Manhunt Review: Apple TV+’s Latest Drama Is John Wilkes Booth Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before

Summary

  • Manhunt’s strength lies in its multiple storylines.
  • Anthony Boyle shines as John Wilkes Booth in a captivating performance.
  • Balanced storytelling and solid performances make Manhunt worth a watch.



Manhunt is a great addition to the Apple TV+ library, offering more than audiences may expect. The performances are solid, giving every scene an extra touch of gravitas. The story’s A-plot focuses on the capture of John Wilkes Booth, but the B-story follows the systemic perils of implementing the Reconstruction Era. Creator and showrunner Monica Beletsky (Friday Night Lights) has crafted an elegant view at a very specific moment in American history.

Mahunt is an AppleTV+ mini-series focusing on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth after he assassinates Abraham Lincoln. Anthony Boyle stars as John Wilkes Booth alongside Tobias Menzies, Lovie Simone, and Will Harrison in the series created by Monica Beletsky.

Pros

  • Manhunt’s strength is in its balance of multiple storylines
  • Anthony Boyle as John Wilkes Booth shines
Cons

  • Manhunt’s portrayal of Edwin Stanton is questionable


Through the textured performances of Tobias Menzies (The Crown) and consistent directing from the likes of Carl Franklin (Devil In A Blue Dress), Manhunt is a must-watch for anyone interested in the subject. In the immediate aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, John Wilkes Booth (Anthony Boyle) flees the scene and an epic chase ensues. Though he gets away, his route to freedom is far from assured. At his heels is Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (Menzies), who needs to find Booth and uncover the plot that led to Lincoln’s death.

All the while, citizens are coming to grips with the American Civil War and the bloody results are in the hands of newly appointed President Andrew Johnson (Glenn Morshower). Stanton closes in on Booth as Johnson undermines Lincoln’s dying wishes. Meanwhile, freed Black slaves are losing every inch of what little they have just gained. When the Confederate Secret Service retaliates, no one is safe from the inevitable clash.


The Most Exciting Thing About Manhunt Is The Focus On Booth


Getting inside the mind of a killer is one thing, but getting inside the mind of someone that history has never really had reason to try and understand is far more enticing. While his motives are diabolical at best, it is fascinating to see him as a man with real acting talent but with the personality of a schoolyard bully. Boyle portrays Booth as sleek and unhinged. After performing Shakespeare to dazzling reviews, Booth boasts to a co-star and turns his back on him.

Creator and showrunner Monica Beletsky has crafted an elegant view at a very specific moment in American history.


When he hears an audience member ask for an autograph, he pompously agrees. When he looks up to oblige, he realizes she was asking his co-star. In a later scene, Booth is stuck at the border with no way to cross. After he brags about killing Lincoln he is let through. This version of Booth is a renegade who is obsessed with his own myth-making. Menzies’ take on Stanton is nuanced, but it is a little muddier in terms of performance versus historical accuracy.

Manhunt (2024)

Cast
Tobias Menzies , Anthony Boyle , Lovie Simone , Matt Walsh , Brandon Flynn , Betty Gabriel , Will Harrison , Hamish Linklater , Damian O’Hare , Patton Oswalt , Lili Taylor

Release Date
March 15, 2024

Seasons
1

Streaming Service(s)
Apple TV+

Writers
Monica Beletsky

Directors
John Dahl , Carl Franklin

Showrunner
Monica Beletsky

Creator(s)
Monica Beletsky

Obviously, his character is anti-slavery, but the extent to which a white man of any station would be kind to Black people is always debatable. Occasionally, it rings false when Stanton is overly protective of Black characters, but that is the script’s problem, not Menzies’. The veteran actor smartly leans into the more aggressive aspects of Stanton to balance the scales. His total lack of empathy when given a choice between equality and revenge shows us how ruthlessness was an asset to Lincoln.


Manhunt’s Strength Lies In The Balance Of Its Storylines

Anthony Boyle as John Wilkes Booth shouting on stage in Manhunt

The secret to Manhunt’s solid storytelling is the division of its two central plots. The show is perfectly positioned to make Booth the character study and the Reconstruction Era the story-driven plot. The political machinations taking place in the show are key to various amendments being passed. Like the all-encompassing look at Booth, Manhunt also goes out of its way to show us the players involved in hindering Abolition and the free Black people who bravely spoke up at great personal cost.


If there is one true standout in Manhunt, it’s probably Boyle’s performance as Booth, but you don’t need these kinds of qualifiers in a show like this. That is to say, everything from the costumes to the individual cast members is consistent. Even if there may not be any awards-level attention, Manhunt is still an overall success that is worth checking out.

The first two episodes of
Manhunt
are now streaming on Apple TV+. The remaining episodes will air weekly each Friday.