Monday, Jul 28, 2014 06:19 am est

AMC’s ‘Turn’ fails as espionage drama, succeeds as period piece

Posted on April 4, 2014 | by Nivea Serrao


It would seem that spy dramas are all the rage again with FX’s “The Americans” having a stellar second season and BBC America’s “Flemming: The Man Who Would Be Bond” proving to be quite popular. This bodes well for AMC’s latest drama, “Turn,” a spy thriller set during the Revolutionary War, yet this latest spy show falls short.

The story follows Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell), a cabbage farmer living in British-occupied Long Island and trying to take care of his family while making an honest living and avoiding the war. However, being sorely in debt, he agrees to go on a mission for the Rebels.

Over the course of the pilot episode, he is recruited to reluctantly join a group of childhood friends as they form the Culper Ring — a team of spies and secret agents that helped George Washington turn the war in the Rebels’ favor.

Making matters slightly more complicated is the fact that Woodhull must work with his former childhood sweetheart Anna Strong (Heather Lind), who is married to someone else. But, as the episode goes on, it is clear that neither of them is quite over the other, a complication that will no doubt come into play as the series goes on.

As far as historical dramas go, “Turn” successfully portrays the time period, the effects of war and the stress it can place on personal relationships. Moreover, being set in wartime, the show makes a point to emphasize the violence of any and all deaths.

Unfortunately, what the show has going for it in terms of this historical detail, it lacks in the actual spying aspect of the series. Woodhull’s missions are not as thrilling or suspense-filled as expected. Instead, there is emphasis on Woodhull’s farming woes and debt worries — his reasons for becoming a part of the Ring.

The series cannot feature as many high-stakes twists as “Homeland” or as many fun gadgets as “Alias,” but “Turn” could take a page from modern-day espionage dramas and quicken the pace. This might inject some much-needed tension into Woodhull’s future missions, giving the series a jolt of momentum.

The show’s producers have made the most out of “Turn’s” period setting, stacking the cast with strong British talent. Alongside Bell’s Woodhull is Kevin McNally as Abraham’s father. Burn Gorman plays Major Hewlett, the local British commander and Angus Macfadyen is Robert Rodgers, a mercenary for hire.

In the end, despite having a solid cast and an intriguing premise, “Turn” does not prove as gripping as anticipated — something the Culper Ring’s cloaks and daggers cannot conceal.

Nivea Serrao is a staff writer. Email her at


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.