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Series: Turn

Turn is a television drama that premiered on AMC on April 6, 2014. The series is set during The American Revolution and is based on Alexander Rose's Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring. Abraham Woodhull, a cabbage farmer in Setauket, Long Island, is recruited to be a spy by American Capt. Benjamin Tallmadge after being caught smuggling goods in the black market. Woodhull and his former fiancee Anna Strong become involved in a spy ring for the Continental Army, finding important information for the Americans as the British hold New York City.

This original series contains examples of:

  • After-Action Patchup: In the pilot episode, Tallmadge is shown being patched up after his ambush with the Queen's Rangers; Simcoe is shown having a bullet being removed by Tallmadge's men in the second episode after being ambushed by the Continental Army.
  • Angry Black Man: Jordan/Akinbode. Though, as a former slave, you can't say that he doesn't have his reasons.
  • Artistic License - History: A number of events and characterizations have been changed to spice up the story. Abraham was single throughout the war and only married Mary in 1781. John Graves Simcoe is given a Historical Villain Upgrade.
  • Batman Gambit: Major Andre is being extremely insulting to Rogers after removing him from command of the Queen's Rangers. He is hoping that Rogers temper will get the better of him and he tries to attack Andre. At that point the soldiers waiting in the next room will rush in and arrest Rogers. However, Rogers is savvy enough to spot the trap and walks away.
  • Betty and Veronica: Mary as Betty and Anna as Veronica for Abraham.
  • Big Applesauce: "York City", the main British stronghold in the colonies. Abraham has to make perilous journeys in and out of NYC to get information.
  • Big Fancy House: The Strong residence.
  • Bitter Almonds: In "Against Thy Neighbor", the town doctor catches the scent from an apple, leading to the conclusion that Major Hewlett's horse was poisoned.
  • Blood-Splattered Warrior: Ben Tallmadge in his first scene. Only natural since it is set during the American Revolution.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Abraham passes on information about Hessian troops spending the winter in Trenton. A anyone familiar with American history knows, just a month later that information leads to the Battle of Trenton.
  • Childhood Friends: Abraham, Benjamin, Caleb, and Anna all were childhood friends.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Abraham and Anna were originally betrothed to each other, but it was vetoed by Abraham's father.
  • Cityof Spies: New York City.
  • Costume Drama
  • Costume Porn: The historically accurate dress is impressive.
  • Cultured Warrior: Major Hewlett, Major Andre, and Captain Tallmadge are this to varying degrees.
  • Darkest Hour: For the Patriots, the late fall of 1776 (when the show starts) is this. Washington's army has been smashed and sent fleeing into New Jersey, and the British have taken over in New York City and Long Island.
  • Dramatic Irony: Simcoe tells Will Robeson that he still believes that Abe was the one who murdered Captain Joyce and wants Will's help in proving it. What Simcoe does not know is that Will is the actual murderer and the last thing he wants is for the case to be reopened. Since Abe and Robert Rogers helped cover up what Will did, he also does not want Simcoe to be going after Abe since Abe might reveal what really happened.
  • Depraved Homosexual: "Who By Fire" reveals that Captain Joyce was killed by his spurned gay lover.
  • Due to the Dead: One of the conflicts in the episode "Eternity How Long" is over the use of Setauket's gravestones to bolster the garrison's fortifications, which the townspeople see as an act of desecrating the dead.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Several of these-
    • Benjamin Tallmadge is shown playing dead and takes the Queen's Ranger by surprise, and takes on his uniform to flee the scene.
    • Abraham Woodhull is a dutiful farmer and family man who cares more about the state of crops than espionage.
    • Robert Rogers is a fierce soldier who is able to lead an ambush. He is also Properly Paranoid and very quickly spots Ben's ruse.
    • Both Richard Woodhull and Major Hewlett are first shown discussing the court martial of a British captain and his skirmish. Hewlett gives great attention to the law and is more interested in justice than mercy; Richard, a Tory, is interested in colluding with Hewlett to discover who started the fight.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • The British officers are appalled by Rogers actions when he opens fire during a prisoner exchange. The already unpopular Rogers is stripped of his command of the Queen's Rangers.
    • Both Andre and Hewlett are appalled when they realize how bloodthirsty and brutal Simcoe is. When Hewlett realizes what a loose cannon Simcoe is, he has him arrested and gagged.
  • The Everyman: Abraham Woodhull. He's just an average New York farmer who is more interested in making a profit than any ideological fights, and is only brought into spying due to being caught selling cabbage on the black market.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The British troops defending the church are so focused on the Patriot raiding force taking the town that they fail to notice a group of rebels sneaking into a patch of woods on the British left flank. They pay dearly for it.
  • False Flag Operation: Abe suspects that it was Simcoe who poisoned Major Hewlett's horse and had Abe's father shot so the British would go after the suspected Patriots in the town.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Simcoe poisons Hewlett's prized horse and has someone shoot Abe's father to have an excuse to round up supposed Rebel sympathizers. Backfires when Abe "accidentally" demonstrates the holes in Simcoe's charges
  • Femme Fatale: New York actress Philomena becomes one of these for the British.
  • General Failure: Major Hewlett makes a big deal out of fortifying his cannons against a Patriot attack but he fails to secure the patch of trees on his flank. Once the Patriot raiding force exploits this weakness, Hewlett's defense crumbles.
  • Good-Looking Privates
  • Gorgeous Period Dress
  • Hellhole Prison: Selah Strong and Samuel Tallmage are both imprisoned on the notorious prison ship HMS Jersey. After a few months Selah is a wreck and barely alive. Samuel died from dysentery.
  • Historical-Domain Character: The entire cast of the show.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • John Graves Simcoe in the show is the opposite of the real Simcoe.
    • Charles Lee is considered to be an incompetent and/or unlucky general who might have divulged information to the British to save his life. On the show he is an outright traitor.
    • In real life John Andre didn't assume intelligence duties until several years after this setting, and he wasn't very good at it, as evidence by how he bungled the Arnold affair and got himself hanged. Here, he is a cool, effective spymaster.
  • Hitler Cam: Used for the terrifying Capt. Simcoe in "Mercy Moment Murder Measure" when he approaches Anna while she is scrubbing the floor of the tavern.
  • Jerk Ass: General Scott, who blows off Tallmadge and refuses to use Woodhull's intelligence, mostly out of spite.
  • Kick the Dog: In order to build up their defenses, the Redcoats at Setauket steal headstones from the graveyard. For an added kick, they force Judge Woodhull to determine which stones will be used, with the implicit threat that if he refuses, they'll use the headstones of his wife and son.
  • Large Ham: Abe while prosecuting the supposed conspiracy to assassinate Major Hewlett. He's intentionally trying to lose the case by acting overzealous to cause the citizens of Setauket to turn against the case.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Tories are thick on the ground in Long Island. They include Abraham Woodhull's father Richard, who is basically the Tory mayor of Setauket.
  • Loose Lips:
    • While in New York, Abraham approaches some Hessian soldiers who are cooking sauerkraut. When he mentions that he is a cabbage farmer they get friendly and the soldiers tell him that their brigade will be spending the winter in the small village of Trenton, New Jersey. This type of information is vital to Washington's army.
    • Richard Woodhull is given the unpleasant task of choosing which gravestones will be dug up and used in fortifications. He tries to make his selection ins such a way as to offend the least amount of people and cause the least amount of ill will in the community. He confides his worries in Abe who then confides in Mary. However, Mary Cannot Keep a Secret and quickly tells the women in her sewing circle. The news spreads through the town and soon Richard has an angry mob in front of his home.
    • Averting this is why Ben refuses to divulge Abe's name even when ordered to do so by a superior officer. Abe is then given the codename "Culpeper" so his real name never appears in any correspondence.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Abraham, his wife Mary, and his very good-looking old girlfriend Anna, whose husband is conveniently arrested and taken to a British prison ship in the pilot. Mary, for her part, is getting more and more friendly with the British soldier quartered in the Woodhull home.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: The hilly country shown in the series is Virginia. The real Long Island is quite flat.
  • Multinational Team: Robert Roger's Rangers contain British soldiers, Native Americans, and African freed slaves
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: In "Mr. Culpeper", Capt. Simcoe sniffs out a Patriot posing as a British officer and kills him in the middle of a dinner. Major Andre, who was hosting said dinner, promptly screams at Simcoe that Andre knew about the spy and was planning to turn him into a Double Agent.
  • My Greatest Failure: While he was a student at King's College, Abe put a Phrygian cap on a liberty pole. To him it was just a drunken prank but it sparked a riot and his brother Thomas was killed in the fighting.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Andre seems to go out of his way to be nice to Abigail, gently correcting her mistakes when setting the silverware and offering to help her send a birthday gift to her son. Of course, this is Andre we're talking about here, so it may all be calculated kindness.
  • Official Couple: Two - Selah and Anna Strong, and Abraham and Mary Woodhull.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: While crossing the Delaware, Ben falls into the freezing water and almost dies of hypothermia. Caleb spends the next few days nursing him back to health and the two men miss the Battle of Trenton. They arrive just after the battle and are told of the American victory.
  • One Degree of Separation: Basically everyone in the main cast knows each other in some fashion.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Abraham and Anna were previously arranged to be married, but due to conflicting political ideologies Abraham's father vetoed it, leading Abraham to marry Mary and Anna to Selah.
  • Port Town
  • Produce Pelting: Happens in "Who By Fire" to the unfortunate players staging a Guy Fawkes play.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Sackett tries to infiltrate an agent into New York by having the man pretend that he is Lt. Terrence a British officer who was captured by the Americans and is now being returned in a prisoner swap. The agent lacks basic knowledge about being a British officer and is quickly found out by Maj Andre.
    • Major Hewlett's efforts to fortify the British position around the church end up being for nothing when he makes the basic blunder of not securing his flank.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Downplayed. Gen Scott is reassigned back to a combat command after Washington deems him too conservative to be the army's head of intelligence. There is no loss of rank or prestige and Scott is still in the thick of action but he will no longer have anything to do with the spy ring.
  • Revenge Before Reason:
    • Robert Rogers's vendetta against Ben Tallmadge quickly reaches this point. Ben's actions were clearly self defense and committed as a soldier during a war. Roger even admits that fact but still insists on tracking down and killing Ben. His antics get so bad that Andre authorizes a British officer to shoot Rogers dead if Rogers refuses an order to desist.
    • Simcoe's attempt to get revenge on Ben and Caleb by going after their families backfires but he is unwilling to let go of his revenge even when ordered by Major Hewlett. He executes a prisoner and Hewlett has him arrested and gagged.
  • Running Gag: A rare dramatic example; Baker has a habit of walking in on conversations and situations in which he's unwanted. The final time ends with his death.
  • Scary Black Man: Jordan/Akinbode, a physically imposing former slave who was previously owned by Anna Strong. Even more intimidating now that he's a member of the Queen's Rangers
  • Scenery Porn: There are lots of establishing scene shots of the countryside (which is Virginia, not Long Island).
  • Shown Their Work: The show is quite accurate for the period it is set.
  • Spotting the Thread: When Colonel Cook mentions buying cauliflower from Richard Woodhull, Abraham is surprised because his father only recently gained control of cauliflower fields that used to belong to Selah Strong and Cook should not have known about this. Abraham quickly realizes that the deal was set up long in advance and his father was just waiting for an excuse to send Selah to prison for sedition and confiscate his land.
  • Spy Fiction: Of the Stale Beer variety, showing 18th century spycraft, such as concealing hidden messages inside of longer letters and revealing the messages by the use of key papers with holes cut out.
  • Trigger Happy: Good lord, Simcoe. In "Mr. Culpeper," he stabs a man in the throat the second he messes up the Latin motto of his regiment (revealing he was a rebel spy). His nonchalance when Andre calls him out on this makes it all the more disturbing.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Heather Lind amping up the sexy in "Challenge".
  • Turn Coat: Abraham being the key player here, though this is a show about spies so there will undoubtedly be more.
  • Villain Ball: Simcoe seems to really relish being despicable, for no reason other than he simply can.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Colonel Cook and many of his friends see the war as an opportunity to get rich. Cook buys overpriced supplies for the army and gets kickbacks from the suppliers. They also manufacture evidence against wealthy suspected Patriots so they can be arrested and their property seized.
  • Wicked Cultured: Major John Andre.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Anna and Abraham finally act on all that sexual tension in "Challenge".
  • Zip Me Up: Abraham helps Anna with the buttons to her dress in "Challenge".
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