This Turn review contains mild spoilers.
Turn Season 3 Episode 7
The women take the reins in the latest episode of Turn: Washington’s Spies. Although the undercover agents and military officers of both Continental and British armies continue to scheme and maneuver as if they can control events, those men are really just scrambling to keep up.
In one early scene, Peggy Shippen (Ksenia Solo) coaches her fiancé, Gen. Benedict Arnold (Owain Yeoman), in how to make his case to a military board, giving advice as savvy as any political consultant. In another, Anna Strong (Heather Lind) warns Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich) not to put off telling his commander about the end of the Culper Ring. Although that’s the last we see of Strong in this episode, she comes across as the stronger personality.
Tallmadge soon has a much bigger headache—or heartache. Sarah Livingston (Elizabeth Blackmore), the widow with whom he had a brief affair a few episodes back, is in the Continental camp at Middlebrook, New Jersey. But she’s there as a prisoner, accused of being caught up with a band of armed Loyalists. When Tallmadge gets her alone, Livingston says that’s not true—she was helping to lead that band, planning their raid and shooting at the Continentals. Tallmadge asks Livingston to agree to spy for him, the only way he can see to free her. “I was ready to die for my beliefs,” she replies, “but I’m not ready to die for yours.” It’s difficult to find a historical precedent in the Revolutionary War for such a character, but she fits fine in the alternative history of Turn.
Even the maid Abigail (Idara Victor) plays an important role in this episode, albeit inadvertently changing others’ plans rather than in advancing her own. Abigail interrupts Maj. John André (JJ Feild) in flagrante delicto, apparently prompting him to rethink his attempt to carry on with actress Philomena Cheer (Amy Gumenick) as a substitute Shippen. Ironically, Abigail also ends up confirming news of that affair for Shippen, so she decides to give up waiting for André and go all in with Arnold and his Continental career.
Finally, in Setauket, Mary Woodhull (Meegan Warner) turns out to drive the action. Her voice is the first we hear in this episode, saying, “I don’t like it.” At that point she is referring to her husband’s plan to take the family off Long Island, ending his espionage career. But we hear the words over footage of the ominously approaching Queen’s Rangers, something to really dislike.
When Maj. John Graves Simcoe (Samuel Roukin) arrives, he’s convinced he finally has the evidence he needs to eliminate Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) as a spy and general irritant. At pistol point Abe admits to spying but insists that he did so only under duress from the wicked Robert Rogers. If Simcoe knew how many other people on Long Island Abe had already confessed to, he’d be even more furious at learning so late, but that news is enough to make him spare Abe’s life for the nonce.
Soon Mary distracts Simcoe with a warning that Rogers is skulking in the woods, coming to kill them all. Actually, the bearded man in the woods is Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall), come to row the Woodhulls off to Connecticut. As always, Mary Woodhull’s motivations are hard to understand. She has stated many times that she doesn’t care about the war, only about keeping the family together, despite her husband’s infidelity, spying, and general mopiness. So how does sending Rangers after Brewster further that goal? In what scenario does she see such a momentary distraction reuniting herself, Abe, and little Thomas?
Mary’s machinations might not always make sense, but they’re damn fun to watch, even in Turn’s usual darkness. In fact, they’re so much fun that I don’t want to give anything away for people who haven’t seen the last act of this show. I’ll just say that the scene from two episodes ago of Mary learning to load and fire a musket has its payoff. And the total casualty count is, I believe, two dead and two wounded.
The episode title “Judgement” refers to the end of the official inquiry into Gen. Arnold’s actions as military governor of Philadelphia. The verdict, mostly in his favor, restores his honor. But in a snowy visit to Gen. Henry Knox, Arnold discovers just how much that honor is worth when it comes to paying the bills. Some many men’s judgment has been flawed for so long.
J. L. Bell is the author of The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War (Westholme, 2016). In 2012 he completed a study of Gen. George Washington’s first campaign of the Revolutionary War, which included new findings about the commander-in-chief’s first successes and failures in espionage. Bell maintains the Boston1775.net blog, which offers daily doses of history, analysis, and unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution in New England. He is also an associate editor of the Journal of the American Revolution and an assistant editor of the Colonial Comics anthologies (Fulcrum).