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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Turn: Washington’s Spies open thread

I have recently finished binging on the first season of AMC’s series Turn: Washington’s Spies. A huge thank-you to my friend Leah for alerting me to this show. I’m sure she’s heard me wonder in the past why o why no one had seemed to appreciate all the drama and passion inherent in the American Revolution and set a film or TV series there… and now someone has done it. (AMC’s website for the show is here. Season 2 debuts on April 13th.)

So, yeah: This is based on for-real stories about colonials on Long Island (not far from where I lived as a teenager!) who publicly professed loyalty to the English crown but secretly worked doing intelligence work for the Continental Army led by George Washington that was fighting to give the King the boot. It’s all very exciting and features very cool actors like Jamie Bell and J.J. Feild and Burn Gorman, and also includes some extremely interesting and complicated female characters (because women have war stories, too).

Feel free to discuss the show here…

posted in:
tv buzz
  • ErinM

    One of the things I struggled with for a long time with this show was the main character’s motives. It’s been a while since I first watched (although I’m marathoning with a friend), but I just remember being routinely frustrated with his flip-flopping — he would take huge risks largely on his own initiative, and then pull back sharply, rinse repeat. Even getting the gist of all his immediate relationships, the missing pieces of his backstory made it difficult to understand where his actions were coming from for most of the season, and him lacking some sort of underlying definition made it likewise kind of difficult to invest in the character. (Or at least would have made it difficult? I’m fairly biased in that I find Jaime Bell fascinating anyway, and I’d probably still watch if it was just him wandering around for 45 minutes in period clothing. But assuming I wouldn’t, investment issues.)

    But when they did finally get around to his backstory, and really in any scene that allowed evident gut reactions to show driving impulses, it was fully fantastic. There seemed to be a real sense throughout that what was being depicted was a civil war, with all the complications that come with that, and a lot of nice reminders from characters across the board that ‘acting on principle’ is nowhere near as clean as we like to pretend.

    So I guess my hope is that the motive issue (along with what felt like some pacing problems) was ultimately the result of things getting a little clunky as they tried to move everything into place in so few episodes — and now that the pieces are all on the board, things can accelerate more as they were starting to do in the last few episodes. Because I already love this show (great actors, setting, story, theme, etc.), and pretty sure I could *love* it if all the awesome bits gelled together into something a little tighter.

  • I like how conflicted so many of the characters are, and how all the complexities of their lives contribute to their confusions. Their personal lives are inextricable from their wartime activities… which is how it should be.

  • LaSargenta

    Not to stir a pot, but, I recall a miniseries of that John Jakes potboiler The Patriot done back jn the 70’s/early 80’s. I hope this is better. (Jane Seymour’s presence in that notwithstanding.)

  • Bluejay

    I’ve been meaning to check out this series, and now I’m even more eager to.

    Funny that you think there’s been a dearth of American Revolution stories; I’ve been noticing quite a bit of it. There’s the “Sexy Founding Fathers” miniseries Sons of Liberty (which I’ve yet to see) and of course there was John Adams.

    Fox’s Sleepy Hollow also plays a lot with flashbacks to the Revolutionary era — in which Ichabod Crane was on familiar terms with all the Founders, whose fight against the British was actually a cover for their real war against demons. The first season in particular was lots of crazy fun.

    And now there’s the upcoming Broadway production of Hamilton that I really want to see…

  • A couple of recent examples that stand out only underscores my contention: the American Revolution has all but been ignored in pop culture as a source of dramatic entertainment. Sure, there have been a few stories, but nowhere near as many as the World Wars or the American Civil War (which means that the popularity of WWII stories isn’t only about the fact that it’s still within living memory).

  • Bluejay

    Why do you think that’s the case?

  • Bluejay

    Then there was this:


    Maybe the fact that this was a huge flop made Hollywood skittish?

  • I don’t know! Hence my mystification.

  • *1941* was a flop. Lots of movies set in WWII have flopped. This has not stopped more from being made.

  • Bluejay

    True! I’m not trying to excuse it. But we know, from Hollywood’s justifications for, say, not making more female-led action/superhero films, that Hollywood isn’t necessarily a rational place.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Not to stir a pot, but, I recall a miniseries of that John Jakes potboiler The Patriot Rebels (oops, brain hiccup) done back in the 70’s/early 80’s.

    Ah. The Rebels. Part of the John Jakes Bicentennial Series — or at least the part where the would-be series jumped the shark after a successful beginning with The Bastard. (Then again, the series always worked better to me as a series of novels than it did a series of TV shows.)

    Ironically, it is best known for marking one of the first television appearances of actor Don Johnson, who would later star in a more famous series known as Miami Vice.

    And it is not to be confused with the 1970-1971 TV series The Young Rebels, which marked one of the earliest starring roles of actor Lou Gossett.


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