TURN Season 3 Premiere Review
By Chris B.
Turn’s season 3 return begins with a hanging and ends with a betrayal: this premiere is worthy of the Bard himself.
Sgt. Hickey and Major Bradford pay for their treachery with their lives, but not before revealing that Culper’s name is known to the British, though not his true identity.
Andre has gleaned the name of Samuel Culper from Ben Tallmadge’s personal notes; after passing along a compliment to Simcoe on the performance of the Queen’s Rangers at the Battle of Monmouth, he sets the beast after this new prey. Simcoe quickly deduces that the name could be an alias, and thus, all are suspect.
Abe and Robert Rogers form an unlikely and uneasy alliance. While Rogers blatantly claims that he is using Abe as bait for Andre and intends to kill him, Abe explains that unless Robert helps him swap out the correspondence of Hewlett for a forged return letter shunning interest in this “simple farmer,” and places the body believably to make it seem the courier died on his return trip from York City, then Rogers’s bait will be most undesirably dead: “If you want to use me, you going to have to help me.”
Cicero makes use of his reading skills, to the dismay of his mother. When Abigail catches him, she chastises him; the next time, though, it is Andre who catches him with book in hand. But the Major is not a brute, and so he encourages Cicero to practice reading on what he assumes is harmless correspondence from Ms. Shippen in Philadelphia, a message officially addressed to Rebecca Franks that is actually a thinly veiled message for Andre. What he could not imagine is its information of an engagement for marriage between Peggy and Benedict Arnold. This rattles Andre visibly, but he recovers, writing her a solid reply of love and assurances behind a mask of congratulations.
Richard visits his wife’s grave on this, the anniversary of her death. He apologizes to her for not being able to keep their oldest from dying in battle and for not doing a better job of raising Abe as “a moral man.” He promises to do better with young Thomas, swearing to dedicate his life to the boy, fixing the wrongs that he committed in raising Abraham, one he deems infected by that which truly vanquished Caesar: ingratitude. He begs her, “Grant me the strength to do what I must.”
The deed in question? It truly is what Antony would term the “most unkindest cut of all”: this father turns in his own son as a traitor. Et tu, Richard?
Milk for Gall
The women of Turn often prove to have twice the inner steel of their male counterparts. Previously, Anna Strong, for example, has had to fight her way onto a prison ship, pretend to be a prostitute, and let the lecherous Simcoe kiss her in front of all of Setauket. Then, at the end of last season, while it takes both Abe and Caleb to dispatch one Ranger, Anna takes care of the other alone, first by stabbing him repeatedly in the crotch before shooting him point-blank in the face. (If she does not get her own cannon soon, it will be a travesty.)
Now, we see the desperate lengths to which Abe’s wife is willing to go in aid of the man she loves. Mary, already covering up the death of Ensign Baker by burning down her own house, has channeled her best Lady Macbeth in a plan to keep Abe from being revealed by Major Hewlett.
She, knowing where Richard’s pistol is hidden, is the one who had decided the courier must be killed and his package must be swapped for a forged reply. Then, she makes sure it is possible to write: while Anna distracts Hewlett with music and conversation, Mary sneaks upstairs to his room to make a copy of the Cardan Grille which encrypts correspondence.
Hewlett, stunning Anna with declarations of love and a proposal of marriage, adjourns to his room, moments after a breathless Mary has accomplished her goal. Ultimately, after digging up the courier tube of the dead soldier, Abe stops back at Whitehall under the guise of collecting victuals and chatting with his wife; there, the two swap Richard’s pistol for Mary’s paper Grille template, and off he goes again to the woods, leaving only his odor behind him. The mission is successful, thanks to Mrs. Woodhull’s ingenuity.
Peggy has put herself in no less peril. In Philadelphia, she continues to deflect the insistent General Arnold on his entreaties of marriage; when he pulls up their carriage to Penn Mansion, his newly claimed home, she makes an excuse of impropriety to keep from going inside with him (prying eyes and all, with she indecorously unchaperoned). He backs down when she agrees to return under cover of darkness to “abide by [their] understanding.” For her, offering up her body is a small price to pay to protect what she has already given to John Andre: her heart. The intimacy of marriage is far more sacred to her, and following her exchange of vows with Andre, she will withstand any distasteful onslaught to remain true to them and achieve their joint goal.