Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Turn Premiere: Good Historical Drama in Revolutionary New York
Hey, the first episode of Turn on Sunday night on AMC was quite good. Here's what I most liked about it -
It's fun and interesting to see a series set in our Revolutionary War era. You don't often see a drama series in this time period - in fact, I can't really think of any (I don't think of Sleepy Hollow historical drama) - and even movies set in this era are few and far between. But it's certainly a crucially important era in American, British, and for that matter world history.
There have been superb docu-dramas set in the Revolutionary War and a little beyond - like the John Adams series, and the Adams Chronicles before it - but docu-dramas are something very different from historical dramas, like Rome, Vikings, The Tudors, and Black Sails. Turn, based on its debut episode, looks like it has good chance to join those winning shows.
There's excellent character development in Turn, even at this early point in the narrative. Abe Woodhull is a suitably conflicted, messily recruited spy. And his personal life is no less complex - he's married and a father, but also loves another woman. Anna at very least is Abe's first love, but she may well be his true love. Abe also has problems with his father, who is his champion but in some ways his worst enemy, being thoroughly loyal to the British in all matters other than his son, at least as far as we can tell (I say this because of the great twist in Zorro in which the father joins the son in opposing the military.) And Abe's friends are an appealing combination of people who in their own ways offer a variety of opposition to the British. This includes Anna, who married Abe's best or least very good friend. We'll likely soon meet some friends, though - or at least one - who are not only British sympathizers but the British spy.
The British are mostly villains, though there may be lurking in their leadership someone with a little more understanding of the way history is beginning to turn. Captain Simcoe epitomizes the attitude of even some of the British officers, restrained by the thinest veneer of gentlemanly conduct from rape, and not all from savagely beating a colonist who crosses them in any way. It's especially shocking and instructive to see the Brits treating American colonists the way we later treated conquered people like Native Americans.