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The Revolutionary Spies Of TURN

AMC's new Sunday night series may change the way you think about espionage - and American history.

by
Chris Queen

Bio

April 29, 2014 - 3:00 pm
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I wasn’t looking to get hooked on another series, especially a period drama about a historical era with which I’m woefully unfamiliar. But I tuned in to AMC to get ready for the season premiere of Mad Men and caught the last five minutes of the second episode of TURN, a new program about the exploits of the real life Culper Ring, a small network of spies on Long Island during the Revolutionary War. After just a few minutes, I had programmed my DVR to catch up and became a fan of the show.

TURN centers around four spies: young farmer and magistrate’s son Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell), Anna Strong (Heather Lind), wife of the local tavern keeper, himself jailed for treason against the Crown, and militiamen Ben Tallmadge (Seth Numrich) and Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall, and Australian actor with the best pan-Celtic accent I’ve ever heard). The four are tired of the mistreatment at the hands of the occupying British, and they manage to pass information back and forth unscathed (so far), risking their lives both on the battle front and in a Loyalist-friendly hometown.

The show has challenged the way I think about the spy game. As one who grew up on James Bond, it’s always been difficult for me to get away from the quips, technology, and hot women and see espionage in a more realistic context. The visceral, realistic rush of TURN is a far cry from 007′s high flying adventures. As I’ve already written over at The Macho Sophisticate:

Instead of cool gadgets, these spies rely on standard weapons. Rather than fire off witty quips, this crew must keep their wits about them. Where James Bond has the backing of a massive government organization, this group counts on clandestine rendezvous and elaborate signals involving hanging laundry to pass on information. And their escapades are just as fascinating as anything Ian Fleming could devise.

Each of the spies has his or her own problems that complicate their roles. Abraham Woodhull must contend with his father, a loyalist judge, and Anna Strong fends off lusty British soldiers. Ben Talmadge must deal with a commanding officer who threatens to court martial him over his interrogation of a British captain, while Caleb Brewster fights nature and his own enthusiasm for the patriot cause.

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