‘Manhunt’ Episode 2 Recap & Ending Explained: Did John Surratt Plan Lincoln’s Assassination?


Regret continued to haunt Secretary Stanton in Manhunt episode 2, titled Post-mortem. Finding Booth was the need of the hour, and the investigating team got hold of the man who had rented Booth the horse. Upon questioning, he stated that Booth was accompanied by a man named David Herold. To Stanton’s surprise, a policeman, Weichmann, came forward, accusing his landlady of being involved in the conspiracy. The owner of a boarding house in Washington, DC, Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt, was interrogated, and she tried to stick to the story that she only lent Booth her utensils. But she panicked when Lewis Powell entered her boarding room with blood all over his coat.

Secretary Stanton and his team were putting together pieces of a puzzle that were bigger than they were assumed to be. Booth did not act on his own; he had a group of people supporting him and providing him with the necessary resources to act on his plan. Stanton’s declining health was a concern for those around him, but he refused to rest until he unraveled the mystery and apprehended those responsible for the assassination.

Spoiler Alert

Why was Vice President Johnson considered a suspect?

Lewis Powell came up with the excuse that Mrs. Surratt had called for him to clean the gutter, but she denied knowing him at all. It became evident that they were lying, and after a few minutes of struggle, both Powell and Mrs. Surratt were arrested. Stanton discovered that Booth had called upon Johnson on the night he was supposed to be murdered. Johnson was equally surprised because he had no connection with Booth. Johnson was the only target who was spared, and it eventually triggered speculation. Stanton’s team had found out that the German immigrant got too drunk and chose not to act on the plan, a reason not strong enough to appear believable. Andrew Johnson’s outlook did not align with that of President Lincoln. He was clear from the very beginning that his focus would be on growing the economy and not abolishing slavery or working towards their rights. Not everyone was happy with Johnson being declared the new President of the United States. Many were worried that the progress made by Lincoln would be turned into dust as a result of Johnson’s policies.

Lafayette Baker, an investigator and spy for the Union Army, suspected the Wall Street investors whose names came up in the oil rig investment, the Confederacy, and even Johnson. According to his theory, Johnson benefited the most from Lincoln’s death, making him a potential suspect in the case. To prove his innocence, Johnson had no choice but to make sure that the investigation was thoroughly conducted, and if he showed hesitation, he would be accused of being involved. 

Why was Booth running out of time?

John Wilkes Booth and David Herold stayed a couple of days at Dr. Samuel Mudd’s place before heading to the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. But with the news of the assassination spreading far and wide, the situation had gotten quite critical. Mudd could not risk himself by going to stores more than usual to gather supplies. David advised Booth to get rid of his mustache since his sketch was up at every corner, and there was a high chance that someone would eventually recognize him. But Booth refused to shave; he believed it was the mustache that made him distinguishable, and he liked that. Booth was proud of himself, and he wanted to bask in his glory for a while. He tasked David with bringing him whiskey and horse feed, but Herold soon figured out that the government had banned horse feed in Maryland. He realized that they had to immediately leave for Virginia because the government would not leave any stone unturned to get hold of them.

Booth became hostile towards Mary, Mudd’s housekeeper, when she was called in to shave him. He was a racist man who did not spare a minute to establish his hatred. He was afraid when Mary held the blade close to his neck. Even though her intentions were pure, it was his guilt that made him feel suspicious of her motive. As an oppressor, he was scared of dying at the hands of those he treated less than humans.

How was John Surratt involved in the assassination?

Stanton was surprised to find out from Weichmann that John Jr. Surratt, son of Mary Surratt, applied for a clerk position in his department. He worked as a postmaster and was known for delivering telegrams from Richmond, and the investigators had reasons to believe that he was potentially a Confederate agent. In episode two, we also get an insight into how David Herold ended up being a part of the assassination plan. He was a pharmacist and a Confederate sympathizer, and he provided pain relief medication time and again to them. His contribution caught the attention of John Jr. Surratt, and he was the one who introduced David to John Wilkes Booth. Stanton’s investigative team found proof suggesting that Booth had also approached big names from Wall Street to invest in an ‘oil rig’ in Pittsburg, which was code for his assassination operation. The bankbook proved Booth’s involvement with the Confederate Secret Service, and it was believed that he received protection from them, making it all the more difficult to spot him. 

What did Stanton find at the Surratt tavern?

Stanton decided to search the tavern Mrs. Surratt owned in Surrattsville because he had a hunch that he would find incriminating evidence there. The tavern seemed ordinary at first glance, but Stanton was well aware of the methods used to hide secrets in plain sight. Upon knocking on the walls of a room in the back, he realized there was a hollow space behind it, and lo and behold, Stanton’s hunch turned out to be true! Stanton discovered a hidden study room where bundles of notes were stored. One of the most crucial pieces of evidence Stanton found was a coded telegram sent from Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, to John Jr. Surratt. This was enough proof to connect the Confederacy with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Officer Eckert worked on solving the coded message, but it was tremendously complicated. Stanton refused to take no for an answer because it was the key to untangling the case. Booth’s involvement with the Confederacy and his interest in the downfall of the Union were cemented when a picture of him at the second inauguration of Lincoln was found.

Stanton started to doubt Weichmann for living under the same roof as Confederate sympathizers. Weichmann admitted that he used to be friends with John before the war. They had their disagreements, but he had no clue that John and his friends were planning on assassinating the President of the United States. Stanton refused to believe that Weichmann had never been formally introduced to Booth since the actor frequented the boarding house. Weichmann claimed to be equally surprised by the turn of events, but upon minutely analyzing how the group functioned, he realized that Mrs. Surratt used to pass packages to those involved in the assassination. He was told that the packages consisted of utensils, but he had come to realize that she was providing them with guns. Stanton met Mrs. Surratt in prison and offered the option to either face trial for her involvement in the murder or to walk away free by helping him find her son. Of course, being a mother, she refused to cooperate and continued to deny her involvement.

Will Mary confess the truth?

Stanton sent for his men to search for Booth at Dr. Mudd’s residence in Maryland. Stanton had learned from Peanuts that Booth’s leg was broken when he left the theater, making it obvious that he had sought shelter at a doctor’s house. Mudd aligned with the ideologies of the Confederate and, therefore, was an obvious suspect. The doctor admitted to helping a man with a broken leg, but he lied about not recognizing him. The officer in charge proceeded to question Mary and her brother about Booth. Mary was afraid of getting into trouble, so she answered the way Mudd would have approved. She was shocked when she was told that Booth was involved in the murder of Lincoln, but she chose to deny knowing him. While it was not a surprise to her that Mudd helped the man who assassinated Lincoln, she found herself in a tough spot. She wanted to do the right thing, but she was afraid of being penalized for it. Towards the end of Manhunt episode 2, Mary found John Wilkes Booth’s boots hidden under the bed. If she showed it to the police, the boot would help connect Mudd with Booth. She had the power in her hands now to destroy Mudd and bring justice to Lincoln. But will Mary have the courage to risk her life in the hope of being free?

What happened to John Jr. Surratt?

At the end of Manhunt episode 2, shoe prints were found on the back porch of Stanton’s house. Stanton immediately guessed that the infiltrator must have been John Jr. Surratt. He believed Surratt’s shoe size mentioned in his postal application file would be critical in confirming his doubt. As it turned out, John Surratt sought refuge at Mudd’s place. The plan was initially to kidnap Lincoln, and his assassination had left Mudd quite surprised as well. He hoped to learn from Surratt about the change in plan, but he refused to give away any added information. Mudd was afraid of being linked to the assassination, but he had gone far too deep to deny his involvement. John Jr. Surratt was planning an escape from the United States as a result of the manhunt, and the Confederacy was assisting him in doing so.

Manhunt episode 2’s ending makes it obvious that the hunch of the US Department of War was leading them in the right direction. The evidence helped to connect the dots, and the fact that the Confederacy was hunting for Stanton proved that he was on the right path. Meanwhile, Booth and Herold headed to Rich Hill, and a native American offered to guide them there in exchange for cash. The man asked for their pistol, and even though Booth and Herold were hesitant at first, they agreed to the deal. Will the man help them, or is he after the bounty that the government offered upon finding Booth? Will the oppressed rise and bring justice to Lincoln? Manhunt Episode 2 ends with Lincoln’s funeral train leaving the station headed to Springfield, Illinois. The idea was for America to mourn the death of their President and remember what he stood for.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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