Netflix Recommendation: Turn

Denisa and I were looking around for a new series to watch, and Netflix was telling me Turn would be a 5 star choice. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it’s focused on a Revolutionary War spy ring, which sounded more than a little cool, so we decided to give it a shot. What I didn’t know at the time, but which makes the show a whole lot cooler in my eyes, is that it’s actually based on real events. (See Alexander Rose’s Washington’s Spies book for more information.)

We finished the first season quite quickly, taking in all ten episodes in about a week. For the most part, I enjoyed them all (though I found episode 5 to be the weakest. I gave it just 2 stars, while the other episodes got between 3 and 4 (out of five) from me. Nothing quite at 5 stars, but for an obscure show I hadn’t heard of? I was very pleased.

What did I like?

I loved the way the setting informs the plot and the characters. No, this isn’t 100% historically accurate, but there were enough period details included to make me think about how people then would have lived and experienced the revolution. We study history and it’s too easy to assume people who lived then realized they were living in Important Times. This show illustrates the idea that people then were just living. They had opinions about the war and the rebellion, just like people today have opinions about current events.

The plot itself was fairly strong. Not quite as nuanced as I might have liked, but nothing to sniff at. The characters were well portrayed, and the conflicts engrossing. You get spoiled sometimes, binge watching the best shows on television and then going to watch something else. Is Turn on the level of The Wire? Nope. But it’s still worth your time.

What didn’t I like?

Every now and then, the show insisted the characters have modern outlooks on life. The worst of this was in episode 5, where suddenly the characters were revealed to have had slaves for all this time. (Almost no characters of race had been present until then.) And then of course the slaves are portrayed as having been buddy buddies with their masters, who are all really good people at heart. That really rang false, and it made me worry about the show. Thankfully, it got much better from there, with the slaves they introduced going on to play important roles in more believable ways.

Also, since this is cable television, they couldn’t resist throwing in some smut. Nothing nearly as egregious as HBO, but there’s some hanky panky now and then, and more than is really necessary to tell the story they’re trying to tell. (Although I guess I’m wrong, since the story they’re trying to tell apparently involves gratuitous hanky panky . . .) So be warned about that.

In any case, if you’ve been wanting something to watch, allow me to direct your attention to this. Only 10 episodes so far (season 2 is on regular television at the moment, I believe), but what’s there is good watching. Already seen it? Let me know what you thought.

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