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TURN “Reckoning” Review

By on August 8, 2017

Jamie Bell as Abraham Woodhull, Meegan Warner as Mary Woodhull, Ellis Chase as Thomas Woodhull  - TURN: Washington's Spies _ Season 4, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Antony Platt/AMC

By Chris B.

“Deliverance must come.”

And it does, in spades.  General Washington’s words may have been meant for the Revolution, but really, they apply to all the conflicts addressed in this penultimate episode.  

Caleb recovers Champe, who had been captured and held by rebels in Virginia.  He relays to Brewster Abe’s plans to intercept Lafayette’s ship.  As Caleb rushes off to his buddy’s rescue, Abe waits it out in the brig, sizing up the gruel with a tired and practiced eye.

Finally, he is redeemed by Caleb, who vouches for his identity with the French.  Caleb then learns that Abe’s intelligence has been sent to Washington and all are converging on Yorktown.

At the allied camp there, Abe is finally reunited with his family and his friends.  He worries about his wife and child being so close to the fighting, and he wants to send them back to Setauket immediately.  But Abe insists upon staying with the army:  “Washington moved the army based on intelligence that I sent; I’m here, and I know how to fight.  I can’t abandon the cause now.”  Mary understands this concept, proclaiming Abe as her cause; thus, she will not abandon him, either.

Abe gives Ben the details about the armament and provisions of the British while Washington lays out the battle plan with the French commanders.  As the Colonial forces work to break the British lines on land, the French will provide back-up from the water.

We are treated to a series of battle scenes, including some gleeful French naval commanders from the Ville De Paris blowing a hole in the H.M.S. London, promising to show the British “what a real navy looks like.”  Then, when the British seek to respond, turning to their corrupted signal books (printed especially for them by the loving hands of Robert Townsend), they devolve into chaos.

The land battle is just as heated.  As Abe builds up the reinforcing fence and Caleb fires cannons, Anna is making the rounds with her pitcher of water.  When the soldier she is serving is shot, Abe hears her cry of surprise; believing she is hurt, he sprints to her aid, only to be tossed in the air by shrapnel that rips into his shoulder.

Caleb rushes Abe to the medical tent and orders the harried doctor, “You.  Here.  Now.”  He leaves his delirious friend to return to the battle, but Thomas sees his dad and tugs his mother over.  It’s a good thing, too; in addition to her ability to clean up messes (as an arsonist, sniper, spy, and super chef), it seems Mrs. Woodhull is also a surgeon.  She removes the object from Abe’s shoulder and tends to the bleeding.

At this point, there is a schism between the French and Americans on how to proceed.  Hamilton advocates sneaking up on a couple of British redoubts and take them out with stealth, but Lafayette wants to assault the British with their battery and ship armaments, fearing the mortars that had taken them by surprise in their first land assault.

But Ben has the key:  “They don’t have enough powder.”  Thanks to Culper’s observations and Benedict Arnold’s greed for tobacco, the British do not have the gunpowder necessary for an all-out offensive.  “They will save what they have left for cannons, not mines.”  With a gleam in his eye, Washington orders the attack of the redoubts at nightfall.

What follows on October 11 is a satisfying rout that has Ben slashing opponents with his bloody sword, Caleb leveling soldiers and smashing them with the butt of his rifle, and Hamilton stabbing and kicking people in the face.  In the end, the British are overrun and their cannons are turned on their own troops.  

By morning, Washington’s spyglass focuses on a white flag of surrender.

On the surrender field, the British march through the funnel of French and American troops, finding their fifes overcome by the “Yankee tune” requested by Lafayette.  The sword is offered to Admiral Rochambeau, who declines, insisting it be given to Washington.  His Excellency tells Cornwallis’s stand-in, General O’Hara, “Nearly four years ago, to this day, General Gates accepted General Burgoyne’s sword at Saratoga.  Today, the American and French Alliance is honored to accept yours.”

The sword is taken, as are their colors.  The retreating troops toss down their arms as they go.

New Life

A very pregnant Mrs. Arnold is feeling a mite “unsettled” of late, having dreams of her darling husband willfully drowning her in her bath.  Luckily, she wakes up—only to double over with pain and pass out.  It appears Benedict’s seed is about to spawn.

The doctor decrees Mrs. Arnold and her child fine, as long as she stays off her feet.  Abigail is worried for her as she has heard of the bounty placed on Benedict’s head, knowing it likely that someone will take a shot at him.  Peggy scoffs, “I hope someone does, and I’ll be rid of him once and for all.”  Peggy is still lost over the information that John Andre still loved her, even to the end of his life.  Abigail confirms this:  “Major Andre always loved you.  It broke his heart for you to be with someone else.  He wanted you more than he ever wanted to turn General Arnold—remember that.”

There’s a knock at the door, and instead of the market delivery she expected, Abigail opens up to a surprise of her own:  Akinbode.  “I told you I was coming back,” he professes, trying to explain to her where he has been, but he needn’t bother—Abigail knows the story of how he was ambushed by Rangers and absconded with 500 pound worth of army gold, including how he had saved Abe Woodhull’s life in the process.

Akinbode wants to steal away with her immediately, but she has to deliver the bad news that Cicero is not there, that he’s off in the wilds of Virginia as General Arnold’s valet.  Akinbode is not deterred; he vows to find her son and make their dream of a life together in Canada a reality.

Later, Peggy has had time to work over what Abigail has told her, and it leaves her with a devastating realization:  Abigail has not only been spying on her husband, but she also had been spying on Major Andre, else she’d never have had an inkling about Andre’s plans for Benedict.  What’s worse:  Abigail’s intel about West Point led directly to Andre’s capture and death.

Peggy is furious.  She screams at Abigail to never again speak her name and to get out of her house.  She even threatens to physically toss Abigail out if need be, but when she throws off her bedcovers, we see she is bleeding.  

Her child is on its way.

It is less than surprising that there is no time to call the doctor, nor that the baby is breech.  Abigail, however, endured the same with Cicero and knows how to handle it.  She prepares to birth Mrs. Arnold’s baby herself, if the other will trust her to do so.

Peggy can do naught but agree.

She gives birth to a son, whom she names Edward after her father.  Holding her new child, she finds it in herself to forgive Abigail:  “It wasn’t your fault.  Providence played a greater hand in our lives than either of us could ever know.  It brought you into my home, for better and worse, but you saved my life.  You saved us both.”

Abigail is ever gracious.  She feels that even if she cannot help her own son yet, she is grateful to be able to help Peggy’s.

New Perspectives

Ben is summoned to Washington’s headquarters, along with Hamilton and Wayne.  Washington surprises them by laying out plans to move the army, not to New York as he has so defiantly insisted, but south to Yorktown to take advantage of “intelligence from a trusted source” and exploit Cornwallis’s weakness there.  It takes but a gaze and smile of reassurance from the General to convey to Ben that all is forgiven after their previous conflagration.  

Washington suggests floating pontoons as a diversion, to make General Clinton think that they are attacking New York, thereby giving their men time to move into position unnoticed; the secret will even be kept from the men until the troops reach the Delaware River.  Hamilton offers to take a regiment of men tow Rhode Island to sell the lie, but Ben is reluctant to waste resources when their enemy is so well provisioned in comparison.  He claims he has a way that they can fool Clinton into thinking their attack on New York is imminent “and we don’t need to move a single man to do it.”

How is that possible?  Through the gift that is Mrs. Bates, camp follower and Tory spy.

Ben tells Anna of the plan regarding Clinton, but he is adorably squirrelly about the nature of what he’s written.  Finally, she needles out of him that he wrote a love letter from him to Anna, playing upon the gossip that Mrs. Bates already believes.  Anna is tickled by this and teases him:  “Are you sure it’s convincing?”  Ben assures her that it is, and his serious expression belies some unspoken tension with the idea, perhaps that he is, after his close working relationship with her since her arrival in camp, yet another man truly bewitched by Mrs. Strong’s considerable charms.

Mary plays her role, handing over the letter to Mrs. Bates, who gleefully packs her belongings and heads off to York City in search of General Clinton.  The General is duly impressed by the Woodhulls:  “One of them refuses easy money so he may fight; the other endangers herself to spy on our behalf.  If only we had more colonists like the Woodhulls.”  This concept gets an ironic smirk from Major Hewlett, who attends nearby.

While Mrs. Bates goes off for a reward visit with her husband, Hewlett takes the opportunity to caution General Clinton about relying upon such information “from an unverified source.”  The General, however, blows off his concerns; since Mrs. Bates infiltrated the camp at White Plains, even before New Windsor, she’s as verified as Clinton requires.  

The General does, however, plan to take caution—with the security of New York, that is.  He knows that Washington has been rabid to retake the city since being driven from it, so Clinton announces that he’s going to recall some troops from Cornwallis to beef up their security, which will make the latter most unhappy “what with Arnold returning north and a loss in the Ranger leadership.”

That last tidbit gets Hewlett’s rapt attention.  Upon inquiring further, he learns that everybody’s favorite nemesis, Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe, is “gravely ill after being wounded in battle.”  Simcoe is apparently “at death’s door,” and it is no wonder, as his battle with Abe and Caleb had him shot in the gut and launched from a height onto stone, causing him to spurt blood from his mouth like a fountain.  Hewlett requests that, in the name of security, he personally deliver Clinton’s orders to Yorktown.  

Request granted.

Hewlett gives a sly grin as chilling as any Simcoe himself could produce.  Abe has had his turn; now, it appears it is time for Hewlett to get some revenge of his own.

At Nelson House, Hewlett primly and apologetically relays Clinton’s orders to a group of disgruntled British commanders.  Cornwallis assures reserves will be sent to York City tomorrow, and in the meantime, he gives Hewlett leave to “take notes on the camp” for his report.  Now, he’s at his leisure to find Simcoe.

He need look no further than the medical tent, where the doctor announces Simcoe’s blood tainted and his health critical.  The only recourse?  Prayer.  He offers to send for the chaplain, but a bleary-eyed Simcoe refuses.  He later calls his Rangers to his bedside, and as a dagger-wielding Hewlett listens in, recommends that they “flee and return to [their] former units [in the Continental Army] if the opportunity arises,” rather than remain with the British and be put to death when their position collapses.  Simcoe himself will escape on the H.M.S. Bonetta, along with the other ranking officers who have been injured.

Hewlett sheathes his weapon for a more opportune moment.

Aboard the Bonetta, a wheezing Simcoe is confronted by the blade of Hewlett’s dagger, which caresses his neck, just enough to turn his head toward Hewlett so that the latter can stuff an entire apple into his mouth.  He then croons to Simcoe about his beloved horse in Setauket, one murdered by Simcoe with a poison apple.  Then, Hewlett’s voice abruptly hardens.  “Take a bite,” he orders.

Simcoe does, staring defiantly into Hewlett’s face.  Then, he makes an unbelievable proclamation:  “Of all the men I have forged from weakness into warriors, you may have been my greatest creation.”

However, Hewlett has not given him a bite of death; rather, he claims that the delicious morsel “is what mercy tastes like.”  Hewlett acknowledges that he has every right to kill Simcoe, but after hearing the Ranger grant mercy to his men, Edmund “had a change of heart…All Nature is a circle of creation and destruction, and after so much destruction from this war, John, it is time to tend the garden again…We must create a new world from the old world, and our feud is part of the old.  Such knowledge is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

He shoves the remains of the apple into Simcoe’s mouth and leaves his enemy to flounder in his own bed of misery.

Where will each man fall in the aftermath of the war and of their own private battles?  Next week brings us the answer in the series finale.  

There’s one more page to Turn.

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