Turn: Washington's Spies
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We gave it an A-
“The Revolution never ends…” —Abraham Woodhull
There was a version of AMC’s Turn that ran several more seasons, chronicling the new country’s clumsy first steps, but while the Revolution never ends, the show is complete. After the excitement of Yorktown in the penultimate episode, the finale was basically a coda that settled accounts, literally and figuratively. What becomes of the war’s survivors on both sides of the Atlantic?
Not everyone makes it to independence. King George refuses to recognize the new reality after the humiliating loss at Yorktown, and while his advisers suggest a peace overture, the king is still marching to the symphony of war that plays only in his head. He fears the weight of history, the legacy that awaits him if he loses the American colonies. More men have to die before he’s persuaded otherwise, evidenced by the slaughter at the Battle of Groton Heights in Connecticut, where the victorious British officer accepts the sword from his defeated American opponent — and then skewers him with it. Benedict Arnold commanded those Brits — but did not approve this bloodbath — and while he castigates his men, Cicero grabs the opportunity to flee into the darkness. He doesn’t get far before he’s grabbed — by Akinbode. The former Queen’s Ranger fulfills his promise to Abigail, miraculously catching up with Arnold and Cicero, not south in Virginia, but north in Connecticut. Their reunion is rudely interrupted when they stumble into an American ambush. Akinbode’s Ranger uniform and Cicero’s specially made military valet coat dismiss any hopes of them convincing the patriots they’re friendly or freemen, and they are not only imprisoned, but a ransom note is quickly sent to Arnold to negotiate their release.
When Abigail receives the note demanding 50 pounds and shares it with Arnold, he’s hurriedly packing up his essentials to leave New York for England. And by essentials, I don’t mean Peggy and his newborn son. They will follow him to London later, after he’s safely away from Washington and the patriots who wish him ill will for his betrayal. On her own, Peggy is inclined to help Abigail, but Arnold is adamant that no coin be spent in the effort to recover his former valet.
Abigail is resourceful, and she approaches Edmund Hewlett with a bargain: help her leave the city and get through enemy lines to recover Cicero and Akinbode and she’ll disclose everything she knows about the Culper ring. Hewlett shocks her with the news that he already knows those secrets, though he assures her that he has no intention of arresting her. He’s planning one last trip to Setauket before he leaves for good. Abigail pleads with him to bring her too, so that she can connect with the Setauket members of the Culper ring and get word to Ben Tallmadge about her son. But Hewlett warns against such travel, for American victory has made life very dangerous for her race. Southern slave-catchers have frothed up from the South, keen on recovering former slaves who escaped behind British lines during the war and nabbing additional freedmen who don’t have the support to fight back. Rather than join him in Setauket, he urges her to jump on the first freedmen’s boat to Nova Scotia.
Abe, Mary, and Thomas Woodhull have already resettled in Setauket, but they’ve given up their rights to Whitehall. It was Abe’s deal with Hewlett: If the British spymaster dispatched John Simcoe, Abe would transfer ownership of the Woodhull family estate to him. As a result, Abe has settled — and settled — back in his old decrepit farmhouse. Times are tough. He has no money, no crops, and few friends willing to loan him either. After Hewlett arrives and they conclude their real estate transaction — Hewlett, in turn, quickly sells Whitehall to an overeager De Young — Abe hits him up for a loan. Hewlett regrettably rejects the request, claiming that he needs every cent for his future plans, but suggests that Abe go right to the top: Washington. Not only was George Washington the general of the victorious army, but he was also one of the wealthiest men, if not the wealthiest man, on the continent. Mary thinks that idea makes sense, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have suspicions about Hewlett. Did he really fulfill his end of the bargain and kill Simcoe? (Um, no.) “I assure you,” Hewlett says in perfect fine-print-speak, “the man you knew as John Graves Simcoe is dead and gone.” At least Hewlett kept his word to Abigail and brought her urgent message about Cicero, which Abe can deliver to Robert Townsend in New York and send up the chain of command.
But of course Simcoe is not dead and gone. He’s in England, recovering from Caleb’s shot and angling for another commission. General Clinton has embraced his own post-war vacation and brushed Simcoe’s persistent letters aside, but he can no longer ignore the matter when the Ranger limps onto his estate and interrupts his fox-hunt. (Col. Cooke is there, too, apparently, with his new wife: an actress from New York. I like to think it’s Philomena Cheer.) Simcoe is wired differently, Clinton understands: like his hounds who are relentless once they pick up the scent of their prey. But there are no rebels for Simcoe to fight in Spain or India, certainly not with his current injury. Taking mercy on Simcoe, Clinton suggests Canada. There are no battles to be won there, but there is a new country to be built. Did you feel any affection for Simcoe as he was steered toward post-Revolutionary greatness…or were you still hoping he’d drop his cane and fall down the steps?
Washington’s victory tour leads him through Philadelphia on his way to New York. In Philly, Selah Strong wins over a reluctant Anna by inviting her to help him craft legislation to get the states to compensate the veterans who fought the war. There might never be great passion between these characters, but if Anna has demonstrated anything in four seasons, it’s that she values and oftentimes insists on being treated as an equal in a man’s world. Selah’s recognition of Anna’s talents and their shared politics could serve as the solid foundation of their revitalized relationship.
Abe’s dire finances (and no doubt Mary’s harping) encourage him to plead his case for reimbursement (and bring Abigail’s message) to Washington in New York. He meets with Robert Townsend in the country first, telling his sometimes reluctant partner that he intends to argue his case as well. Townsend, living comfortably on his father’s farm, is less desperate financially. In fact, he’s more at peace with the deeds he’s committed, the lies he’s told, and if some financial hardship is the only price of his sins, he considers himself fortunate. They part on good terms, after a friendly game of checkers. (Recap continues on page 2)