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AMC's 'Turn' Returns Its Spy Game for Season 3
April 25, 2016  | By David Hinckley

AMC may be hungering for another great show, but it’s not a disgrace that the revolutionary war spy drama Turn: Washington’s Spies has become simply a good one.

Turn kicks off its third season Monday (April 25) at 10 p.m. ET, and it seems to have steadied itself on the firmer footing of Season 2.

Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell, top), the pivotal character, has grown from a nervous and ambivalent undercover agent for George Washington’s shaky Colonial army into a much more confident fellow who has come a long way in learning the game.

And a complex game it is, at times even reminiscent of the Mad magazine classic cartoon “Spy Vs. Spy.”

Both sides have their agents, and both sides are obsessed with learning who’s spying for the other team.

This is difficult enough business in any war, but it’s particularly tricky and dangerous in this one, because loyalists can live next door to or even in the same house with rebels.

Turn takes a number of liberties with history to make the story into more compelling drama, while Abraham and his fellow agents have already used more than their nine lives’ worth of narrow escapes.

The show has, however, made a convincing case for its original premise, that without this kind of intel, Washington’s army would very likely have had its uprising crushed.

Heck, it should have been crushed anyway, except that indigenous rebels always have one advantage over occupiers. The occupiers will eventually leave and the indigenous rebels will remain.

If only we’d remembered that lesson in, say, Vietnam, we might have made some different decisions.

Turn doesn’t position itself as a broad political metaphor, however. Rather, it’s the complicated story of people caught between the desire of many to make the best of their relatively peaceful current lives and the certainty by others that those lives will only reach their potential if they are not subjugated to another country on the other side of the ocean.

Viewers just coming to the story will have to work for a couple of episodes to catch up with those crosscurrents, though it’s doable.

Abraham, for instance, is abetted by his wife Mary (Meegan Warner) and bitterly opposed by his loyalist father, Judge Richard Woodhull (Kevin R. McNally).

Season 3 begins with Richard taking extraordinary action to thwart Abraham, who meanwhile must finesse a liaison with British Major John Andre (J.J. Feild, right) in order to keep himself undercover.

Andre presumably will continue to play a prominent role in the series, since Benedict Arnold (Owain Yeoman, above left) also steps toward the front lines in the third season.

Arnold, one of the rebels’ most brilliant military minds, seems to have an insufferable ego as well as a legitimate complaint. Like many others, he has never received his promised wages from the Continental Congress, which is perpetually broke.

In real life, Arnold eventually conspired with Andre to surrender his New York fort to the British, which would have cut the colonies in half. Andre was caught and executed. Arnold switched sides and became the permanent American synonym for “traitor.”

Turn is more interested at the moment in Arnold’s courtship of Peggy Shippen (Ksenia Solo, above left with Yeoman), who is a good enough friend of Andre’s to suggest that her loyalties, too, may be divided.

Turn serves up its history with some soap, and as we root for Abraham, it’s developing a good stable of villains that keep viewers watching.

It’s not Mad Men. It’s a sturdy role player.  

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