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Turn recap: Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot

Washington and the Culper Ring snuff out conspiracies, but a familiar face spoils Abe’s plans.

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Antony Platt/AMC

Turn: Washington's Spies

TV Show
run date:
Current Status:
In Season

After some dark days for George Washington’s American army, the leader and his troops are walking taller in the early summer of 1778—with something that almost seems like confidence. The same can be said for the storytellers of Turn: Washington’s Spies, who decided that the show’s lingering uncertainty about a third season from AMC would not impact season 2 finale. In other words, as Washington charged towards the retreating British army in New Jersey and Benedict Arnold cornered Peggy Shippen in Philadelphia, there was no effort to tie up loose ends neatly in case this season finale becomes the series finale. “Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot” was as much a springboard into future episodes as it was a season-ender.  

Abe’s own confidence also continues to grow; prison really did leave its mark on him, and he’s less skittish about life and death and the dangerous game he’s playing. When Simcoe confronts him in town, quizzing him about the two missing Rangers assigned to follow him, Abe can’t even manage a good poker face; he’s practically needling Simcoe as if he wants the towering brute to know that he’s personally responsible for their disappearance. Note how Simcoe mentions that his unit was heading out to support the army’s “embarkation” from Philadelphia; Abe quickly corrects him, referring to it as a “retreat.” Abe isn’t scared of this guy any more.

This, of course, is after Abe, Caleb, and Anna murdered the two abusive Rangers last week, and their plans to pin the unsolved killings on Hewlett’s soldiers is all too easy. Anna swaps Eastin’s flask with that of a dead Ranger’s, and the two factions’ drunken singing rivalry quickly turns violent at the pub, with fists flying and guns drawn. Neither side blinks, but Simcoe permits his men to stand down in order to follow their new orders.

They’ll be needed, because the British embarkation/retreat from Philadelphia to New York is a long slog that leaves them vulnerable to attacks. Washington is itching for a fight, and even Lee and his adjunct Bradford are enthusiastic about playing offense, especially since the Continentals estimate that have superior forces for once. Washington and Lee had previously mended fences, and Lee was granted the honor of leading 6,000 troops into battle against British forces in the farms near Monmouth Court House. But as we know, as Ben knows, and as Washington’s slave, Billy Lee, knows, General Charles Lee is not to be trusted.

In fact, Lee and André are in cahoots, and it is André who selected Monmouth Court House for the site of the pivotal clash that might reverse the momentum and end the war quickly. The British army is hurrying back to New York so as not to get sandwiched by the Continentals and the soon-to-arrive French armada. But André successfully lobbies General Clinton to lure the Americans into a trap: feign a weakened rear-guard, but ambush and finish off Washington’s army once and for all when Lee walks them into the noose. It’s a bold gamble for André, but he’s confident because he has Lee in his pocket.

Back in Setauket, Simcoe’s departure has set Hewlett’s latest plan in motion. He wants to compile all of Abe’s intelligence from his New York fact-finding missions and present a comprehensive report to André that will negate the need for him to send Simcoe’s goons back to Long Island. This, of course, is a problem for Abe, since the only intelligence he actually gathered in New York was from Robert Townsend and his own estimates of British strength. He fears that André will see through his lies—a suspicion his father immediately reinforces—and prison-hardened Abe decides that the only option is to murder Hewlett before the letter can be sent.

Abe shares his plan with Anna so that she can lure Hewlett to his death that night, but she’s not willing. She can’t bring herself to hurt her dear Edmund. When I think about season 2 of Turn, I will always struggle with the storytelling decision to make Edmund and Anna a romantic pairing with crucial ramifications. It never felt real to me, and I almost feel like the writers couldn’t even get 100 percent behind it. But here we are in the season finale, and the most honest and passionate relationship in the show—romantically and politically—is tossed aside because Hewlett once talked to Anna about the stars.

Anna decides the only way to save Hewlett’s life (and Abe from making a horrible mistake) is to confide in Mary—the Tory woman who loathes her for stealing her husband’s heart. But the role of Mary tonight will be played by Lady Macbeth—last seen burning her farmhouse to the ground after her husband shot Ensign Baker. No need to kill Hewlett, she whispers—just murder the courier. “I don’t believe in your cause; I believe in you,” she explains to her skeptical husband. “Now, I do think I can help you be a little less sloppy.”

NEXT: Lee gets his comeuppance and someone discovers the identity of the Setauket spies