The Best Spy Show Nobody Is Watching
AMC’s Revolutionary War drama ‘Turn’ is actually pretty good
Did you know that basic cable network AMC has a series about American espionage during the Revolutionary War?
Yeah, us neither … until very recently. Turn is the best new spy show that practically nobody is watching.
Which is weird. AMC should be frantically looking for its next big thing to follow the already-ended Breaking Bad and the soon-ending Mad Men. But the network doesn’t seem to be promoting Turn at all. And it doesn’t help that it airs opposite HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Which is too bad. It’s a pretty compelling little series.
Loosely based on real events as described in Alexander Rose’s Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, the hour-long Turn follows the Culper Ring, an intelligence organization that American Benjamin Tallmadge formed at the order of George Washington in 1778.
Jamie Bell plays Abe Woodhull, a New York farmer who reluctantly gets drawn into the American colonies’ rebellion against the British.
In the pilot episode, Woodhull stands up for a store owner being harassed by British troops. It’s the beginning of his association with revolutionary forces and the Culper Ring—and, admittedly, a departure from history. The real-life Woodhull was a member of a New York militia before becoming one of America’s first spies.
We get it—Revolutionary War espionage may not sound terribly exciting to many viewers. And it’s true that there won’t be a lot of surprises. Wikipedia pretty much spoils the fates of all the major historical characters.
But Turn elaborately and convincingly depicts the late 18th century—at least as well as HBO’s award-winning John Adams miniseries did. Yellow teeth, crude surgery, Enlightenment rhetoric and all.
Turn is a Hell of a lot better than Mel Gibson’s chest-thumping Revolutionary War flick The Patriot. Plus, it’s got Stephen Root, who’s good in everything.
Turn should appeal to costume fetishists, history nerds and spy aficionados. Yes, we know you’ll be watching Game of Thrones. But at least DVR Turn and give it a chance.