Monday, June 08, 2015

TV Series Review: Turn


Over the weekend, I finished watching Season One of TURN: Washington's Spies.  The series is adapted from a book by Alexander Rose and stars Jamie Bell.  I didn't want to review until I'd seen the entire season, because I was concerned that my initial impression wouldn't hold up.

I needn't have worried.  This show does take some historical - ahem - liberties, but does so in the name of great storytelling.  The heart of the show is its relationship between childhood friends Abraham Woodhull, a reluctant-to-fight cabbage farmer, and several patriots including Ben Talmadge, an officer in the rebel army.  No matter what he does, poor Abraham is caught between his friendships and his family, who are actively Loyalist.  Watching him navigate the push-and-pull was a train wreck in the best sense, and half the reason I binge watched half a season over the weekend.  While the story does have slow moments, I wouldn't call any part of it dull.

Complicating matters is Anna Strong, a woman once engaged to Abraham but now married to another man.  When Anna's husband is arrested and sent to a prison ship, Anna is left high and dry.  Who's there to pick up the pieces?  You guessed it: Abraham and his still-raw feelings for her.  Abraham, himself married and with a child, can't resist coming to her aid, driven not only by his latent attachment to her but by the same sense of moral outrage that eventually leads him to support the rebel cause.

What I enjoyed about this show, as opposed to other Revolution-era pieces like The Patriot, is that there is no cut-and-dry division between right and wrong.  There are sympathetic British, and there are devious Americans.  You are left to decide who's right for yourself, based on the events of the show, rather than be told who not to like.  (Granted, you're going to hate Simcoe on sight, but who doesn't love that character you love to hate?)

Overall, I look forward to Season Two, and I urge you to give Season One a try if you enjoy historical drama.  It's available now on Netflix.  In the meantime, I'll be picking up the book.

RATING: Four of five stars

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