April 14th, 1865. America reels with shock at the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Washington DC has been thrown into chaos, most especially Lincolnís presidential cabinet. Is the assassination a plot by the Confederates? A lone wolf? Or perhaps it was sanctioned by one of Lincolnís own inner circle.
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton must guide the nation through these turbulent times, and ensure a smooth transition once Vice President Andrew Johnson takes office. However, Johnson stands opposed to almost everything Lincoln stood for. Moreover, Stanton begins to wonder if Johnson might have had a hand in the assassination. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse as the two men fight to ensure their vision for the future of America. In doing so, Stanton and Johnson must decide how far theyíre willing to go, and what lines theyíre willing to cross, to achevie their visions.
1865 is a historical fiction audio drama created by Steve Walters and Erik Archilla, in association with Lindsay Graham (not the Senator) for Wondry and Airship. Itís website can be found here.
Season two follows the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. From the early days of his election, and his fight against the Ku Klux Klan, to the many accusations of corruption in that would come to haunt the latter half of his time in the White House.
1865 contains examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: The podcast is largely inspired by a play Walters and Archilla created in college called Mars which follows the life of Edwin Stanton.
- The Alcoholic: Grant is a Downplayed example. He does drink, with whisky being his drink of choice, but only during times of stress and emotional distress. This is hinted to be due to untreated PTSD from his time in the war.
- American Civil War: The podcast begins not long after Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia have surrendered. General Joseph E. Johnston continues to fight on, but the Confederate government formally surrenders midway through the series, thus ending the war for good.
- Artifact Title: By season two, and even the end of season one, the action has moved passed the year 1865. Though, it is somewhat justified, in that all of the events of the plot trace back to Lincolnís assassination in 1865.
- Bait-and-Switch: The 1865 Twitter account loves doing this. It will begin a tweet that sounds like a summary of current events, only to reveal, via ending with ďWelcome to 1865Ē, that it is actually talking about historical events related to the show.
- Bittersweet Ending: On the bitter side of things Johnson is acquitted and grants fully amnesty to the former Confederate states. The Freemanís Bureau fails to achieve its goals after Johnson botches Reconstruction, and civil rights for blacks and other minorities will have to be a dream deferred. Oh, and monuments are being built to the Confederacy, even in state that stayed loyal to the Union, such as West Virginia. On the sweet side, thank to Stantonís efforts, Johnsonís attempt at reelection is ruined. On a personal note Stanton achevies his dream of becoming a Supreme Court justice, but dies five days after being appointed.
- Black-and-Grey Morality: About the only positive thing you can say about Johnson is that he opposed succession in his native Tennessee, and remained loyal to the Union. Stanton and his cause are clearly on the right-side of history, but his isnít above using questionable methods and underhanded tactics to achieve his goals.
- Changing of the Guard: Season two focuses on the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, and sees most of the characters from the first season depart the show. The is most exemplified by the end of the first episode which sees Stantonís death. Johnson also dies midway through season two.
- Crusading Lawyer: Stanton worked as a lawyer before going into politics. His legal cases frequently involved Civil Rights issues. This proved quite influential to his world view during the events of the podcast.
- Determinator: Stanton embodies this trope. No matter what Johnson throws at him, Stanton will not stop in his quest to preserve Lincolnís legacy and ensure civil rights for African-Americans. He even achieves his life goal of becoming a Supreme Court justice. Though he dies five days later.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Averted. The creators have confirmed that any parallels to the presidency of Donald Trump were purely coincidental. The idea that became 1865 was actually first started several years before Trump took office.
- Doomed Moral Victor: Season one ends with Stanton finally succumbing to his asthma, five days after achieving his dream of being appointed to the Supreme Court.
- Edutainment: Of a sort. Each episode is accompanied by a bonus episode that explores the facts behind the fiction of 1865. And the episodes stuck extremely close to actual recorded history.
- Foregone Conclusion: The attempt by Stanton and the Radical Republicans to have Johnson removed from office are doomed to fail. As are Stantonís attempts to stop Johnson from ending Reconstruction and abandoning the Freemanís Bureau. The writers had to make the audience care about Stanton and his struggles despite this. Thankfully, they succeeded and then some.
- Heroic BSoD: Stanton temporarily comes down with this after Johnson successfully grants amnesty to the former Confederate states.
- Historical Domain Character: The entire cast is composed of these. Just to name a few we have Edwin Stanton, Andrew Johnson, Robert Todd Lincoln, Gideon Wells, and Mary Surratt all making appearances. Abraham Lincoln appears in flashbacks, and John Wilkes Booth is the focus of a three episode prequel series.
- Historical Fiction: Naturally.
- Hotter and Sexier: A very Downplayed example, but the Booth miniseries does open with a sex scene, something the main series never featured. Otherwise, it isnít any more explicit than the main series.
- A House Divided: Fittingly enough, this trope happens, with the Cabinet picking sides between Johnson and Stanton. Later, Congress also picks sides, largely along partisan lines, after Johnson is impeached.
- In-Series Nickname: Lincoln refereed to Stanton and Welles, the Secretaries of War and the Navy respectively, as Mars and Neptune.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Stanton struggled with asthma for most of his life, and coughs constantly. His asthma ultimately claims his life by 1868.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Stanton is very much this. He knows that the world is a cruel and often unkind place, and that heís in for a considerable fight with Johnson, but he keeps fighting because he truly believes that Lincolnís legacy with ensure a more fair and just America for Americans of all races. This is especially the case after Johnson grants amnesty to the South.
- "Leave Your Quest" Test: Johnson offers to make Stanton a Supreme Court justice to get him to back off. This is one of Stantonís life goals, but he refuses. Preserving the legacy of Lincoln is more important. Though he does become a justice once Ulysses S. Grant is elected president.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Stantonís children Lucy and James both died in infancy. Their deaths still hang heavy on Stantonís conscious even after several years.
- Prequel: Season one is followed by a three episode prequel miniseries that follows the life of John Wilkes Booth.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Andrew Johnson is a white supremacist who is not in favor of extending civil rights to blacks. John Wilkes Booth also shares these views and then some.
- Posthumous Character: Abraham Lincoln is assassinated at the start of the podcast, but his presence looms large over the rest of the cast. Preserving the legacy of Lincoln is Stantonís primary objective. Lincoln also appear via flashbacks at the start of certain episodes.
- Rebellious Rebel: Johnson, despite being a Southerner, stayed loyal to the Union during the civil war. On the other hand, he holds many views that arenít all that different from the Confederates. He believes that blacks are inferior to whites, wants the South to be granted amnesty as quickly as possible, and even allows former Confederate generals to resume positions of authority within the South.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Grant is clearly still haunted by his time in the war, and is probably suffering from untreated PTSD.
- Stylistic Suck: The production of ďOur American CousinĒ at the start of the podcast is deliberately over-the-top and melodramatic.
- Succession Crisis: Narrowly averted. Lincoln is assassinated, and attempts are made on Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward. Seward is rendered comatose, while the attempt on Johnson never happens. The characters even mention that nobody knows what would happen if all three men had been killed.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Stanton and Johnson start off this way. It doesnít last very long.
- Time Skip: The last two episodes of season skip ahead to 1867 and 1868 to cover Johnsonís impeachment. This is far more common in season two, which covers all eight years of Grantís presidency.
- Unexpected Successor: Nobody, not even Lincoln and Johnson, expected Johnson to become president. Lincoln primarily took him on Vice President in hopes to keeping Border States from joining the Confederacy. Johnson becoming president at such a crucial time for America, and his opposition to many of Lincolnís policies, forms the bulk of the plot and his conflict with Stanton.
- What You Are in the Dark: Johnson tries to get Stanton to call-off his investigation by offering to nominate Stanton as a Supreme Court justice. Stanton refuses without missing a beat. Itís going to take a lot more than that to stop him from fighting for Lincolnís legacy.
- Villain Protagonist: John Wilkes Booth is this in the Booth miniseries.
- Wham Line: Happens a few times.
- Who was it that failed to ensure that Lincoln had sufficient security during his fateful night at Fordís Theatre? Stanton!
- Seward finally waking up certainly counts.
- Another occurs when Johnson grants amnesty to the South.
- Towards the end of season one we hear the a monument is being constructed to honor the Confederacy in West Virginia, a state that stayed loyal to the Union. This symbolically represents the birth of the Lost Cause narrative.
- War Is Hell: Grant certainly thinks so. Heís haunted by his time in the war, and feel an immense amount of guilt over all the men who died under his command. The brief flashbacks of the war evoke this trope in spades.
- Won the War, Lost the Peace: Stanton and his fellow Radical Republicans feel this way regarding Reconstruction. True, the North defeated the South militarily, and the nation is reunited. However, not nearly enough is being done to protect the rights of African-Americans, and it will only get worse if the South receives amnesty, and thus Southerners are able to oppose Reconstruction from within Congress.