It’s 1777 on AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies, and “the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot,” as Thomas Paine wrote the year previous, have been tested by the harsh realities of prolonged war. The rebel capitol of Philadelphia has fallen to the British, and George Washington is facing political insurrection after several humiliating defeats. Who will stand up and defend the one essential man to the American Revolution?
In the season 2 premiere of Turn, we finally get to meet Arnold (Owain Yeoman), a battlefield hero who has not yet made the decision that would seal his fate as America’s most hated traitor. He’s dashing. He’s brilliant. And he’s a hot-headed man of action who has no time for politicians of any kind. “I literally sort of blow the doors down, and it’s very much a kind of ‘I’m here!’ kind of entrance,” said Yeoman. “He’s a very explosive, a very virile character, and it’s a very exciting direction for the show to be taken. The Benedict Arnold that we certainly wanted to establish is all these things: a great leader, a great champion, someone who’s going to be a powerful general.”
When Arnold makes his dramatic entrance, he interrupts General Charles Lee, Washington’s rival who was captured by the British in season 1 and tempted by British spymaster John André to help bring the war to a quick conclusion. After his negotiated release, there were still some in Congress who championed him to replace Washington. Arnold makes sure to put him in his place.
Note Washington’s unabashed admiration for Arnold. Note Benjamin Tallmadge being star-struck. And note who’s seated at Washington’s right hand, a mysterious Frenchman from the Roderigue Hortalez Company, a front for the French crown supporting American independence. Francophobes might wince, but France’s support, initially covert and eventually a full-throated endorsement, helped birth our nation. Washington recognized that he needed England’s blood-rival on his side, especially on the high seas, where the British Navy was dominant.
Yeoman is signed for three seasons, so Arnold’s fall from grace could be a slow burn. Initially, at least, he’s one of the Americans greatest assets. “Benedict Arnold has such a bad reputation in history, but maybe we haven’t considered all of the things that made him famous before he was infamous,” said Yeoman. “And if we can celebrate his good side, then seeing his demise is that much more powerful.”
The two-hour season 2 premiere of Turn is on Monday at 9 p.m. ET.