TURN’s First Season

AMC’s Turn wrapped up it’s first season a couple of weeks ago. The drama is about the first spy ring of the Revolutionary War. The premise showed a ton of the promise, and at least mildly had to be building off the popularity of the Assassin’s Creed video game series, but the show got mixed reviews, and started very slow before picking up a bit of steam.

Reminiscent of another AMC show The Killing, the premise was a bit misleading. The “spy” aspect of the show took weeks to start developing and went almost nowhere thus far. Instead the show tried and failed to be a character-driven drama that just wasn’t that interesting. Unlike Orange is the New Black, where the characters are just amazing and the plot doesn’t matter as much, this show fails to accomplish that task. And instead of opting for a more high action kind of show, they slowplayed it to the point of boredom.

The Revolutionary War is not an era that has been covered much in scripted TV, so there was a gigantic opportunity here. Unfortunately is was mostly wasted. Especially since period pieces can be very successful if done right. Instead this show, like The Killing and Hell on Wheels before it, is just an average drama that isn’t interesting enough most nights to be worth it.

Moderate Spoilers Below

Jamie Bell (a.k.a. Billy Elliot) struggles to carry the main character. His infidelities make it harder to root for him, and at times he seems like such a coward. Perhaps this is by design, but he just doesn’t feel right at certain moments. It’s easy to see how a stronger lead could have made a difference here.

As previously mentioned, the spy aspect doesn’t get going for a couple of episodes then seems to almost go nowhere after that. Codenames and code books get tossed about, but there is a minimal exchange of information, and nothing that would make any decent spy story. What’s more, so much of the action is confined to one little town that it’s hard to see the impact on the overall revolution. Granted, no one was expecting grand battle scenes straight out of The Patriot, but a little bit more expansion would have helped. George Washington showing up was a nice touch, but unlike the ways that Mad Men interweaved actual events, TURN has completed failed so far to make it feel like this story is part of the actual American Revolution.

Most of the other characters are dry, or nondescript, and overall the cast can’t make this show feel more interesting despite it’s potentially great subject matter. In the same way that Starz’ Black Sails felt less like a pirate show (at least in the first couple of episodes) and more like a political show, this one feels similar.

The tease of a big showdown in the season finale did not really pay off, but there was a final twist that came when Bell’s character shot a British solider stationed at his house. There is just the slightest bit of intrigue created here, but the show still has a long way to go.

The first season was probably enjoyable just enough to get a lot of people back, but it’s likely the leash will be short to get more into the spy action.