Bloody Mary? The Red-Handed Assassin? The Van Gogh Sniper? What shall we nickname Mary Woodhull, who learned — just like Ben Tallmadge’s Tory one-night stand — that it’s impossible to stay out of the war once it knocks on your front door. For two seasons, Mary was the albatross around Abe’s chafing neck, a wife in name only whose Loyalist political leanings conflicted with Abe’s blooming patriotism. But the equation finally changed: She rededicated herself to her husband, became complicit in his treasonous secrets, and when her child was taken away from her and put in harm’s way, she took the shot heard ‘round the Turn world. It was just a matter of time before those family-bonding target-practice sessions at the cabbage farm were put to good use.
In “Judgment,” the scent of blood was in the air from the opening scene. Abe packs a mallet to literally hammer his father — Don’t call him his father! — and plans with Mary to flee Setauket with Thomas. But their plan is pre-empted by another visit from Capt. Simcoe, and this time, the sadistic leader of the Queen’s Rangers is really, really convinced that Abe is guilty. The actual evidence seems pretty flimsy — Simcoe thinks Robert Rogers had Abe’s pistol, a weapon that should’ve been handed in to the British garrison months earlier, and thus, the two must’ve been working together.
With a gun to his head, Abe confesses… sort of. Yes, he’s been working with Rogers/Culper for over a year. Remember John Robeson, the troublemaker who murdered his secret lover, Capt. Joyce, in season 1? Well, just as Rogers fixed things by forcing Robeson to become his spy — a thread that was left hanging for two-plus seasons — Abe claims that Rogers used the same pressure on him. “He forced me to watch over [Robeson],” Abe fibs. “He said if I didn’t watch over Robeson, he would reveal that I’d been with Anna Strong.”
Mary is crushed by Abe’s admission, and though she’s long known about Abe’s infidelity, hearing him say the words brings her great anguish. But Simcoe isn’t entirely convinced until Abe shows him the cellar, or as he claims, Rogers’ lair, which has the secret coding tools and Rogers’ bloody eye patch. Fine, says Simcoe, sending Mary to Whitehall and positioning Abe as bait to catch Rogers.
Mary is more cunning than her husband, and perhaps more ruthless. While being escorted back to Whitehall, she remembers that Caleb is set to meet Abe at the cove. When the Rangers are in the cove’s vicinity, she cries wolf, claiming that she sighted Rogers hiding in the woods. The troops are dismissive, but Simcoe insists they head off toward the cove to see if they find Rogers and his “horrible bearded face.” I suppose it’s a brilliant ruse to distract Simcoe and his men, but it could also simply get Caleb captured or killed. I can’t tell if Mary didn’t think too far ahead when she made this decision, or if she thought 10 steps ahead.
Even when the Rangers are safely back at Whitehall, Simcoe harbors suspicions that Mary isn’t being truthful. Why would Rogers return to Setauket, he wonders aloud. (Although… wasn’t it Simcoe who ordered his men back to Setauket after Oyster Bay because he suspected Rogers would reverse directions after their skirmish?) Once his troops exchange fire with Caleb, though, Simcoe mistakenly accepts the theory that Rogers has returned to seek revenge against him. And when the Judge inflames Mary’s vapors by hissing that Simcoe threatened Thomas’ life, she begins to think there’s only one way out of this predicament: a dead Simcoe.
In Middlebrook, N.J. (which is on the other side of a cold front that has dumped General Washington’s headquarters with snow), Ben is interrupted from dreading how to break the bad news to his boss that the Culper ring is broken when his troops capture some enemy combatants from Franklin Township. Yes, one of them is Sarah Livingston, Ben’s savior (and crush). Another sleazy American officer would like some time alone with the Tory strumpet, but it’s Ben’s job to interrogate her. He owes her his life and he’d like to return the favor, but Sarah refuses to help herself by denying her involvement in the ambush that culminated in a lethal shootout at her cabin. Ben goes as far as crafting a document that will fake-recruit her to his intelligence operation as a spy — a deal he has no intention of enforcing. “Lie — just sign it,” he pleads. “Then once you’re gone, you do as you will.”
Sarah has her principles too, however. And/or she has little confidence in the revolution’s chances, fearing that the document will only get her strung up at the gallows next to Ben when the British win the war. But the viewer knows we won’t get that far. Drunken Sleezy Officer returns, bearing gifts of food. But that’s not the appetite he has in mind. She rejects his offer of “special treatment,” allowing him to dispense with the niceties and grab what he came for. She fights back, a struggle ensues, she fumbles for his pistol, the gun goes off, and one of them lies dead. The entire camp comes running and Ben arrives to see Sarah dead. There’s nothing left for Ben to do then go Rick Grimes on the guilty officer and pound his face into hamburger meat.
NEXT: DON’T THROW AWAY YOUR SHOT, MARY