Turn: Eternity How Long

Turn, so far, continues to march in the right direction for a fledging dramatic series. Rather than peaking early and plummeting in quality (CBS’s Hostages, I’m talking to you), it has taken its time to gradually escalate tension chapter by chapter.

The show isn’t revolutionary (ahem) in that manner, but it’s a good sign that the audience lies in capable hands.

Sunday’s episode began in the Setauket cemetery with Abe Woodhull and family standing over the grave of his dead brother, Thomas. The scene cleverly established the central conflict of the episode – the proposal by Major Hewlett to dig up tombstones and use as protection of the Setauket garrison’s canons – while reinforcing the dramatic interaction between Abe and his father, Richard.

Yet, as we come to discover, Hewlett’s ploy has larger implications. It is one of two minor quibbles I have with this episode that Hewlett’s intentions are so clearly laid bare by on-the-nose dialogue at the end. Still, no matter how obvious the scene, it still gave Hewlett his season-best lines (as delivered gleefully by actor Burn Gorman of such varied projects as Game of Thrones and Pacific Rim), “This is why I picked gravestones. If it was this hard for the Loyalists to give them up, imagine how hard it will be for Rebels of the same region to fire upon them.”

Hewlett’s was one of four major deceptions that wove through the episode.

The second of the evening came in a subplot that hasn’t quite jelled for me yet. Major John Andre (JJ Feild) has effectively recruited a woman to seduce Rebel-sympathizer General Charles Lee for the purpose of obtaining colonist secrets. Lee has two weaknesses: a crippling jealousy against General George Washington and a penchant for blindfolded sex games. That is an enticing combination to explore, but the payoff seems distant.

Speaking of Washington, gallant soldier Ben Tallmadge and spy Caleb Brewster tried to share the information obtained last week via Abe’s first turn as spy – Hessian soldiers would soon march on Trenton, New Jersey. General Scott, who seems to critically misunderstand the concept of spying, refused to share the information without the identification of its source. Ben and Caleb devise a plan to push the information forward to Washington by manufacturing a more palpable report and hiding the Trenton plan within the documents.

Finally, Abe’s wife, Mary, was similarly fooled, not by trained soldiers, but by something far worse – her sewing circle. My second quibble with the episode was the absence of Anna Strong after last week’s admittedly anachronistic show of her “you go girl!” power. Instead, we are left with Mary, a woman so pure and good that she is rendered incapable of wooing her own husband.

She speaks in Instant Softies. Allow me to paraphrase: “The way you talked about your dead brother was so hot this morning that it made me want to have another baby. I can be whatever you want from a fetching milkmaid or a randy harlot. Just put that thing in me.”

Yeah, that didn’t work for Abe either.

He later confides in her about Hewett’s tombstone plot and his father’s turmoil over selecting the least offensive tombstones to dig up. It takes Mary’s quilting group about 3 minutes to divulge that information from her, providing an amusing foil to the more direct ways of secret stealing employed by men.

The episode culminates in a powerful resolution to the central tombstone plot with Richard drawing upon the Biblical analogy of Abraham and Isaac and tearing down his favorite son’s tombstone to donate to the cause. His desecration of Thomas’s memory sparks a fire of hatred within Abe. The play between the two actors has been the strongest character interaction of the series thus far, and this episode was no exception.

Abe’s anger reaches far beyond the citizens of Setauket, New Jersey. It represents the anger of the colonists at the hands of the ruling British, illustrating how the passion of an ordinary man could cripple an empire.

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