Every once in a while, a TV show comes along that just grabs you. For whatever reason, and it is hard to admit it, it almost consumes you because it is just that good. For myself and millions of Americans, TURN on AMC has become that show.
At first it was the allure of seeing what it was like living in the Colonies during the American Revolution. Yes, we had long since sat through the films in school and read our Social Studies textbooks but from the moment AMC started promoting this show, there was just a different feel about it. I got excited and started ingesting anything and everything I could find about the show before it even aired! The series follows the unexpected evolution of what would become known as the Culper Spy Ring, whose main members were childhood friends in the town of Setauket on Long Island, NY. The first spy, a reluctant farmer named Abe Woodhull, became known under his pseudo-spy name, Mr. Culper.
Woodhull, played perfectly by British actor Jamie Bell, is brought into the spy business by way of his childhood friend, Continental Army officer Ben Tallmadge portrayed by American-born stage actor Seth Numrich. Soon after, Abe is made aware of the fact that his old buddy Caleb is also working for Washington and not long after, they recruit strong-willed Anna Strong, played by Heather Lind. I just have to throw this out there, I love Anna for the simple reason she has no fear to get in the face of the other three if they need a good dose of common sense. The natural beauty of these four is that they have known each other their entire lives and this is what makes them so successful; they know each other so well that their faith in each other is unwavering.
I have watched each episode at least twice and often times three times, and I am not the least bit ashamed to admit it. First, the casting director for this series did an incredibly stellar job with casting these characters, who, I might add, are, with a few exceptions, based on actual individuals who played a significant role in the American Revolution. Yes, the writers have taken a few very minor liberties and strayed a bit from the historical aspects of the story making it, shall we say, sexy to be a spy for General Washington.
The acting is simply superb. I cannot tell you how many times, as I was lost in what was happening on my TV screen, I had to remind myself that this was a TV show. The wardrobe people, make up, I mean it is all there, every last bloody drop of a revolution. They ingeniously wrapped the battles, the people, the day-to-day life and the inventive spirit of the time all into a nice neat little spy package. The sub-plots are all things that we can relate to; father vs. son, love vs. loyalty, faith in your childhood friends vs. those who have never met them and the indelible thrill of trying to get away with something.
What surprisingly drew me in was the realization, as I got to know the characters in the early episodes, that these people, these farmers, traders, tavern owners, were risking everything in the name of freedom from the Crown. I don’t know if it was just never explained to me in such a way before or if I just wasn’t able to grasp the concept in my younger years, but if this spy ring had fallen on the losing side of things at the end of the American Revolution, they would have not just lost their lives, their families who were left would have had everything taken from them as well. The level of risk that this group of friends took on in a time where families and neighbors were warily suspicious of each other – it is almost beyond comprehension.
While it pains me to focus on just a few of the insanely talented actors that walk across my screen each Monday evening, I must admit my favorites are Ian Kahn as General George Washington and Daniel Henshall as the bravely rambunctious and often sarcastic trader-turned-spy Caleb Brewster. Khan brings through the genius of Washington as well as his passion for the cause is nothing short of beautiful fashion. Henshall personifies the fun of being a spy. He is the first one to say, “Let’s do this!” and the first one to volunteer for the most dangerous of duties, all with the smile of a Cheshire cat. Idara Victor does an amazing job as a former slave turned house maid of British Major John Andre. Idara’s character Abigail uses her position in the André household to collect information that she shuttles back and forth to the others right under the trusting eye of her master.
Yet, beyond the story, beyond the acting and the costumes, for me, the true value of this show is that it gives me the patriotic opportunity to share this show with my teenagers to not just help them bring their school lectures to life but to also give them a sense of precisely what our Founding Fathers and everyday colonists like Abe, Anna, Caleb and Abigail were willing to risk to give us the nation we proudly call the United States of America.
Every Monday, you can find me anxiously awaiting the 10 PM EST start time, then lost for the next hour to only be left with that sinking feeling once the final credits roll and I am struck with the reality that I am going to have to wait an entire week to know what happens next!
Now we anxiously, and not so patiently await Season 3 …