I’ve been a fan of historical drama since my pre-teen days of reading things like Little Women and wondering why Little House on the Prairie was so boring. So I do love when I happen upon a movie, or even more so a series, that is set in some interesting time period of the past and is well-done.
Enter AMC’s “Turn,” a series set in the time of the revolutionary war about a guy from a loyalist family who becomes a spy for George Washington. Even the premise itself intrigues me.
It’s engrossing, with intricate storylines that are fraught with tension, even if the viewer already does know a thing or two about how the actual history of it played out. Because in the case of most of the characters, with the exception of famous figures like George Washington himself or Benedict Arnold, we have no idea what will actually become of them in this tangled mess.
Ah, the characters
I love them, I hate them, and I love to hate them. Which means they are quite well done.
Abraham Woodhull, the main protagonist, is deeply flawed and weak, without being despicable. We hurt for him, long for him to stand up for himself and make the right decision, and sometimes we literally want to yell at him to stop what he’s doing and stop it right now!
As for the cast of supporting characters, they range from grotesquely annoying in the case of one of the main redcoat villains, to charmingly funny in the case of one of Abraham’s friends, to shockingly strong in the case of Abraham’s wife.
Abraham’s wife, in particular, is one of the reasons I love the show. At the series’ start, I could almost swear where the show was headed, in regards to her. I thought she was going to be a wimpy, throwaway character whose very wimpiness was going to, in essence, put across a terrible message about marriage and make us root against his marriage. But I was wrong, and ever so happy to be. Because instead, even though her character stays largely in the background for much of the time, her very hiddenness actually serves to amplify how badass she is (in a colonial housewife type of way!) once she starts to take action.
So it’s wartime, which means there’s obviously some killing. It gets a little murky, morally speaking, because the main character is doing espionage-y things, and so when he’s killing enemies it’s not on the battlefield but instead feels a lot more like murder. That’s one issue.
The other main issue is the sex. There’s not a ton of it, but there were scenes that we wanted to fast-forward at least once every few episodes, on average. There’s one side character of lesser importance whom they show having sex with an actress and later with someone else. In the case of the actress, there did not even seem to be a good plot reason to show this, which is frustrating. There is another more important character, who shall remain nameless and spoiler-less, having an extra-marital affair, but the good news about this is that it’s not okay. Things get quite messed up because of the affair, and the show pleasantly surprised me by not only not condoning the adultery but actually doing a decent job of at least hinting that it was a bad idea (so far, in the first two seasons currently on Netflix, anyway).
I’ll admit I’ve been waiting for season three of this show to come to Netflix for a long time now. The first two seasons are both short and feel like they go by all too fast.
Like most shows, it’s not perfect. But unlike most shows, it has an awful lot to recommend it.