All roads lead to Yorktown

By Jeff Labrecque
August 05, 2017 at 10:01 PM EDT
Antony Platt/AMC

The penultimate episode of Turn witnessed a birth. Two actually. In New York, Peggy Arnold’s pregnancy reached a premature but joyful conclusion. Hundreds of miles south, on a battlefield in Yorktown, Virginia, a new nation was born. The treaty papers still need to be signed and the enemy troops still must sail home, but with the convincing American victory—bolstered mightily by French guns and ships—the war was decided. The 13 rebellious colonies earned their independence, and the Shot Heard Round the World that was fired six years earlier at Lexington and Concord would go on to echo louder and louder in the annals of history.

Would the Setauket gang survive it, though? That’s another story. As luck would have it, the entire Long Island crew descends upon Yorktown for the climactic confrontation: Abe Woodhull is already close by after fleeing the British lines and being captured by a suspicious Lafayette; Caleb Brewster is on his friend’s trail, on a guerrilla mission to rescue Abe (and redeem himself); and Ben Tallmadge earns his way back into Washington’s good graces and marches south with the General’s troops (along with Anna Strong, and Mary and Thomas Woodhull). Not to be left out, John Simcoe is confined to a Yorktown medical tent, recovering from his wound, and Edmund Hewlett rushes down from New York to settle an old score with his most bitter rival. For lack of a better phrase, they’re all in the room, figuratively speaking, where and when it happens.

Washington’s decision to turn his army south was a shock, if not to Turn viewers, then at least to his closest military advisers. Ben had been fired for voicing opposition to Washington’s stubborn refusal to consider anything but his pipe dream to assault the British stronghold in New York City. But the calculus has changed apparently. Washington summons his war council, Ben included, and informs them of his plan to march the army to Virginia. Lafayette may not believe Abe’s story that he’s Samuel Culper, but the French officer at least had the good sense to forward Abe’s intelligence that the British are vulnerable at Yorktown to Washington. A quick feint towards New York locks down General Clinton’s British forces there, and the Americans hurry to their rendezvous with Lafayette, Comte de Rochambeau, and Admiral de Grasse’s armada.

Ben goes one step further to cloak American intentions. After Alexander Hamilton suggests moving troops from Rhode Island to further distract Clinton, Ben remembers Mary’s offer to provide phony intel to Ann Bates. If Ann really is plugged into the British high command, as she says, the right misinformation might cinch what Clinton is inclined to do in the first place: dig in and prepare for Washington’s attack from across the Hudson River.

To make the fake intel convincing, Ben embeds the clues in a love letter to Anna, since Ann Bates is already convinced the two are a romantic couple. Until now, I can’t say the two childhood friends have ever really flirted convincingly with each other. Rather, they’ve seemed like siblings, quarreling as equals in a time when the genders were anything but. “Are you sure it’s convincing?” Anna playfully asks him, eager for a glimpse of the draft herself. “Convincing enough,” he says, without offering her a peek. Does he really love Anna? Or is this just the show’s way to tie up two loose character threads in the series finale?

Mary gives the letter to Ann, who brings it directly to Clinton’s New York headquarters. The British general believes the letter is authentic since it coincides with his own thinking. In fact, this new information encourages him to send a message to Cornwallis in Yorktown ordering him to send troops to New York. But pan to the right, and there is Hewlett, stone-faced when Ann tells them that her source is Mary Woodhull. Hewlett cautions Clinton about the validity of the intel, but Clinton thinks the Woodhulls, Mary and Abe, are poster-child Tories. Hewlett knows better of course, but he never tells his boss what he knows. It’s a difficult thing to excuse as a patriot from any land, since Hewlett must know that remaining silent will cost British lives. But perhaps Hewlett is already in too deep, and he realizes that if he admits his knowledge of Abe’s true intentions, he’d be writing his own death sentence. If Hewlett is weighing the pros and cons for a moment, he stops when Clinton tells him that Simcoe has been wounded in battle and isn’t expected to recover. Hewlett requests the privilege of shuttling the order to Cornwallis himself so that he can kick Simcoe when he’s down (or worse).

Did anyone else think it a stretch that Clinton would send his chief of intelligence to deliver a message to Virginia at the very moment he was positive the Americans were going to attack New York? I’d want my intelligence chief at my right hand, always, but especially before a pitched battle. But perhaps Clinton’s indifference reflects both overconfidence and the lingering perception that Hewlett is a lightweight, a mere title better known as the Oyster Major when his back is turned.

In Virginia, Caleb doesn’t locate Abe immediately. In fact, he stumbles upon a captured John Champe first, semi-reluctantly telling his rebel captors that Champe is an honest patriot in exchange for Champe’s suggestion that Abe likely headed for Lafayette’s ship. Not for nothing, but Caleb was pretty hard on Champe, a guy he nearly killed with an errant bullet. He didn’t have to apologize necessarily, but maybe Champe could’ve joined Caleb in his mission—he’s a pretty good guy to have on your side in a fight.

But Caleb doesn’t need the extra assistance; he locates Lafayette’s warship and frees Abe. The plan is coming together, and before long, there’s a Setauket party in the French-American camp not far from Yorktown. Abe reunites with little Thomas and Mary, who after all this time, has proven herself as his one true love. “I can’t abandon the cause now,” Abe tells her, urging her to return to Setauket where she and Thomas will be safer. “You’re my cause, Abraham,” is her quick reply. “I won’t abandon you either. We’ve come too far to go back now.” Anna is there, too, but she’s left to congratulate Caleb on a job well-done.

The other Setauket reunion is not as joyous. Hewett arrives at the medical tent intending to murder Simcoe, who’s at death’s door anyway and has been advised to put his affairs in order. Instead, he uses the time and energy he has left to help his friends, warning his soldiers in the Queen’s Rangers. Flee, he tells them. He realizes that the British are cornered, and a death sentence awaits the Rangers since many of them began as Continentals or American militia before switching sides. Hide, he urges them, and then drift back to your old American units when tempers have subsided.

NEXT: A blood feud that goes back four seasons

Hewlett, eavesdropping from the other side of the tent-cloth, bides his time, waiting for Simcoe to be alone. Later, he wakes the injured Ranger up out of his sleep, dagger in hand. Theirs is a blood feud that goes back four seasons, and they’ve always been the perfect adversaries: one representing science and reason, the other personifying Hobbesian right of might. They fought over women, and they fought for power, but Hewitt traveled to Virginia to avenge a most personal offense. “I had a horse once…” he says softly, stuffing a full apple into Simcoe’s mouth. “Brought low with a poison apple.” Though weak and helpless, Simcoe is not one to cry mercy. In fact, he takes some pride in what he suspects Hewlett is about to do, whether it be a poison apple or a sharp dagger into his ribs: “Of all the men I have forged from weaklings into warriors, you may have been my greatest creation.”

Hardly. “That is what mercy tastes like,” Hewlett says, sparing Simcoe’s life only because of the kind gesture he witnessed Simcoe pay to his men. “It is time to tend the garden again,” Hewlett suggests. “We must create a new world from the old world, and our feud is part of the old.” Who’s teaching whom? Those of you who’ve read about Simcoe’s post-war life might already know that such wisdom may leave a deep impression on the bloodthirsty soldier.

As the Battle of Yorktown unfolds, a more primordial conflict is taking place in New York. Peggy’s final stages of pregnancy have been difficult, exacerbated by dark dreams in which Benedict drowns her in the bathtub. She loathes him completely, and it’s not enough that he’s far away, risking his life in battle. News of the bounty on his head gives her some optimism: “I hope someone does [kill him],” she tells Abigail. “Then I’ll be rid of him once and for all.”

What Benedict had told her in anger, that John André loved her until the end and was willing to risk everything to win her back, is what eats at Peggy. Combine such reflection with her worsening physical condition, and she lashes out at Abigail, whom she rightfully suspects is the spy—reluctant or not—who led the Americans to hang André. Abigail concedes she worked for the Culper Ring, but never meant to hurt André, which, honestly, seems duplicitous or extremely naïve.

But all’s well that ends well. In this case, Abigail stays at Peggy’s side—despite Peggy’s angry insistence that her servant leave and never come back—and helps midwife the delivery, repositioning the misaligned child in her womb to save both mother and child. It’s the least Abigail can do, she tells Peggy, especially since she’s helpless to save her own son, Cicero. At least Akibode, who dropped in unannounced intent on taking Abigail and Cicero to Canada with his buried treasure, has promised to bring her son home.

The Yorktown fighting is full of heroics. Washington leads from the front, inspiring his men. Lafayette, Ben, Caleb, and Hamilton spearhead charges against British positions, take the enemy cannons, and turn them against the cornered redcoats. The French armada arrives and annihilates the British navy, especially after the British admirals try to communicate with the bogus signal books Robert Townsend printed in his basement.

The American victory is total—but the casualties are severe. Running to aid Anna, whom he thought was struck by a bullet when another comrade fell, Abe is ripped asunder by an explosion. Caleb carries him to the hospital, where poor little Thomas holds his father’s hand while Mary removes the fragment and tries to sew him up. Will he survive? And what was the meaning of his vision of two Thomases?

The surrender ceremony was a parade of dress-up, best appreciated by historians and Revolutionary War reenactors. Lafayette orders the Americans to drown out the British with “Yankee Doodle Dandy”; Cornwallis insults the victors and sends a substitute, who in turn attempts to present his sword to Rochambeau, who in turn defers to Washington. (If you’re wondering about the American officer that Washington anointed to officially accept the sword of surrender, that was General Benjamin Lincoln, who had been humiliated after he surrendered Charleston in 1780 and the British refused the customary rituals and dignity of a vanquished foe.)

What remains? The war is won, if not entirely settled. But what of Abe’s health? What of Akinbode and Cicero? And what the heck… what of Ben and Anna?

This AMC drama explores a ring of spies in pre-Revolutionary War America.
type
  • TV Show
seasons
  • 4
Genre
run date
  • 04/06/14
Status
  • In Season
Network
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