Stanton and Johnson Clash in Manhunt Episode 5

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 19, 2024
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Manhunt Episode 5 Recap - Stanton Has Booth Cornered
Manhunt | Image via Apple TV+




The hunt for John Wilkes Booth heads to Virginia as Stanton gets closer than ever to finding his man, but he’s beset by problems caused by both Andrew Johnson and his own ill health.

It took a while and a whole episode of dilly-dallying with the remnants of the Confederacy, but in Episode 5 of Manhunt, Edwin Stanton is finally on the cusp of catching John Wilkes Booth.

The search takes him to Virginia, while President Johnson’s deplorable efforts to walk back Lincoln’s Reconstruction plans give America’s post-Civil War political climate a detrimental shake.

John Wilkes Booth Is An Idiot

It’s worth pointing out that Booth is made to look absolutely ridiculous in this episode – as though he hasn’t already. But he’s made fun of at every turn in “A Man of Destiny”. When he and David Herold force a freeman and his son to give them a lift to a ferry crossing, even the kid torments him about his inevitable fate.

And that fate is surer than ever here. His big actorly “moment”, so to speak, comes when he and Herold, disguised as Confederate soldiers, try to blend in with the other wounded troops shuffling home now that the fighting is finished. And Booth’s bullsh*t is called out immediately. Everyone there knows he’s a fraud, an actor, and they treat him with sheer disdain for his stolen valour, spitting at his feet.

And that’s before they know who he really is. Embarrassingly, Booth tries to win the favour of the men by making a grandiose speech revealing he’s Lincoln’s assassin, and they even consider that despicable. This is the first time in my recollection that Booth has actually gotten a whiff of his public reputation, especially among the people whose respect he most covets, and let’s just say he doesn’t like what he smells.

Andrew Johnson Is Awful

While Booth and Herold make their way to Garrett’s Tobacco Farm, we deviate for a little while to spend some time with Andrew Johnson – not that anyone would want to. A Confederate sympathizer and former slave owner, Johnson is nakedly hostile to Lincoln’s Reconstruction plans and takes every opportunity he can to lead America two steps backwards for every one it manages to make forwards.

This leaves Johnson diametrically opposed to Stanton, who believes in the Reconstruction project deeply and also sees right through Johnson’s “by the bootstraps” nonsense. Johnson walks back land grants not so that free former slaves can make their own way, but to placate Southern moneymen and political influencers.

But he’s still the president, so thousands of Black Americans who have just been granted land are subsequently displaced, including Mary Simms, who has no choice but to go back to Doctor Mudd and beg for her old “job” back. Mudd makes sure she learns the error of her ways by viciously beating her, but don’t worry – she gets her own back.

Mary Simms Makes A Point in Manhunt Episode 5

Namely, Mary rats Mudd out as a Confederate conspirator who knew Booth before he arrived at his house in the middle of the night. She can’t wait to tell Stanton these juicy details as he drags Mudd away.

Bringing in Mudd gives Stanton and co. their next lead. They head south to the ferry crossing that Booth and Herold were at earlier, and learns from Private Willie Jett, who directed them to Garrett’s, where they’re hiding out. Booth is cornered just in time for the penultimate episode.

Stanton, though, won’t be there to take the glory. Just as the soldiers set off to bring Booth in, Stanton collapses, his ill health and complete refusal to stop working having finally caught up with him.


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