Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 premiered on ABC on February 27, 1994.
The opinions expressed in this review are that of the writer and not of The Nerdy Girl Express and may differ from those of others viewers of Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3.
Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 is the third installment of the North and South television miniseries franchise that debuted on Sunday, November 3, 1985 and is based on John Jakes’ novel Heaven and Hell.
Video Courtesy of vitormanuellino
Viewers of Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 have often labeled it as the worst of the three miniseries stating a major factor of it deviating from the story established in the other two. As this is the twenty-fifth anniversary, I thought I’d offer my opinion.
When I heard in 1993 that Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 was coming to ABC, I was thrilled. I anticipated the continuation of the saga of the Mains and Hazards. Anyone who knows me and have read my articles knows North and South is my favorite movie of all time. I’m a huge admirer of author John Jakes heralded as ‘the grandfather of historical fiction.’ Jakes is a master at successfully interweaving real life historical events and persons with the characters he creates. His prose is flawless and the reader feels as though the fictional character actually participated in a major historical event and spoke with the likes of Benjamin Franklin (like Phillip Kent in The Bastard).
In North and South, John Jakes’ Main Family of South Carolina and Hazard Family of Pennsylvania helped to bring the events leading up to the Civil War and during to life. Having the sons of the two families on different sides of the conflict become friends was a stroke of genius. Additionally, Jakes showed the faults of each region so it didn’t feel one-sided (Although I’m a fan of Gone With The Wind, the view of the war as presented by Margaret Mitchell failed to capture this portraying Southerns as good and Yankees as bad in order to elevate Scarlett O’ Hara, a Southern belle who lost everything in the war, as heroine).
For me, the absence of Patrick Swayze and Lewis Smith in Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 left a major void. Part of the appeal of North and South was the enduring friendship of George Hazard and Orry Main. However anyone who has read the novels know Orry is killed by an enemy solider in Love and War (North and South Book 2). In Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3, he is killed by arch nemesis Elkahah Bent (Philip Casnoff), who miraculously escaped a fiery death in North and South Book 2. Also in the novels, Bent has an entire backstory with Charles that is glossed over in the television adaptation. So in Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 when Bent kidnaps “Charlie’s” son Gus out of revenge for the way Main treated him, viewers who hadn’t read the novels were probably scratching their heads in confusion as Bent and Charles didn’t share one scene together in the two previous miniseries. The bulk of Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 was the Bent/Charles story. Kyle Chandler assumed the role of Charles in Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3. Before going on to guest star in Grey’s Anatomy and star in Friday Night Lights as Coach Eric Taylor, for which Chandler won an Emmy, he had a leading role as Jeff Metcalf on ABC’s Homefront, which probably brought him to the attention of casting for Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3. Kyle Chandler did his best playing the material, but I felt he lacked the quality of Charles Main. As stated in a line by Lewis Smith in North and South, Charles is a “horse soldier and a hell raiser.” As played by Chandler, Charles became more of a gentleman.
Another change to Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 was the addition of Cooper Main, Orry’s older brother who has a presence in the novels but not in Books One and Two of the miniseries. So in Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 he felt like a newly created character for the miniseries. Unlike the two previous adaptations, Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 chose to stick closer to the novel which added to it feeling off from the other two television versions.
Since Kirstie Alley was a strong female character in North and South Books One and Two and was missed in Book Three (Virgilia was executed for the murder of Congressman Sam Greene in North and South Book Two), I’d hoped the other female characters Brett, Ashton, Constance and Madeline would figure prominently in Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3. But Genie Francis’ Brett was reduced to a cameo, Wendy Kilbourne’s Constance was killed off in the first episode of Book 3 and Ashton (the fabulous Terri Garber) lacked the passion she showed in the first two miniseries. Garber’s Ashton is my favorite female character so I wanted more of her. Lesley-Anne Down’s Madeline embarks on a romance with George Hazard. I didn’t like this pairing and I’m sorry to say it felt like a betrayal of Orry for me. But I think Orry would have taken comfort in the two people he loved going on with their lives and finding each other with him gone.
I’ve only seen Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 twice, when it aired on television in 1994 and again in 2017. Whereas I choose to watch North and South Books One and Two every year on their respective November 3 and May 4 anniversaries, I can’t sit through Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 (what happens to Stan Shaw’s character Isaac, Jane’s husband adds to my difficulty in wanting to watch). I’ll probably watch the opening credits but that’s about it. Whereas I give North and South Books One and Two an A+ for the their epic awesomeness, Heaven & Hell: North and South Book 3 only gets a C- (and this is being generous) as it fails to capture the magic of its predecessors.
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