TV Tuesday: Turn, Season Two

OK, so I’m up to the ninth episode of the second season of AMC’s “Turn” — that is, at time of writing, the most recent one to come out on Amazon here in the UK.

Left to right: Tallmadge, Arnold, Brewster, Washington, Strong, Woodhull/Culper, Andre, Woodhull Sr, Hewlett, Rogers, Mrs Woodhull, Simcoe.

I see from the ratings that things are not going amazingly well for this show, which is a shame. I think that in many ways this season has solved a lot of the problems that existed in the first; in particular, a lot more actually happens in this season, including actually seeing the Turtle in action, a bunch of dudes getting shot, more espionage-type excitement and, best of all, Simcoe’s Rangers in their ridiculous uniforms.

From Wikimedia Commons.
From Wikimedia Commons. He looks unhappy. You would be too. 

I had no idea, by the way, that John Graves Simcoe went on to become such an important person in Canadian history — and indeed, they’ve incorporated this into his characterisation in the show. Simcoe is one of the few people who treats Jordan/Akinbode as a human being; this is presumably connected to the fact that the historical Simcoe was a strong opponent of slavery; he was instrumental in getting rid of it in Canada before it was banned in the rest of the empire.

I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a weird murder-bot like he is in this show, but you never know. I can just imagine him charting the road to Canada’s future with glassy eyes and a weird little high-pitched laugh.

So there are lots of great little touches, although some of the scenes continue to be clumsily handled; for instance, the bit in which soldiers try to arrest Woodhull and Mrs Strong is just … ergh. It’s hard to believe these two dolts wound up in what Simcoe is clearly trying to make into an elite unit. Seriously, guys, if you feel like you have to molest your captives, could you:

  • check to see if they have a dagger they can stab you over and over in the dick with, and
  • wait until you get to somewhere that people will notice if an angry publican blows your head off with your own pistol?

Thanks. I mean, I guess you had it coming, but really. Poor counterintelligence work.

Anyway, a lot of good choices in this season — was that a Dick Gaughan version of “Dowie Dens o’ Yarrow”? — but still, somehow the whole thing fails to cohere for me. It seems like they listened to people’s complaints about how basically nothing happened back in the first season, but there’s still something undefinable missing. Maybe it’s just that Woodhull is a completely boring and unsympathetic character — he’s not smart, he’s not good at being a spy, he’s not funny — but there’s a long history of ensemble shows having who-gives-a-shit central figures and me still enjoying them. I definitely enjoy it, but it doesn’t stick in my mind somehow, despite being obviously clever and well-made. Not sure why.

Anyway, on the scale of Bad History TV Shows I Still Enjoy: VikingsTurnBlack Sails.

TV Tuesday: Turn, Season Two

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