A few years back in the summer of 2014, a new show premiered on AMC that I watched. It was called Turn, and it was about the group of civilians on Long Island who helped spy for the Continentals during the Revolutionary War. It was an interesting show, and I sort of enjoyed it despite its slowness. When the second season came around in summer of 2015, I set the DVR to record it. And then it just never happened. I don’t know how the Boy came across the show, but that fall he decided to watch the first season, and then he caught up on the second, and encouraged me to watch the second so we could watch future episodes together. And nothing happened. We wrote it on our paper list of shows to watch together eventually, and that was that.
Fast forward to the beginning of the summer, and our sweet baby girl has begun going to sleep regularly in the evenings so that the Boy and I actually have our evenings free again, and we are able to do something in the nights before it’s time to go to bed. We consult the list, and the Boy proclaims that we really ought to get around to watching Turn. And for lack of something else to watch, I say sure, even though I’m not super excited.
Guys – I don’t know why I was so hesitant. Scratch that, I do know. It’s because the first season was slow, and I didn’t have any reason to know that things would pick up in pace in the second season. Watching the first episodes in season 2, I did need to have the Boy remind me of what was going on, and thank goodness he has a good memory and was able to remind me of the big things that happened. But the pace begins to pick up, or else I have watched enough shows that are a slow burn a this point that it felt appropriately paced. Of course, by the time we got to later in the fourth season, things were definitely moving quickly but that may just be because the show was racing towards its conclusion at that point. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Turn is the story of the Culper ring – a group of spies in Long Island that actually existed. The central member is Abraham Woodhull, who with his childhood friends from Setauket created the system to pass information from the Crown-held areas of Long Island and (New) York City to Washington’s armies. The story that first season, while interesting, had what felt to be a very small scope. Once the story moves on to the larger world and begins to show more of the higher-level machinations and ramifications of the intelligence provided, that’s when things begin to get really interesting.
I also enjoy the fact that starting later in season 1, and increasingly in the following seasons, we begin to see more characters whose names we recognize. George Washington. Benedict Arnold. King George III. General Clinton. Alexander Hamilton. General Cornwallis. The Marquis de Lafayette. And yet, while the story that is told is one I’m familiar with, it turns out that I continue to be woefully uneducated about the war that won the United States its independence. Which I think is a theme, since I talked about not knowing it all back when I read a book about Lafayette as well. I’d known basic things about the war and particularly about this spy ring, but it was fascinating to watch this with the Boy, and to every once in a while pause the show, and then pull out our phones to google and try to figure out “Is this real? Did that really happen?” And I would say that 9 out of 10 times, the things that we looked up were real things.
One of the things I appreciated most in the show was how it’s not entirely focused on the contributions of the men. Yes, this is during a time when the accomplishments of women were not generally discussed, but that doesn’t mean that women were sitting around on their hands waiting for the war to be over. No – we get to see women who are involved in the actual spying, women who may have been involved in intelligence work. Women who followed the army. Women from all ranks of society – from Martha Washington to a house servant. They are all shown to have their own level of influence and power, and while it’s definitely not the same as modern women (which would be anachronistic), it’s nice to see how they all maneuvered in society and accomplished things, even if they weren’t as widely recorded and celebrated as the deeds of men.
As we got towards the end of the fourth and final season, the Boy and I were both excited and sad – we knew generally how things turned out (surprise – America wins its independence!), but we had grown attached to the characters, and knowing they were real people with real fates was intense. We looked forward to seeing how things would end for them, and the show did not disappoint at the end. Things felt well wrapped up, and most all of the storylines introduced at various points throughout the series were tied up in neat bows. I do like that I learned a lot from this show, and I especially liked that the whole thing was not very long – 40 episodes total. It’s the kind of show you feel like you can tackle without it being a daunting task. And since it just keeps getting better and better as it goes on, it’s one that you enjoy more the more that you watch it.