Amazon Studios’ new war drama, Point of Honor, has everything it needs for a fun series about young people, but the execution falls short.
Two soldiers, John Rhodes (Nathan Parsons) and Robert Sumner (Christopher O’Shea), become brothers through marriage. They start off as friends, but the Civil War threatens to ruin their relationship. When John decides to free his slaves and resign his commission to defend his home state of Virginia, he ends up placing the Rhodes family in a tough spot. Resigning his commission puts him at odds with Robert and freeing the slaves brands the family as traitors. John’s sisters Estella (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) and Kate (Annabelle Stephenson) completely back their brother, but Lorelei, who happens to also be Robert’s wife, is conflicted. Robert informs his superior of a plan to sneak into Virginia and end the war quickly, but all he does is ruin his own life. When the Rhodes and some fellow Virginians form a scouting party discover the Union soldiers — including Robert — make their way into Virginia, the patriarch of the family, Ralston Rhodes (Brett Cullen), is killed. When his dying word is “Robert,” the assumption is that this family is ruined, regardless of the war’s brutal outcome.
Point of Honor could be something interesting, but it has some work to do. Carlton Cuse and Randall Wallace’s drama has ambitions to be a compelling quasi-historical drama similar to Reign in the way it balances history and scripted storytelling. The only thing stopping the pilot from being just that is the sheer amount of melodrama.
Luckily, the characters essential for a great series are already in place. Audiences may remember Annabelle Stephenson from Revenge, Riley Voelkel as the college girl turned intern on The Newsroom and Hanna Mangan Lawrence as the cunning but foolish Seppia on Spartacus.The three actresses play the Rhodes sisters and the pilot does a good job of introducing us to each of them. Tiffany Boone and Lucien Laviscount spark interest for the slave story lines, while Patrick Heusinger does the same for the Union soldiers. We get a good idea of who Nathan Parson’s character is, but the other lead, Christopher O’Shea, does not seem like the kind of character able to carry half of the story.
Speaking of O’Shea, Point of Honor does little to make viewers care about the Union soldiers fighting against the South. That fact is very odd considering how the war ends. The Rhodes family does have some interesting pieces (while drawing in melodrama) that could be assets to Point of Honor because of the dynamic set up in the pilot. The series is about people surviving in rough times. If Point of Honor tests those relationships, perhaps they can tap into something. The same can be said for the slave community, given the arc that Boone and Laviscount’s characters could be headed for. Unfortunately, that trend does not carry over into Robert’s side of the war. With the exception of Heusinger’s character, the whole group falls flat. This could have to do with the spotlight on the Rhodes family, but if Point of Honor goes to series, the issue should be addressed.
Point of Honor needs to pivot from melodrama. The brave storytelling in the vein of The 100 comes to mind when I think of its potential. In its current state, Point of Honor is just not there yet.