Turn: Washington's Spies, Season 3 (2016)

 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

I have a love-hate relationship with Turn. It's a chance to indulge in some early American history, but it's inaccurate, often chooses superficial emotions over complex character development, and slanders historical figures without guilt.

 

Still hoping to turn Benedict Arnold (Owain Yeoman) against General Washington at the behest of Major John Andre (J.J. Field), socialite Peggy Shippen (Ksenia Solo) bolsters her finance's confidences as he faces trial for former offenses and prepares to become lady of the house. She rubs shoulders with Washington (Ian Kahn) while pining for her lost love. Andre feels the same. Stuck in New York, he indulges his resentment in an affair with an old flame who doesn't appreciate his lack of enthusiasm. Abigail (Idara Victor) continues to smuggle information out of Andre's house to her friends elsewhere.

 

Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) has ended his affair with Anna Strong (Heather Lind), whose relationship with Major Hewlett (Burn Gorman) reaches a crisis. Green Dragoon leader Simcoe (Samuel Roukin) is a loose cannon terrorizing the countryside, hell-bent on discovering the spy's secret identity. And up north, after his father's farm is robbed, the animals killed, and the barn burned down, a Quaker decides to become involved in the spy ring after all...

 

I like accuracy in historical dramas. Turn doesn't have it. Some episodes do use actual events to spur on the action, and those prove the most effective plotlines. But this season blunders in its finale; it takes what should have been the major plot of the episode and regulates it to the sidelines in favor of a fictional trial and attempted execution. In trying to "contrast" Major Andre's downfall, it undermines the emotional impact and subsequent fall-out of the decision leading to his execution. (He was such a hot point of contention in real life that Lafayette and Hamilton both argued against and tried to pressure Washington into avoiding the execution.) Furthermore, Andre spends most of the season absent or engaged in pointless angst over Peggy. He's a great character, never given a swan song.

 

The costumes are wonderful. The music is stirring. This has, arguably, the best casting for Washington that I've ever seen; he's just magnificent, despite limited screen time. But the same problems from former seasons plague this one -- unlikable, stereotypical characters. The script doesn't have time to establish Tallmadge's friendship with a spy whose first mission ends in his capture and hanging, but it does have time for a made up one night stand. The real Benedict Arnold was a popular, likable man, best friends with Washington. This one is a childish brat. Worse, when given the opportunity to introduce major figures like Hamilton, Lafayette, and Martha Washington, they get cameos with two lines. It's a shame, because the real story is more engaging, more thought provoking, and more disturbing than anything television writers can come up with, so I have to wonder why they didn't use it.

     
Sexual Content:
Several sex scenes that come in at the "end" of the scene (heavy breathing, sounds, movement).
 
Language:
Scattered profanities. Jesus' name is taken in vain several times. Uses of s**t.
 
Violence:
Infrequent but graphic, including a hanging that severs the man's head; characters are shot, stabbed, and strangled. A man hangs, twitching and alive, until two men grab his legs and break his neck. Bloody wounds.

 
Other:
Abundant historical inaccuracies.


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