Plot: A new historical drama set in 1776 and based on Alexander Rose’s book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. Long Island farmer Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) is a down-on-his-luck farmer whose heart is torn in two. One side favors the revolutionary movement, a movement his former fiancee Anna Strong (Heather Lind) and his two childhood friends Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall) and Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich) are both sympathizing and taking part in. The other side remains loyal to his family including his young wife (Meegan Warner) and child as well as his overbearing, ultra-loyalist father (Kevin McNally) who is always getting him out of trouble. After a series of run-ins with both sides, will Abraham turn his back on his family and his homeland in order to free his new home?
Turn’s, premiere episode inspires an overwhelming sense of ambivalence.
On the positive side of things — the cast Turn has assembled is awesome. Jamie Bell is truly an underrated actor; he walks into the series a legit dramatic actor who has the experience to steal scenes with his knack for making an audience feel every emotion coursing through his character’s soul. Kevin McNally, known to many as Gibbs from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, may have stolen the show as Bell’s ultra loyalist father. On paper, it was a bold move to cast him, as he’s been pigeon-holed as a salty pirate for the better part of a decade, but here he shows he’s more than just rum and yo-ho-ho’s. Also, you gotta love when the always charming and hilarious Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Pacific Rim, The Dark Knight Rises) shows up as a villain.
The espionage and spy games in this episode were also well-executed. There was little shown of what the revolutionaries have in mind for its newly formed spy ring, but the potential of where it could take the series is limitless. With a strong cast backing this potential, we could be in store for another AMC great.
Yet, there’s a lot going against the show both internally and externally. Internally, the premiere episode suffered from too long of run time. At 90 minutes, this episode was 30 minutes too long, in fact, last week’s finale of The Walking Dead could’ve used that time. This episode needed to be tight and the atmosphere taut, neither was achieved. Storylines have to established, characters developed and so on, but for a spy series, the necessary sense of urgency and suspense was just not there. Things just unfolded at a lackadaisical pace and at times, this reviewer found himself loosing interest.
Externally, Turn does not have luck on its side. How may spy dramas have we seen overcomplicate matters within the first few weeks of debuting? Too many to count. If this show gets too complex, like its network predecessor, Rubicon, then Turn will suffer the same one-and-done fate as that series. The show is also unlucky in terms of scheduling. It’s going to be hard for the show, no matter how good it is, to overcome being the odd man out on Sunday nights. With Mad Men and Game of Thrones airing on the same night, will people be investing in Turn? Will they actually DVR it when they may be doing the same of GoT or the final run of Mad Men?
So the question is, should people tune in? Should they make room in their DVR schedule or their television diet for this new series? The answer is a definite maybe. We recommend watching the pilot — if this premiere episode intrigues you, despite its issues, then give the series a chance. The pilot was not a home run in any way, but it’s definitely solid, it has a lot of potential to be a really thrilling series. Turn is a show that deserves to be given an honest shot, so tune in or DVR it and you might be stumbling onto something fantastic.