Turn: Washington’s Spies – The Prodigal review

AMC's Turn doesn't quite deliver its strongest episode this week, but perhaps the season finale can fix that...

In the latest episode of Turn: Washington’s Spies, warfare has broken out on Long Island. Not between the British and the Americans, but within the Crown forces. Maj. John Graves Simcoe (Samuel Roukin) and Maj. Edmund Hewlett (Burn Gorman) are at odds over past resentments, competing authority, and the affection of Anna Strong (Heather Lind). Both officers will lose some soldiers before the episode is out.

Meanwhile, at Valley Forge, Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge (Seth Numrich) is also scheming against his own colleagues. He’s so suspicious of Gen. Charles Lee (Brian T. Finney), now professing admiration for Gen. George Washington (Ian Kahn), that he makes himself look like he’s undercutting Washington in order to be ready to thwart Lee. This season appears headed for a climax next week during the Battle of Monmouth, but that’s only if we expect big events to unfold as they actually did in 1778. 

At the middle of this week’s action, Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell) returns to his home town of Setauket after several weeks in prison in New York City. Within a short time he’s both promised his wife Mary (Meegan Warner) that he’s home to stay and secretly kissed his old flame Anna. Meanwhile, his father (Kevin T. McNally), who knows Abe’s been spying for the Americans while pretending to spy for the British, is acting grumpy but not actually doing anything to stop his son. 

Why does Abe think he no longer needs to travel to New York to gather intelligence for Gen. Washington? Because the innkeeper Robert Townsend (Nick Westrate) has finally joined the Culper Ring and will now collect that sensitive information, though his change of heart had nothing to do with Abe’s actions. Wouldn’t Townsend be pleased that all the risks he’s running will enable Abe to carry on his affairs in Setauket? Townsend may be the only regular character not betraying or exploiting another—at least not yet. 

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One subplot that could now go in various directions involves the Setauket characters of African descent. Akinbode (Aldis Hodge), formerly known as the slave Jordan, is willing to ferry young Cicero (Darren Alford) to his mother Abigail in New York. Akinbode has become Maj. Simcoe’s right-hand man in the Queen’s Rangers. Abigail, unknown to almost everyone else, is sending the Culper Ring info straight from the British intelligence headquarters. In reuniting Cicero and Abigail, everyone seems to be acting out of genuine good will. But can those relationships survive?

Speaking of relationships, we see Philadelphia’s new military commander, Gen. Benedict Arnold (Owain Yeoman), save Margaret Shippen (Ksenia Solo) and her aristocratic family from a mob. Those rioters have even equipped themselves with pitchforks. At their next meeting, Arnold forces a kiss on Peggy and blurts, “Let’s be married straight away!” He follows up this proposition by noting that his late wife was also named Margaret. Surprisingly, Peggy is not won over. 

All told, this was not one of the season’s better episodes, with too much of the dialogue sounding flat and familiar, and few striking yet satisfying surprises. Turn continues to look handsome, with fine Virginia historic settings augmented by good CGI effects. But the show is most entertaining when its larger-than-life characters, some in little evidence this week, carry out world-class betrayals instead of petty backstabbing. 


3 out of 5