by Eddie Bates, Michaela Baker, Kirsten Arnoult
AMC has a new show filling The Walking Dead’s previous Sunday night spot. This show is TURN, a historical action series based around The Culper Ring, a series of spies that George Washington had behind the British lines. Although the show is there to fill the gap left by TWD, it quickly earned the spot with the Pilot episode that aired on April 6. The show, like TWD, is taken from a pre-existing work. It is based on historian Alexander Rose’s book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring.
Although, the similarities stop there. Since TURN is based off of history, the show is less action packed as there are no zombies to kill or meth to cook. Because of this, TURN has a different feel to it than AMC’s other A-List shows. Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead seem to have a heavier internal conflict built into them as well. Although TURN still possesses a crisis of conscience, it is displayed in a different way; for once, it is not directed toward ourselves as the viewer, but more towards the main character Abraham Woodhull.
Abe, as he is referred to in the show, is not struggling with inner demons, but rather is thrown into an incredibly bad situation three minutes after he is introduced and is up in the revolution that he had been trying to avoid.
To add to the future suspense, Abe is not only betraying the Crown but also his own family. Abes father Richard is a popular loyalist judge that have several connections in the now British New York. From AMC’s story sync, I learned that Abe’s brother Thomas was killed trying to put a stop to an anti-British movement at the nearby King’s College (now Columbia University, the same University that Abe graduated from). With Abe’s deep roots into the British cause, his inevitable turning to the side that his family views as terrorists and anarchists causes the main conflict within Abe.
To add on to the drama, Abe is constantly battling his time and place throughout the episode. In the opening of the episode when Abe’s child crawls out onto the cabbage field, Abe shares a bonding and humanizing moment where he is helping his baby boy, trying to get him to walk. His wife Mary responds with a cold “The faster he learns to walk, the sooner he learns to march”. Emphasizing what the war would mean for his son if it drags on. Although not stated, I believe that his son is the main reason why Abe goes against his family, to save it.
One thing that TURN does exceptionally well is portray all of the characters in a realistic light. If we think back to the revolution, the stereotype is that the revolutionaries and continentals were heroic freedom fighters battling an evil force stronger than them. While in reality, most of the loyalists and even some people that were neutral viewed them as scum. Abe is not a die-hard patriot himself, as he knows that neither side is entirely just in their actions. When Abe was thrown in jail by the continentals in the episode and was drilled for another name Abe replies “I’m not giving the name of someone…who doesn’t deserve to be thrown into a cell by the same congress that declares for our freedom.”. Abe is not heroic looking (or anything like you would expect from someone who helped turn the tides of war) as he he is scrawny and pale. The little bit of continental soldiers that I saw in the first episode looked young and could not have been more than 18 in most occasions. The soldiers were even called runts by another antagonist and implied that they were the cheap alternative to real men.
Another important aspect to keep in mind is that both sides early on have thier motives explained in some way. The British are fighting to keep the British colonists safe while the Continentals are fighting to “put an end to tyranny” and oppression.
While not as action packed as you might expect, from the start the interesting characters and the suspense has made this one of the shows that I have to watch. Although the characters in the Pilot are placed a “good” category and a “bad” one, I am sure that as the show goes on towards the end of the war that those lines that were drawn will inevitably blur his concept of just who is a friend. Knowing that both sides are right to an extent in thier motives that as Abe is forced to live a double life as a revolutionist mole and loyalist I am sure that the lives he is living will blur Abe himself so that both sides of him are indistinguishable.