Megan Applegate recaps the first episode of Turn…
In case you were busy watching Wrestlemania 30, the Game of Thrones Season 4 opener, or the Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday night, you might have missed the fact that AMC took a gamble and premiered the Revolutionary War spy drama Turn.
Still, a whopping 2.1 million of us tuned in to watch, so there must have been a good number of us whose borrowed HBO Go login credentials crashed the system—leaving us with no choice but to see what AMC had in store.
Starring Jamie Bell as the cabbage farmer turned (but not yet) spy Abe Woodhall, Turn focused its 90-minute time slot on setting the scene of what would eventually become the Culper Ring of spies.
Woodhall is a cabbage farmer with a wife and a young son in Setauket, NY—a loyalist and red coat haven in 1767. Most of his peers have gone and joined the Continentals, who under Washington haven’t been faring well in places like New Jersey and New York.
In the early scenes, we’re introduced to a band of Scottish-looking ruffians (plaid, berets, and bloody muskets) called the Queen’s Rangers led by a rangy sort of man named Major Roger Roberts (Angus Macfadyen).
On the Continental side, we meet a bruised and bloodied Major Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich), who’s barely escaped Roger’s massacre that killed his entire unit. Tallmadge convinces the higher ups that there was no coincidence—the Rangers were waiting in ambush for the Continentals and there must be a spy in the American’s ranks. He sets in motion a plan of recruiting his own spy—one Abe Woodhull.
Woodhull’s a meek sort of fellow who’s been having a bad week. Or life, maybe, as his backstory isn’t much rosier than his current state of affairs. His field of cabbages are maggot ridden. The girl of his dreams, Anna Strong (Heather Lind), dumped him three years ago for a tavern owner he now owes money to and his dad’s staunchly planted in the Royalists’ court and all up in Abe’s business. The red coats in town are brutish and rude and all-around up in everyone’s homes and taverns.
In a pretty long, squished-together series of events, Abe’s all but bullied, bloodied, and strong-armed into accepting his buddy Tallmadge’s offer to send vital info Washington’s way with the help and cooperation of Anna Strong herself.
The premiere closes with Abe, who’s already sent valuable information about a planned raid in Connecticut with his school buddy Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall), taking an oath of fealty to the crown under the scrutinizing eye of his father Richard (Kevin Mcnally). Richard isn’t buying it and tells Abe he’s done protecting him.
So while Abe’s not exactly the shining hero we like to romanticize about when we think of our revolutionary forefathers, he’s what AMC is giving us, so we’ll just hold out hope that he’ll be a little less cabbage farmer and a little more badass spy man as the season continues.
The writers have even given him an in-your-face jerk of an antagonist in the form of Captain John Graves Simcoe (Samuel Roukin) who’s billeted himself at Anna’s house and all but promises to rape her in her sleep. All of the ingredients we need for an exciting season are there—we just need Turn to pick up the action a bit and give our Everyman hero a little grit in his eye already.
America needs you, Abe!
Megan Applegate – follow me on Twitter