by Jason Howard Kelly
“Our country owes its life to heroes whose names it will never know” – General George Washington
Are you a history buff? Do you feel giddy when you hear ‘Yankee Doodle’? Do you wish you could still wear a tricorne hat these days? If so, then it sounds like you should be watching AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies which just wrapped up its final season tonight. Now, before you say, “I’ve already seen plenty of Revolutionary War documentaries, I don’t need another one” you should know that this is completely different from all of those documentaries.
Firstly, this is not a documentary (duh) it is a TV drama based around the Revolutionary War. However, this wonderfully-written show focuses on a part of the war that you may not have studied in school. The show is centralized around General Washington’s ring of spies that operated throughout New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania during the war. Thus, rather than yet another standard show based on bloody battles and military bravado this show brings attention to the underground operations of the war. Lies, deceit, and betrayal are the crux of the plot which will keep you at the edge of your seat the whole way through.
The show introduces the spy ring through its main character, Abraham Woodhull (played by Jamie Bell), a cabbage farmer-turned-spy for the colonies. From there the spy ring evolves and grows with new recruits and increasingly dangerous plots as the war approaches its zenith. Jamie Bell, along with other notable actors such as Burn Gorman (Major Hewlett), Daniel Henshall (Caleb Brewster), and Kevin McNally (Judge Richard Woodhull) provide a strong cast to go along with a brilliant script. One of the most unique but wonderful aspects of this show is that throughout its four seasons every single character has that extremely important and powerful scene that wows the audience. This show allows each and every character and opportunity to embellish and enhance their impact on the show on multiple occasions, and these actors excel at those opportunities.
Historical accuracy is a major key for many viewers when it comes to TV shows based on historical events, particularly one as significant as the Revolutionary War. TURN does a fantastic job of staying true to history while simultaneously amplifying the drama surrounding it. There is no manipulation of the facts, and only minuscule exaggeration of minor events. For example, (don’t worry, not a major spoiler) when King George III is introduced he is shown as already slipping into madness, even though, in actuality, King George III did not exhibit signs of mental illness until well after the war had ended. Again, this is an extremely minor change in the history, and it does not affect the overall historical significance of the show.
Anyone who appreciates the history of the Revolutionary War, or just history in general, should find the time to binge the four seasons of TURN. It is a brilliantly written and superbly acted retrospect of that time period. More importantly, it provides a thrilling history lesson of the men and women whom helped achieve victory in the Revolutionary War, whose names we may never have been taught before.