Turn: Season 1 (DVD) – Series Review
Follow Genre: Drama, Adventure
Distributor: eOne
Episodes: 10
Duration: 41 min (per episode)

Turn: Season 1 (DVD) – Series Review

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Good: Acting performances, costume design
Bad: A bit more spying would have been nice
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At the end of the eighteenth century, it certainly can’t have been fun to live in America. The British were at war with the rebels, and many households had to endure the occupation by British soldiers. Some took that task lightly, while others had more difficulty living with the British. Abraham Woodhull seems not to be bothered too much, until he becomes a spy for General Washington.


We meet Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell), a cabbage farmer in Setauket, New York, in 1776. The town is in the hands of the British, and soldiers are  quartered all around the town. Abe’s father Richard (Kevin McNally) is the judge of the town and thus has to help the British to keep the peace in this small community. Unfortunately, his son isn’t that concerned about peace when in the tavern, Abe defends Mr (Robert Beitzel) and Mrs Strong (Heather Lind) after they get in an argument with Captain Joyce (L. Derek Leonidoff), one of the British officers. Meanwhile Ben Tallmadge (Seth Numrich), one of Abe’s childhood friends, survives a battle in New Jersey after being shot by the Queen’s Rangers. He is convinced that he and his men got ambushed, and says as much to his superiors, but they don’t want to hear of it. The following day, Abe meets another childhood friend of his, Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall), while smuggling cabbage. Caleb wants to recruit him as a spy, and eventually he agrees. Together with his friends Ben Tallmadge, Caleb Brewster and Anna Strong, he forms a ring of spies, trying to gather as much information as possible from the British. Abe goes to New York City every once in a while with his father, to do business with the British Colonel Cook. While on these business trips, Abe keeps his eyes wide open and listens carefully to what is being said. Whenever he has some valuable information, he tells Anna to hang a black petticoat, which is the signal for Caleb to come by. After Abe tells him what he knows, Caleb tells Ben, who then tries to use this information against the British.


At the beginning the series takes a lot of time to introduce the characters. We first see Abe at work on his field. He has a young son Thomas and a wife Mary (Meegan Warner). Nonetheless, it is clear from the start that he and Anna Strong, the inn keeper’s wife, once were engaged. This is already a presage of the drama that is ahead. Also other characters, such as Captain Simcoe (Samuel Roukin), are being presented quite elaborately. This enables you as a viewer to immediately form an idea of all individual characters, even though there is quite some character development ahead. Once all characters are presented, the series really digs in, with more action and drama following on each other. All in all, the series is not so much about spying as it is about relationships.

The costumes and décor that are used, make this series very convincing and really transport you back in time. It seems like a lot of attention was paid to detail in every single uniform or outfit that was used. Visual effects also spice up the appearance every once in a while. They are usually very realistic, although the shots of the boats sailing in the harbor of New York look a bit too clean, yet still very nice.


As far as acting performances go, Jamie Bell does an excellent job portraying Abraham Woodhull. He is convincing in every scene and shows great character development, going from a farmer in a small town to a spy for General Washington. Also Samuel Roukin treats you to some fine acting. Even though his character Captain Simcoe is simply appalling, it has to be said that Roukin proves to be appalling in a very convincing way.

As usual, the extras provide you with a bunch of deleted and extended scenes. There is also some more information on how the series came to be, as it is actually based on the book by Alexander Rose. The author, as well as the creator of the series explain how they went from just an idea to an actual plan. There is also some info on the research that was done in order to be able to make everything look period appropriate. These are all quite predictable extras, yet they are well worth watching.


Turn: Season 1 might seem like just another historical drama, yet the enormous amount of research, as well as the attention to every detail make this series worth watching. Although the title might suggest lots of spying and deception, there is also enough time for drama and character development. Now that the spy ring has proven its value, we can only wonder impatiently what will happen in the next season.



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