The Redcoats are coming!
I was pleasantly surprised with AMC’s period spy series when I caught it a year and some change ago. Granted, my expectations weren’t sky-high as my past experiences with American Revolution-based entertainment has been mixed (at best).
But lo and behold — and perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised considering the network’s penchant for quality productions — Turn: Washington’s Spies is pretty, pretty, pretty good.
At the center of the series is Abraham Woodhull (Jaime Bell, King Kong), a mild-mannered dullard of a farmer who finds himself engulfed in the back-and-forth of American Revolution spycraft. The first season documents his rise from reluctant informant to critical component in George Washington’s emerging ring of spies.
The second season finds Woodhull all-in, and digging around New York City, the nerve center of British operations. This of course comes with a whole new pile of risk and Woodhull’s paranoia is in full swing. Meanwhile, at Valley Forge Washington and his confidants attempt to wage war using this intel, despite threats to the General’s life seemingly everywhere.
That’s the (loose) overview of the situation as it stands. Thankfully, if you’re like me, and you got into the Continental Army side of things, there’s a whole lot more of Washington and his bros. While primarily in the shadows in season 1, this portion of the story really leaps to the forefront and can be argued is the center of the narrative for season 2. Also: while this isn’t a show built on action, you do get a nice big battle at the end, though, if I’m honest — and fully understanding of history — geez it’s a weird sight to see soldiers just standing, waiting to get blasted by muskets and/or retreating like toy robots.
The heart of the show remains Woodhull and much of the show’s success should be laid at the feet of Bell. He’s reliably great here and just about the complete opposite of a traditional spy hero. He’s fidgety, diminutive and sometimes pathetic. The good news is he’s on a definite arc and we’re watching him turn into someone who’s proto-badass. Heck of a cliffhanger, too.
So, will you like it? Perhaps. Turn: Washington’s Spies: The Complete Second Season is not a home run. The pacing can often be a bit frigid and the plots aren’t addictive enough to keep you craving more. On the other end, the acting and production is peerless. If historical fiction — particularly in this period of history — is your bag, then saddle up.
The DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital, deleted scenes, brief segments on the traitor characters and Washington and inside looks for each episode.
Not Guilty. I joined. I opted not to die.