Sunday, April 6, 2014

REVIEW: 'Turn' - Abraham Reluctantly is Recruited to Spy on the British Forces Occupying His Community in 'Pilot'

AMC's Turn - Episode 1.01 Pilot

At the dawn of the Revolutionary War, struggling Long Island farmer Abraham Woodhull is recruited by the Colonial Army to spy on the British.

Jamie Bell is asked to carry the bulk of Turn on his shoulders. His reluctant hero is the center driving force of the narrative. He's pulled in opposite directions by his loyalist father and his friends with ideas of freedom. And Bell pulls it off quite well. His leading man Abraham Woodhull is the most fleshed out character. He just wants to be on his farm and grow some cabbages. But bad things keep happening to him. It's almost intentionally funny how frequently he gets knocked down in this 90-minute series opener. But if there's one reason to continue watching, it is Bell. His morality should create interesting dilemmas as he is forced to make life-changing decisions very quickly.

While Bell is great, I have no clue what tone Turn is going for. It acts like a character study about people living in the 18th century while adding a bit of spy action thriller. It's a very odd mix. Obviously, the show aspires towards that spy angle. It's been billed as "the story of America's first spy ring." But there simply is too little of actual substance. There's the opening thing and the attack on the safehouse at the end. Plus, Abraham used the one thing to decipher a hidden message in a letter. Those scenes gave the premiere a nice jolt of energy. But the stuff in between was middling at best.

And the supporting cast is just so blend. After Bell, only Heather Lind as Anna Strong and Kevin McNally as Richard Woodhull make some kind of impression. Those two characters are in the direct center of the conflict with Abraham. They are given importance and feel relevant to the character based story the show wants to tell. Elsewhere, Burn Gorman, Samuel Roukin, JJ Feild and Angus Macfadyen all seem to be in a competition to see who can deliver the must campy piece of dialogue. They are all British forces who stand in opposition to what Abraham is recruited to fight against. But they are such two dimensional bad guys twirling their invisible mustaches. And the remaining cast are plot points that are a means to an end. Meegan Warner is Abraham's wife who does absolutely nothing but should have much more importance. Seth Numrich and Daniel Henshall are the ones who recruit Abraham and they possibly have another agenda which could garner interest but right now I have none.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pilot" was written by Craig Silverstein and directed by Rupert Wyatt.
  • That title sequence was pretty darn great and fun. The show definitely needs more of that energy.
  • That is one cute baby as Abraham's son. However, he refuses to make eye contact with any of the characters!
  • The show is also actively refusing to address the race issue which seems like such a wasted opportunity. Here, they are simply extras as a way to not make the main people seem bad for owning slaves.
  • In the 1770s, everyone knew the names of people who live in the next town over.
  • I spent this entire actively trying not to mention Sleepy Hollow at all. It was just so hard!