Televised spies

By: Kaitlyn McKay, Columnist

The television series “TURN: Washington’s Spies” is a fictionalized version of a true story. Based on Alexander Rose’s book “Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring,” the series follows the formation and actions of the Culper Ring. The ring, a group of childhood friends who are sent information from the British-occupied New York to General Washington, help turn the tide of the American Revolutionary War.

The center of the spy ring and the show is Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell), a farmer in the British-occupied town of Setauket, New York. In the show, Abe is recruited to become a spy by his childhood friend Major Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich).

“TURN” was a strange viewing experience for me. I binged watched the entire first season in two days, because I was genuinely invested in the action and what would happen next. Yet on the other hand, the main characters are pretty boring. Abe is too uninteresting to be the center of a love triangle between his wife, Mary (Meegan Warner) and Anna Strong (Heather Lind), his former fiancée. This triangle alone takes up far too much screen time than it should. Likewise with Anna, who is also too bland to be part of the primary love triangle (or a love square if you count her imprisoned husband) with Abe and the over-the-top evil Captain Simcoe (Samuel Roukin).

I’m not exactly sure how much of this is the writing, and how much of it is the actors. “TURN” is a situation where the bad guys are much more fascinating to watch than the good guys. Simcoe is a two-dimensional villain, but he’s fun to watch in just how evil he is. Major Hewlett (Burn Gorman), Simcoe’s direct superior and supervisor over Setauket, never comes off as a truly bad person, just someone who likes to maintain order in a chaotic place. Meanwhile, Major André (JJ Feild) remains charming and intelligent.

The only good guy that really stands out is Abe’s father, Judge Richard Woodhull (Kevin R. McNally). He plays a Loyalist who genuinely loves his family, works closely with Hewlett and the British to maintain order in Setauket and becomes frustrated with Abraham when he threatens his life and his future by getting in fights with the British soldiers.

“TURN” is flawed, but it’s also ambitious. It’s a strange case where it’s enjoyable, despite its bland main characters, so give it a watch. The first season is only ten episodes long, so it shouldn’t take too long to catch up on the second season.

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