Did AMC's Turn Recruit You to Its Cause?

Turn Series Premiere Recap AMCAn unassuming farmer with some truly bad luck finds himself forced to make a life-changing choice in AMC’s historical drama Turn, which bowed Sunday at 9/8c.

His quandary: Pledge loyalty to the British forces occupying his Long Island hometown (resulting in a safe, if cowed, existence) or become a spy for the rebelling colonial army (which could help vanquish the Redcoats but which will endanger his family and may cost him his life).

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In a moment or two, we want to hear what you thought of the cable channel’s newest drama. First, though, a recap of the first episode.

Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) plays the aforementioned cabbage farmer, Abraham Woodhull, in 1776 Setawket, NY. He’s got a wife, a toddler son and a Crown-loyal father, but all Abe wants to do is stay out of everyone’s way until the Redcoats end their occupation of New York.

That task becomes very difficult when Abe, visiting the tavern belonging to an acquaintance to whom he owes money, gets involved in a skirmish with some drunk British soldiers and winds up on the Redcoats’ bad side.

“Legacy is everything,” Abe’s disapproving father tells him, warning him to obey the rule of mother England and offering to help him out of his financial distress. But Abe’s pride won’t let him accept, so he instead trades some cabbages for silk and cash on the black market – which happens to be run by a childhood friend named Caleb.

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On the trip back to Long Island, Abe is stopped by colonial soldiers who suspect he’s a British spy as well as an illegal trader. Their interrogation (including a harrowing precursor to waterboarding) is suddenly stopped by Ben Talmadge (played by Seth Numrich, The Good Wife), another old friend of Abe’s who is now a Connecticut dragoon fighting against the British.

Ben’s offer: Help the Colonial Army gather military intelligence on the British in Setawket in exchange for being set free. “We’re of a mind that if you can smuggle cabbage, you can smuggle something more valuable,” he tells his put-out pal. Abe refuses to cough up the name of the privateer to whom he sold the veggies but reluctantly agrees to help Ben figure out what the enemy is up to.

Unbeknownst to Abe, even more trouble awaits him at home. There’s a murder that some people – including Abe’s father – think he may have committed. There’s Abe’s former fiancée – the now-jailed tavern owner’s wife, Anna (played by Heather Lind, Boardwalk Empire) – who convinces her old flame to help the colonists and agrees to play a part in the espionage. And there’s Abe’s wife Mary, who begs him, “Whatever you’re doing? Don’t. We can’t afford to lose you.”

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By the end of the first hour, Abe and Anna have successfully gotten word of a planned ambush to the Colonial Army – whose ranks, as it turns out, include Caleb. (The group of friends ultimately form the Culper spy ring, which was an actual espionage group during the Revolutionary War.)

Ben and his men get the jump on the Redcoats, whom they then massacre. Still, Ben wonders, who is the spy leaking important intel to the British? And back at home, Abe loudly and publicly pledges his loyalty to England while Anna, Mary and the rest of the town look on.

The drama from Nikita EP Craig Silverstein is well paced, well acted and well worth watching. Plus, the premiere sets up plenty of situations I’m looking forward to see resolved. Who killed the British captain? Exactly how much feeling remains between Anna and Abe? And when is Capt. Simcoe going to get the boot between the eyes he so sorely deserves?

That’s what we thought; now it’s your turn. Grade Turn via the poll below, then back up your choice in the comments.


Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Derek Johnson says:

    It was okay, a bit high-brow, and it’s political purposes are a bit obvious, but otherwise a generally good show. Give AMC real credit for trying something really different. Jamie Bell could be great in this role.
    Will admit that I had really high hopes for this one, and it was not as good as I thought it would be. I don’t expect it to be as good as Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead, but it can be all right. I’m actually more excited to see Halt and Catch Fire now.

    • johnhelvete says:

      Halt and Catch Fire is the new AMC show that I am waiting for as well. Zero interest in Turn.

    • The Beach says:

      I agree with giving AMC props for having the guts to invest in this subject matterr. I hope it succeeds. It’s certainly better than Low Winter Sun.

    • Judy McElderry says:

      Derek, I disagree. I did 3 years of climbing into the stacks, communicating with descendants of Loyalists and researching the lives of several Loyalists of the period I can say that the first two episodes of Turn are close to the bones of how it really was during the revolution. There is so much more, so many tales of interest that will probably never be viewed by the public that clarify the meanings of the causes of that war and the personal lives of the people involved. Really? The Walking Dead? Versus flesh and blood real events vividly portrayed? Read about the conflict, that’s fine but when you dig into the archives, follow leads on obscure factoids and feel the amazement at connecting the dots on your own, then you can understand what Turn really is, the unvarnished truth.

  2. Scott says:

    It was a little hard to follow, as if it picked up mid-story. But it covers an interesting subject and the show seems mostly well-done, so we’ll keep watching.

    • Roxie says:

      I totally agree with “hard to follow.” I watched the beginning again to clarify. Will give it another try next week.

      • Myrna says:

        I agree it was hard to follow. I wish in the beginning of a series that characters would call each other by name more often so I can remember who is who and what side they are on. Less mumbling, more speaking clearly, and perhaps a bit more context. I want to watch this! But not remembering my history particularly well (sorry, but it’s true, and I’m sure I’m not the only one), I could use a bit more clarity with this one.

  3. Ryan says:

    I want to watch this, as I like fantasy and period pieces, so I don’t understand why they’re airing it against Game of Thrones. I can’t be the only one who thinks these two shows share a genre and a potential viewer base.

  4. James D says:

    I loved it. the Culper Ring is one of the more fascinating and lesser known histories of the American Revolution so I’m stoked their is a drama about it. I do have one gripe Abraham Woodhull’s father was a Patriot sympathizer not a Loyalist, my hope is that their won’t be much reinterpretation of history for the sake of drama. I understand that their will be some, but as long as it doesn’t get out of hand i will most definitely tune in each week.

    • The Beach says:

      Wow, then having his father play a Loyalist is a major deviation from historical fact. Maybe that will be a twist later on and his father’s allegiance to the Crown will turn out to be merely a ruse.

  5. Teag says:

    It was okay, some parts I liked. I’ll give it another episode or two till I decide to continue with it.

  6. Carla Krae says:

    Recording. Haven’t seen it, yet.

  7. Hello Yellow says:

    I checked out the pilot it was interesting alot to take in but I was able to follow what was going on. I will watch again next week and see where it goes. Im really waiting for the next series to begin Catch Fire and cannot wait for Hell on Wheels and The Walking Dead to return

  8. Joanne says:

    The town’s name is spelled Setauket btw. I grew up in Stony Brook just over the border from Setauket and know the area very well. I have to adjust to the fact that they filmed this somewhere else, which I of course understand, but it causes me to watch with a more critical eye in that regard.

    I’m glad this information about the Culper Ring is coming to light, but I worry that they will take too much of a dramatic license. For instance, the part where Abe Woodhull has a history with Anna Strong; that’s just totally unnecessary. I don’t believe there’s any real truth to that backstory.

    I did like Jamie Bell in the role, and I thought the acting as a whole was good. I’m just going to have to watch again to really make up my mind about it.

  9. belle says:

    It was a bit schizophrenic initially, but I think the next episode will be easier to follow. Scandal is fast-paced too; just need to watch with an open mind and I think this is going to be a very enjoyable (semi educational) ride!

  10. Rela xxx says:

    I need to rewatch it again. I made the mistake of not having a notepad handy to write down all the different characters. There were alot of familiar faces that I swear I saw on other shows that I need to look up. I might be wrong but one of the Redcoats looked like the actor that played Abraham Brombones from Sleepy Hollow and another actor looked like The Swede from Hell on Wheels. Looks like the show has alot of interesting villians to make it a sunday night watch. I will stick with the show to see how everthing ends most of my favorite shows are on AMC anyway

  11. Stormie says:

    It was very interesting I knew that the British soldiers would stay with the colonists but to see how that one Redcoat guy was all grabby feely with the lady whose husband was arrested n his comment about its his house too… I was like really? The feeling of entitlement is so real with the soldiers like yes Colonists not only r we going to take over your homes eat your food and do with you as we feel but you must smile while we fuuuck you over. Thats enough right there to start a war. The show has the makings for alot of potential

    • Marcus says:

      This is the reason why, when they got around to writing The Constitution, they wrote the third amendment: “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

    • Judy McElderry says:

      You are right on Stormie, my Tory was born in 1737 near Philadelphia, married a widow when he was 19 years old and she was about 47, land grab marriage, was arrested for his Loyalist plotting in Northampton Co. PA, left to fight under Simco, and died in Nova Scotia. There is so much untold about those times and the complexity of the relationships, now you are seeing the real history of America. Most folks have no idea. This parallels the reading I did daily for 3 straight years on the war and the Loyalists. Very close, even the romantic angles have counterparts in the real stories. Look up Peggy Shippen, she is a good one to start with. Urge your friends to watch, it doesn’t get more real than this. More please!

  12. Ian Cooke says:

    I enjoyed the First Episode! Introducing Characters and Story Line can be confusing but was not difficult to figure out! As a History Buff, I’m looking forward to watching and seeing how series progresses! For those who had a hard time figuring out things watch repeat episodes and sure it will come together! Acting was good throughout!

  13. Monica gilardi says:

    Finally a show that is so totally different then anything else. Love this show. Refreshing and exciting. Love the characters and the storyline. I hope AMC renews this series.