Television Reviews

A Turn for the Best

A <i>Turn</i> for the Best

Americans tend to have a rather romantic view of the Revolutionary War.

In our eyes, the struggle for independence was a glorious battle fought by noble patriots against a brutal and oppressive dictator. While there certainly is some truth to this, it’s still far from being the whole story. Like most wars, the American Revolution was divisive and complicated, with plenty of morally gray areas. Some colonists were divided on what to do, some fiercely supported the Loyalist, while others simply didn’t care either way.

It’s this environment that makes AMC’s newest drama, Turn, so engaging. Set in 1776, the show follows a New York farmer named Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell, The Adventures of Tintin) as he and a group of childhood friends form the war’s first spy ring. From there, the plot twists and turns, with each character taking their place in the chain of events and discovering how far out of their depth they’ve become. Each new secret tests their conviction to the cause while impacting the war effort to various degrees. Meanwhile, Abe himself must wrestle with personal demons as he chooses what’s best for his family.   

Turn certainly doesn’t lack for drama. The story is sure to draw an audiences of history buffs but will also cater to anyone who enjoys a good mystery. Jamie Bell owns his role as Abe Woodhull, slipping into the skin of an unlikely protagonist with remarkable ease. The rest of the cast play their parts admirably, though Kevin McNally will doubtless cause a few Pirates of the Caribbean flashbacks. With a great setting and some solid writing at its back, the show has all the ingredients necessary for a successful run.    

If Turn does have one fault, it would have to be its pacing. The first episode was unbelievably slow (a bad move since pilots are designed to hook viewers), and the series failed to pick up steam until episode three. Interwoven storylines end up getting tangled, and more often than not an episode will waste valuable time jumping from plot point to plot point instead of resolving anything. These gimmicks can be annoying but they’re nothing audiences haven’t seen before, especially from a spy series. Given what it takes to be in modern television however, AMC might want to smooth things out.

For a Christian audience, Turn will be something of a dilemma. On one hand, it’s a fairly accurate depiction of colonial America. The series provides a view of history that has rarely been explored, and depicts characters and their beliefs with as much honestly as a fictional show can have. However, this is still a story taking place during a war, and a number of scenes feature violence, bloodshed, and death. Compounding this is the fact that, as a spy ring, Abe and his friends must routinely lie and steal to get information.

These factors, along with some mild sexuality, mean most Christian viewers are likely to keep their distance. Still, if you have a high tolerance for fighting and are looking for a new drama to sink your teeth into, Turn is worth investigating. Those seeking more family-friendly entertainment will have better luck sticking with a history book.

*Watch Turn Sundays on AMC

**Published 4/23/2014