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Series / Hatfields & McCoys

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Hatfields & McCoys is the story of a clash of clans that evoked great passion, vengeance, courage, sacrifice, crimes and accusations, and includes a cast of characters that changed the families and the history of the region forever. The Hatfield-McCoy saga begins with 'Devil' Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy. Close friends and comrades until near the end of the Civil War, they return to their neighboring homes—Hatfield in West Virginia, McCoy just across the Tug River border in Kentucky—to increasing tensions, misunderstandings and resentments that soon explode into all-out warfare between the families. As hostilities grow, friends, neighbors and outside forces join the fight, bringing the two states to the brink of another Civil War.

Starring Kevin Costner as 'Devil' Anse Hatfield and Bill Paxton as Randall McCoy, the first part premiered on The History Channel on Memorial Day 2012 and would prove to be a hit for the network.

This series provides examples of

  • The American Civil War: The series starts at the end of the war. Much of the early tension between Hatfield and Mccoy is a result of Devil Anse Hatfield deserting when he realizes the Confederacy has lost.
  • Ambiguous Situation: whether Nancy. was a mole from the start or just after her brother died.
  • Anti-Hero/ Anti-Villain: The Hatfields and Mccoys can be seen as either. Neither side is particularly more justified or vilified than the other, and both are sympathetic.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: A scene at a shooting contest has a character standing right next to the targets casually drinking and heckling the shooters. Averted in that he very nearly gets shot.
    • Might be justified given the period and the setting. Character described above would be most likely considered Too Dumb to Live by spectators.
  • Artistic License – History: Largely averted, as the producers made sure it was as close to historically accurate as they could. However, many historians believe the feud was largely motivated by money and not just revenge. The series glosses over those aspects of the feud.
    • Historically, a lot of the writing about the feud was exaggerated and embellished to sell more newspapers and books.
    • In-universe, Frank Philips has a book published about his exploits during the conflict. When he insults Perry Kline, Kline calls the book a bunch of lies.
    • The portrayal of Johnse and Nancy's marriage has drawn some criticism. In reality, Johnse and Nancy were married for nearly a decade and had several children together, unlike the series portrays, as well that it is well recorded that Johnse left Nancy for another woman. Nancy then later married Frank Phillips and had several children with him, which the series gives no indication of.
  • A-Team Firing: During the bigger gunfights a lot of ammunition is expended but there are few casualties. Most of the participants are not very good shots and even the good marksmen don't always keep their cool under fire. Notable exceptions are Devil Anse Hatfield, Cap Hatfield, Jim Vance and Frank Phillips.
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  • Badass Boast: "I kneel to no man. And I pray only to God, not to you." Said by Jim McCoy to Devil Anse Hatfield while staring down the barrel of the revolver Devil Anse was holding in his face. Devil Anse is rather impressed.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Nancy’s brother isn’t involved in the feud and is a fairly nice guy, but while drunk he does accidentally shoot someone in a fight.
  • Big Bad: Perry Kline comes closest to the mark, considering he helped start the feud when he tried to cheat the Hatfields.
  • Biography: Aside from some Artistic License to make the story flow better, it's fairly true to what is known from history.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: The deaths of the three McCoy brothers is juxtaposed with the birth of their niece.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The feud finally ends and the families manage to move on and prosper. However, over a dozen people are dead and many more will be tried and imprisoned for their roles in the fighting. The two families will always be remembered primarily by how eager they were to kill each other.
  • Broken Bird: Nancy McCoy.
  • Bullying a Dragon: zigzagged, Jim Vance, the dragon, is the one doing the bullying but Harmon McCoy seals his fate by delivering a parting insult as he leaves.
  • California Doubling: Most of the filming was done in Romania rather than West Virginia or Kentucky.
  • Composite Character: Preacher Anse Hatfield was the actual justice of the peace presiding over the "pig trial". Since he had no substantial role in the feud his character is combined with that of judge "Wall" Hatfield who was a major figure in the feud and presided over the trial of the killers of Bill Stanton.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The events portrayed in the series took place during a period of 25 years. The feud did not seriously start until the death of Ellison Hatfield which occurred 17 years after the death of Harmon McCoy. The viewer can easily get the impression that it all happens in the span of a one or two years if one doesn't notice the children, like Johnse and Rosanna, aging from preteens to adults in short frames.
  • Cycle of Revenge: The revenges over quite petty things get blown further and further out of proportion till we get a drunkard being killed for running his mouth.
  • Death of a Child: Tragically. One of Randall McCoy's children is shot and killed during the attack on his house when "Cottontop" Hatfield panics and fires his shotgun wildly.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The entire feud, which was essentially started by Perry Kline because his attempt to screw the Hatfields for their timber rights failed, resulting in him calling for "justice".
  • The Dragon:
    • Jim Vance is Devil Anse Hatfield's Dragon and Cap Hatfield acts as Vance's
    • Perry Kline usually acts on Randall McCoy's behalf though he is also a Dragon with an Agenda
    • Ransom Bray is Frank Phillip's right hand man
  • Eye Scream: A wood splinter hits Cap Hatfield in the eye during a tree cutting accident.
  • Feuding Families: The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys is the most (in)famous example of this trope in US history.
  • The Fool: Ellison "Cottontop" Mounts
  • Gone Horribly Wrong:
    • Devil Anse sought justice for the murder of his brother by the McCoys but he did not anticipate the level of misery that would bring on his family.
    • The raid to seize Randall McCoy not only fails to capture Randall but results in in the deaths of two of Randall's remaining children
  • Gone Horribly Right: Frank Philips is the right man to send after the Hatfields but his brutal methods escalate the conflict. Randall McCoy is appalled by what Philips is doing.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Both families are shown to be flawed with good qualities and both have members who go to far in the feud.
    • Anse and Randall also show a good example of this in the feud as their both family men who love their children but both get lost in their desire for revenge against each other as the result of a member of their families killing another's members.
  • The Gunslinger: "Bad" Frank Philips
  • Handicapped Badass: Frank Phillips limps from one leg and Cap Hatfield is blind from one eye. They're both among the best soldiers of their respective groups.
  • Happily Married: Anse and Levicy Hatfield
  • Hate Sink: Jim Vance and Perry Kline.
  • Heroic Bastard: Contton Top.
  • Heroic BSoD / Villainous BSoD: Ambiguous, since there aren't any heroes or villains during the feud, but Devil Anse has one near the end of Part 3 in the middle of a full-scale battle with the McCoys, finally coming to terms with how pointless this all is.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: Devil Anse in the end.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Johnse Hatfield is portrayed as being in love with Roseanna McCoy against his parents' wishes. Johnse was actually a notorious womanizer who took advantage of the fact that Roseanna was very much in love with him to get her in the sack, while cheating on her regularly with her cousin Nancy and other girls. Devil Anse disapproved of the relationship on principle rather than bad blood with Randall, and was disgusted by his son's behavior. Levicy Hatfield forbade her son from marrying Roseanna, but it was for the girl's sake, as she expected that Johnse would abandon Roseanna and the baby sooner or later.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Though his hands certainly weren't clean in the historical feud, Perry Cline was not a swindling Amoral Attorney, he had known the Hatfields all of his life, and was even related to them by marriage. He and his brother had been orphaned in 1861 (when Perry was 12) and left in the care of their parents' slaves Mose and Charity. Devil Anse took advantage of the situation to seize the Cline family's land along Grapevine Creek via shady lawsuits, intimidation, and squatting. During the Civil War, the pro-Confederate Logan Wildcats—led by Devil Anse Hatfield and Jim Vance—attacked several local pro-Union families including the Clines, with several people being murdered. Among the victims were Perry's brother-in-law Asa Harmon McCoynote  and Mose, the former slave who was Perry's foster father. After the war, Cline was again cheated on a land deal with the Hatfields, this time by Jim Vance, while Devil Anse brought a new lawsuit aimed at taking the Cline homestead via a forged land survey. Perry got his law license specifically because the Hatfields kept trying to steal his property. Cline would later go on to establish a school for black children in Pikeville, and reportedly took care of his foster mother and former slave Charity in her old age.
  • Honor Before Reason: Throughout the series people take offense at small insults, start fights over this and someone ends up dead.
  • Hypocrite: Randall McCoy and Perry Kline cry out for justice and for God to smite the Hatfields for being 'savages', while murdering and hiring bounty hunters to illegally kidnap Hatfields, in particular calling for justice in regards to the deaths of three McCoys who started a fight with and murdered Anse's little brother in front of a large crowd.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Cap Hatfield is an amazing shot with the rifle especially since he is blind in one eye. However, when his gunsight is damaged, he cannot compensate and keeps missing relatively easy targets.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield
    • Johnson "Johnse" Hatfield
    • William Anderson "Cap" Hatfield
    • Valentine "Uncle Wall" Hatfield
    • Elias "Good Lias" Hatfield
    • Ellison "Cottontop" Mounts
    • Frank "Bad Frank" Philips
  • I Have No Daughter: Randall does this to his daughter after she falls in love with and gets pregnant by Anse's son.
  • Jerkass: Jim Vance, "Bad" Frank Phillips, and Perry Kline are the most noteworthy, though almost everyone has their moments.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The Hatfields lived in West Virginia and the McCoys in Kentucky. Both states claimed jurisdiction and neither would honor the arrest warrants from the other state. West Virginia would not arrest the Hatfields for the execution of the McCoy brothers and Kentucky would not arrest Frank Philips for the kidnapping and killing of Hatfields in West Virginia. The legal battle over jurisdiction went all the way to the US Supreme Court.
  • Karma Houdini: Perry Kline, a McCoy cousin, tries to cheat the Hatfields out of their timber rights on their land, and is one of the major reasons behind the feud. More specifically, he tells about Roseanna's pregnancy, knowing that her brothers would kill Jonse, the father, allowing him to marry her. He fails to get any comeuppance for his actions during the mini-series.
    • 'Cap' Hatfield is just as brutal and murderous as Jim Vance but survives the fighting and becomes a prominent local citizen.
  • The Load: Johnse seems to exist only to make people's lives worse, as his fling with Roseanna was one of the major triggers to start off the chain of events, and only ever drags his feet and whines when he sees his family members doing things he disagrees with, and never makes any attempt to stand up to anyone about anything.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: One family had 13 children, the other had 16. With the majority of them being adults with kids and family of their own it's no wonder why practically the entire town got involved in this fight.
  • The Mole: Nancy McCoy, who married Johnse for this reason, pretending it was to make peace between the families like Roseanna wanted.
  • No-Sell: Ellison Hatfield is brawling with the three McCoy brothers and he is easily able to fend of their attacks. Even when they start stabbing him it barely seems to faze him. He only goes down when they shoot him.
  • One-Woman Wail: Much of the soundtrack includes Lisbeth Scott's haunting vocals.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • "Wall" Hatfield initially tries to defuse the situation and calls out both Devil Anse and Randall for their culpability in the death of Stanton. He tries to have the feud ended through legal means and turns himself in to Kentucky authorities to answer for his actions.
    • Johnse Hatfield really does not want to have anything to do with the feud and only participates out of family loyalty. One of his reasons for marrying Nancy McCoy is that it might help end the feud
    • Devil Anse Hatfield becomes this when he stops the other Hatfields from attempting to raid the Pikeville jail to free the Hatfields imprisoned there. The plan would escalate the conflict to a new level of lunacy.
      • Throughout much of the story, Anse is a voice of reason to both the Hatfields and the general populace, and in comparison to Randall is far more sane. However, even he is prone to violent emotions and tempers.
    • Ellison Hatfield -who advises his brother that killing anyone will escalate the situation- and Jeff Mc Coy also stay out of the feud.
  • The Patriarch: Both Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy qualify.
  • Pet the Dog: a minor one but Perry does make a genuinely good, albeit brief, argument to spare Cottontop’s life while acting as his lawyer.
    • Bad Frank sparing Selkirk's. life and taking him prisoner.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The elder Hatfield brothers qualify. Johnse is impetuous, fun-loving, soft-hearted, and avoids shooting his gun whenever possible, while Cap is quiet and serious, cool under pressure, and a crack shot despite having only one working eye.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Once people start getting killed most of the participants stop caring about the consequences of getting revenge.
    • Devil Anse has it especially bad when he kills the three Mc Coy brothers when the law might have hanged at least two of them anyway, which would have kept the feud from escalating due to his vigilante justice.
  • Sanity Slippage: Randall McCoy begins to have hallucinations of Devil Anse after Roseanna's and Alifair's deaths.
    • Sally McCoy gets progressively worse during the series as her children are killed and is rumored to have died in a mental institution.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Anse deserts from the Confederacy. Randall tries to stop him, but can't resort to shooting him. Randall is later captured and sent to a horrible Union POW camp. This is another sour point between the two patriarchs.
    • Johnse leaves Kentucky to escape the murder and feuds after the death of his beloved Roseanna and the betrayal by Nancy McCoy.
    • Implied with Selkirk, given that he was working and laying low several towns away when captured.
  • Serious Business: While it seems silly now to start a feud over a pig, in 1878 it was very valuable property. The series barely mentions the dispute over timber rights between Kline and Devil Anse but it was the cause of much of the early bitterness between the families
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: It's implied a lot of Randall's hate and anger is due to trauma from being in a POW camp. Prior to the initial Time Skip, every appearance of his has Dull Eyes of Unhappiness, and they're still common afterwards.
  • Shoot the Dog: Literally in the form of Jim Vance's dog, and figuratively in form of hanging Ellison "Cotton Top" Mounts.
    • Narrowly averted when Devil Anse thinks that he has to kill Johnse because his carelessness got Hatfields killed. He changes his mind at the last minute.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Perry Kline, cousin of Randall McCoy. The feud might never have happened had this man not tried to cheat the Hatfields. He also exposes the McCoy daughter's pregnancy after she refuses to marry him, knowing that her brothers would attack the Hatfields son, which is one of the primary fuels for the feud.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Floyd Hatfield, Bill Wallace, Sam and Paris Mc Coy and the Levenger brothers: none appear that much but they all do a lot to escalate the feud, directly or indirectly.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: With Hatfield's son Johnse and McCoy's daughter Roseanna.
  • There Is No Higher Court: Averted. West Virginia challenges the legality of the arrests of the Hatfields and the matter is appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court. Wall Hatfield plans to appeal the sentences the Hatfields receive in Kentucky court but dies before he has a chance.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Jim Vance is this for the Hatfields. Devil Anse even thinks that one day Vance will go too far and Devil Anse will have to kill him for it.
  • Undignified Death:
    • Randall McCoy accidentally sets himself on fire.
    • Frank Phillips gets drunk and tries to start a brawl. When his friend attempts to restrain him, he pulls out his guns. His friend shoots him in self defense and Frank bleeds out on the bar floor. In real life, though, he didn't die just then and still lived long enough to sort out his affairs before the wound did him in, so it was somewhat more dignified.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Johnse's relationship with Roseanna inadvertently fueled the conflict further especially when he gets her pregnant and leads to her brothers kidnapping him and later they kill his uncle Ellison in a brawl and get executed for it by the Hatfields leading to the family getting captured or killed by bounty hunters for the "illegal" execution.
    • Johnse is later inadvertently responsible for Nancy's brother's death, and later the death of his uncle Jim Vance, because he gave out the information to their current locations when he was complaining to his family about the brother living with him and Nancy and that the brother is wanted under a bounty, resulting in Jim and Cotton killing him when he tries to get away. Then he tells Nancy, who is secretly giving information to Frank out of revenge for the death of her brother and previously her father, that Jim and Cotton are out hunting at a certain location in his attempt to calm her down and explain that he did not take part in her family's recent deaths.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Floyd Hatfield seems to disappear after the pig stealing trial, as does Sam Mc Coy after Paris is shot in front of him when they try to kill Anse.
  • You Killed My Father: Or uncle, or brother, or sons, or cousin. Played straight with Nancy McCoy, as her father is the first person from either family killed.


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