Mercy Street Blu-ray Review

Go beyond the battlefield and into the lives of Americans on the Civil War home front as they face the unprecedented challenges of one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )



Studio and Year: PBS – 2015
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 360 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Josh Radnor, McKinley Belcher III, Hannah James, Anna Sophia Robb, Brad Koed, Shalita Grant, Luke MacFarlane, Cameron Monaghan, Gary Cole, Donna Murphy, Tara Summers, Jack Falahee, Peter Gerety
Directed by: Roxann Dawson & Jeremy Webb
Written by: Lisa Q. Wolfinger & David Zabel
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 2, 2016

“Blood Is Not Gray or Blue”

My Take:

Set in Virginia in the spring of 1862, the program follows the lives of two volunteer nurses on opposite sides of the conflict; Mary Phinney, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a staunch New England abolitionist, and Emma Green, (Hannah James), a naive young Confederate belle. The two collide at Mansion House, the Green family’s luxury hotel that has been taken over and transformed into a Union Army Hospital in Alexandria, a border town between North and South and the longest-occupied Confederate city of the war. Ruled under martial law, Alexandria is now the melting pot of the region, filled with soldiers, civilians, female volunteers, doctors, wounded fighting men from both sides, runaway slaves, prostitutes, speculators and spies.

Based on historical characters and events, [i]Mercy Street]/i] weaves together storylines that offer different perspectives on the war. The intersection of North and South within the confines of a small occupied town creates a rich world that is chaotic, conflicted, corrupt, dynamic and even hopeful — a cauldron within which these characters strive, fight, love, laugh, betray, sacrifice and, at times, act like scoundrels.

This six part series offers a multifaceted glimpse into the period as seen through the eyes of civilian contract surgeon, a newly appointed nurse, a free born black man and a proud Confederate family. In addition there are a host of ancillary characters and narrative threads that support the primary context as this group from opposite worlds and political persuasions opens a window into a world where the unprecedented medical demands create a chaotic atmosphere and challenge doctors, nurses and patients in unimaginable ways, while the pressures of Union occupation threaten to tear apart the local community.

Mercy Street is a Civil War medical drama that is less about battles and glory, and is more of a thematic character study, focusing on the strife and turbulent times faced by a small group of people near the end of the war. This is an original PBS program that I generally found to be engaging. There are probably a few too many subplots which watered down the focus but the primary elements are fleshed out well enough. The attempts at continuity with respect to historical accuracy are noteworthy and I thought that the cast did a very good job. I am a fan of Mary Elizabeth Winstead and thought that she shared excellent chemistry with Josh Radnor.

I think that the series would have benefited from a more refined script but otherwise proved entertaining over the course of its six episodes. I am pleased to see this kind of original programming coming from PBS and hope they continue to produce them.

Parental Guide:

This series contains violence, sexual content, graphic images and thematic material.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialog Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA
  • DSU Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

Mercy Street comes to Blu-ray Disc from PBS Distribution featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 30 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2 Mbps.

This high definition video presentation offers clear, refined images that boast a relatively de-saturated level of color. This is intentional and conveys he show’s thematic underpinnings. The rendering of fine detail can range from exquisite to moderate. This leaves certain long range and midlevel shots with less dimensionality but not to the point of appearing soft. Black levels fluctuate similarly however with the stable contrast and subdued chroma this wasn’t problematic and worked well with the visual style of the series. I didn’t see any signs of video related artifacts/anomalies.

The multi-channel lossless audio won’t test the limits of your surround sound system but it capably delivers the elements present in the show’s soundtrack. Dialog is tonally rich with excellent room penetration and defining clarity. Dynamic range and bass response is appropriate in support of the track’s recorded elements. The front channels handle the bulk of the audio and presents an open two dimensional soundstage with the surrounds supplying ambient detail. I think the mix mates perfectly with the source material and sounds great.

Bonus Features:

  • (HD) Behind The Scenes – 3 minutes
  • (HD) Civil War Style – 3 minute featurette
  • (HD) The Green Family – 3 minute featurette
  • (HD) Jed & Mary – 3 minute featurette
  • (HD) Recreating History – 4 minute featurette
  • (HD) Deleted Scenes

Final Thoughts:

Mercy Street is an engaging Civil War medical drama and thematic character study that focuses on the strife and turbulent times faced by a small group of people near the end of the war. It comes to Blu-ray from PBS Distribution featuring excellent high definition video, crystal clear lossless sound and a fair supplement offering that looks behind the scenes at the production.Mercy Street isn’t epic storytelling but is certainly worth a rental for fans of its period specific subject matter.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and In-Ceiling series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package