When one thinks of AMC, gritty crime and genre shows like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul come to mind. But there’s one genre show that fan’s might not think to put in the same category as the ones listed. A show that is entertaining to both history buffs and those who enjoy a good spy series. That show is TURN: Washington’s Spies. Looking back on the Culper Spy Ring used by the Patriots during the Revolutionary War, TURN tickles your genre fancy with engaging espionage tales while still packing a punch with some hard-hitting drama. The premiere of TURN‘s 3rd Season is just weeks away, but there’s still time to catch up if you’ve missed a few episodes. In fact, just last week, the Complete Second Season was released on DVD. I recently got a chance to check out the box set and can say that Season 2 was even more fulfilling that the first.
In Season 2 of TURN, we see Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) fully embracing his role as Washington’s inside man. He knows that he can get the information that the Patriots need, but only if he can leave the sleepy town of Setauket, Long Island, and venture out to New York. There he can gather intel such as the number of crown ships in the harbour and how many soldier are stationed there. This info is vital to Washington (Ian Kahn) who is going through trials of his own. There is dissension within his ranks and a long winter at Valley Forge has produced nothing but new obstacles at every turn.
Meanwhile, Major John Andre (JJ Field) is attempting to gain the favor of the young and beautiful Miss Peggy Shippen (Ksenia Solo), a woman living in Philadelphia who has a connection to General Benedict Arnold (Owain Yeoman) of the Patriots. He wishes to use her to aid in turning Arnold to his side, giving the English an inside man of their own. What he does not expect is that he might actually fall for the young lady in the process.
Setauket remains a large part of the season as does a number of its residents, including Anna Strong (Heather Lind), a woman secretly sworn to the Patriots and lover of Abe Woodhull. She finds herself in a number of surprising predicaments as she befriends Major Hewlett (Burn Gorman) and ends up in the middle of a “pissing contest” between Hewlett’s soldiers and The Queen’s Rangers, now lead by Captain John Simcoe. Simcoe has returned to Setauket and is very forthcoming about his plans to “remove” Hewlett once and for all. To say that tensions in the town are at an all time high would be an understatement.
When dealing with a historical drama, even one such as this where spycraft and treachery are fueling the story, it’s easy for the series to be dry in its execution. Thankfully, that is not the case here as the dramatic tension never lets up. There is someone to “root” for in every scene and the fear that they will get caught is always lingering in the back of the viewers’ minds. This can be attributed to not only the well crafted writing of each episode but also to the bang on performances.
Probably the biggest standout would have to be Owain Yeoman as Benedict Arnold. Arnold has gone down in history as the famous traitor, but what else do we remember about him? TURN gives us a chance to not only see the motivations he may have in wanting to aid the British but also a glimpse into the mindset of the man. Here was a fierce and confident general who after an severe injury is sidelined with a simple post in Philadelphia, far away from the front. He’s a shell of his former self who’s looking for purpose. Yeoman’s performance makes the viewer empathize with Arnold while also seeing how simple it would be to manipulate a man with such an ego.
The love story between Peggy Shippen and John Andre is also a highlight of the season as Ksenia Solo and JJ Field have fantastic chemistry and play off each other well in both light hearted and deeply emotional scenes. Another relationship that’s developed well over the course of the season is that between Washington and Billy Lee (Genry White), his black servant. In Washington’s most dire times, he reaches out to Billy as his confidant and advisor. Their friendship is the crux of one very powerful episode mid season.
On top of this, we get a number of great performances from the cast members we got to know so well in Season One, including Jamie Bell, Seth Numrich, Daniel Henshall and Heather Lind. Lind and Henshall especially shine in their specific roles. As Anna, Lind is the main focal point of the Setauket storyline and finds herself at the mercy of Captain Simcoe on more than one occasion, with Major Hewlett as her only protection. Henshall gets all the “fun stuff” as he partakes in some more of the adventurous missions such as a dangerous game of cat and mouse in the New Jersey wilderness with Robert Rogers (Angus Mafadyen) and a daring entrance into New York Harbour in a water submersible.
The DVD comes with a modest collection of special features including deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes look at each episode, and two featurettes: A Treacherous Trio and Washington and Billy Lee. A Treacherous Trio takes a look at the constructed love triangle between John Andre, Peggy Shippen and Benedict Arnold. Washington and Billy Lee gives a bit of back story on the close relationship of these two men. While nothing special, these features will be enjoyable to any fan of the show.
TURN is a series that you will find yourself on the edge of your seat while watching. Its smart writing and excellent cast will intrigue, excite and delight you while also making you tense up like nobody’s business. If you’re a fan of spycraft, this is a show for you. The Complete Second Season of TURN: Washington’s Spies, is now available on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Pick up your copy today.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!