatfields the anointed ones?
The debate continues…and did you like Hatfields & McCoys?