This Turn: Washington’s Spies review contains spoilers.
Turn Season 4 Episode 7
The Continental intelligence department’s plot to kidnap Gen. Benedict Arnold (Owain Yeoman) finally gets under way in the latest episode of Turn: Washington’s Spies. Unfortunately, a key agent in that effort — the Long Island farmer Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell), newly enlisted in Arnold’s Loyalist legion — is far more interested in killing his old nemesis, Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe (Samuel Roukin). “This isn’t about Arnold,” Abe spits out. “I don’t give a damn about Arnold.” Gen. Washington would not be pleased.
Abe’s fellow spies certainly aren’t. Robert Townshend (Nick Westrate) makes a risky rendezvous only to learn that Abe has kept him in the dark about their orders. Sgt. John Champ (Chris Webster) arrives in New York to help carry out the abduction. Abe keeps putting him off, and Champ eventually threatens his life if he keeps getting in the way. Peggy Arnold (Ksenia Solo), her maid Abigail (Idara Victor), and the general’s teen-aged body servant Cicero (Darrell Alford) all offer Abe help in seizing the Continentals’ quarry. He insists that they risk everything by setting Simcoe up for assassination instead. All in all, Abe’s not the best confederate to have.
The only character fully in league with Abe’s priorities is, ironically, the head of British army intelligence, Maj. Edmund Hewlett (Burn Gorman). This episode, written by Libby Friz and directed by Omar Madha, starts with several imaginary sequences illustrating those two men’s plots. Later we see flashbacks to Simcoe’s torturous interrogation of Capt. Caleb Brewster (Daniel Henshall), and this episode also seems to have a high degree of ominous music. All of which might camouflage how nothing much actually changes in this episode of Turn until its final moments.
In the course of this episode, Simcoe learns that Woodhull is now in Arnold’s legion, making the lieutenant colonel even more dangerous. Capt. Brewster finally breaks down under the trauma he suffered earlier in the season, drinking ostentatiously and unable to carry out the mission.
The main drama in the Continental camp, however, involves Mary Woodhull (Meegan Warner) trying to ferret out information from Ann Bates (Tina Benko), the camp follower who revealed herself to be a Loyalist spy at the end of the last episode. For background on the real Ann Bates, who spied for the British earlier in the war, see this article by Christian M. McBurney: https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/12/ann-bates-british-spy-extraordinaire/.
Mary’s motivation has always been to preserve her family. Will she continue to cooperate with Continental Army intelligence director Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich) when she learns that her husband won’t come home soon as promised? Is Mary comfortable sending her new friend to the gallows?
The next episode of Turn promises a shift in scene, and perhaps a jump ahead in time. With three episodes to go, we’re about to enter the decisive campaign of the war.
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).