I’m Just About Ready to Give Up on AMC’s “Turn”

Ian Kahn as Washington (Credit: SpoilerTV)
Ian Kahn as Washington (Credit: SpoilerTV)

I knew the next few episodes of Turn would be painful, when towards the end of episode five, the character of George Washington makes a dramatic entrance into the scene like Jesus Christ in Ben-Hur, where we do not see his face until the final, fleeting seconds, when he grumbles a line that I had difficulty understanding. The next episode was no better, as I realized that Washington is actually sporting a British accent. To say that I am shocked and aghast at such a stupid inaccuracy would be a gross understatement. I am in disbelief that I even have to write this. I thought I needed to clean my ears out. Virginia-born George Washington and the so-called “Father of America” is being portrayed by Manhattan-born actor Ian Kahn who has gone out of his way to mumble a British accent. Half the time, I have difficulty understanding just what is coming out of his mouth. I wanted subtitles on the bottom of the screen! He talks agonizingly slow (a speed at which this series as a whole moves), with a raspy muttering that makes Al Pacino’s Razzie performance in Revolution seem worthy of an Oscar. I read on an online forum somewhere, support for Kahn’s casting, saying that “he looks just like the real Washington!” I don’t know how anyone could have come to this assertion, considering, well, there are no pictures of George because cameras had not been invented yet. Maybe the production staff of Turn will include the invention towards the end of the series though, because for what the accuracy is worth so far, this story could have been staged on Mars.

There is no consistency within this series, nor anything to keep me watching, or wanting to watch. I will admit, the end of episode seven featured a somewhat entertaining duel and some excellent cinematography, so in the interest of not being regarded as a quitter, I will indeed ride out the storm and finish this first, and hopefully last, season of Turn. Let’s just pretend for a moment that this series was accurate to the nines. Even then, I would have difficulty. The screenwriting drifts from brilliant to farcical, where a beautifully eloquent conversation between Abraham Woodhull and his father about how they fell in love with their respective wives ends with the father (Kevin McNally) blurting out, “We’re still talking about tits, right?” This line, was almost trumped by a line in the sixth episode, when Abe is captured and tied up, refusing to give information under penalty of death, when his capture declares, “Fine, have it your way.” Mmmmm, Burger King anyone? Oh! Oh! And did I mention that George Washington has a British accent?

As for portrayals, all this series needs is to feature a scene with British soldiers sitting around a candlelit table and painted on top of it is a Satanic pentagram drawn in the blood of an American soldier. Perhaps they can literally illustrate their apparent bloodthirstiness by drinking the blood from a golden goblet before sacrificing a goat to Kali. If they were seen as any more evil, with violence creeping at every whim, and Major Simcoe (who has returned to the series!) being about an inch away from raping a colonial woman, I would expect them to be able to vaporize their enemies just by staring into their eyes. Washington, again, who is shown to be some kind of Christlike figure (so holy that he magically has teeth), with every camera angle scanning him as if he were the essence of holiness, should be complete with a floating halo around his tri-corner hat, and maybe riding a chariot into battle, pulled by glowing angels while Handel’s Messiah fills in a non-existent soundtrack. Did I mention he also has a British accent?

The British soldiers, perhaps by mistake in episode six, were actually seen as “good” for about thirty seconds when a womanizing John Andre (who would not have even been present in New York) announces that all slaves are to be freed. The black men, women, and children then celebrate with jubilance before the generosity is killed by Andre who also announces that the men would be impressed into military service and the women given as gifts to British officers. Of course, this is only done to push the storyline, as it opens up more opportunities for spying, since one of the female slaves becomes a servant in Andre’s house, who can then relay information back to Anna Strong, so she can give it to Abraham, so he can give it to that guy with a Scottish accent (there are a lot of Scottish accents on this show; did they all really talk like that in America?) so he can give it to Ben Tallmadge, so he can give it to George Washington who has a British accent. My, it is indeed a perfect world. Of course, to make it even more perfect, the law which is announced that inspired the slaves to be freed actually was not enacted until 1833, meaning in real life, Washington and his British accent would have been long dead when it happened.

By the sixth episode, we finally see some acts of spying, with a codex of numerical jargon being revealed to the main characters, and invisible messages being written on hard-boiled eggs. It was also in the beginning of this episode where Abraham is stabbed in the stomach by a British soldier, at night, and left to bleed to death in the street, and when the show returns from its opening cartoon credits with a song playing whose lyrics I can’t even understand, he is perfectly fine and no reference is made to the stabbing. Hmmm maybe it was all a dream. Maybe I was dreaming when I heard Washington speaking with a British accent.

Case in point: I wanted to scream tonight, as I caught up on Turn with episodes six and seven. I wanted to scream loudly [in a British accent, of course]. This series, with all of its inaccuracies, is still too boring and confusing for anyone to find it entertaining. I worked at a Revolutionary War-era museum for nearly five years, and even I find myself asking out loud, “Just what the hell is going on?” Imagine someone whose most enlightening television watching consists of Real Housewives and Jerry Springer trying to get a grip on this show. Even Angus Macfadyen, the best actor in the cast, is starting to appear dazed and confused, waddling in and out of scenes with a scowl on his face. There are so many Scottish accents on this show that I would not be surprised to find that the casting call took place in Glasgow. I don’t understand it. I also do not understand how they can keep setting things up in every episode, but nothing ever becomes of it. They built up the battle of Trenton for three episodes, and then totally glossed over it when the time came. Are reenactors not in the budget? Perhaps they only have so many uniforms. Perhaps that is why Rogers’ coat is brown when it should have been green.

The stupid little things piss me off, not the poetic licenses needed to be taken by all historical movies and shows. Turn is a disaster. It is a train about to be derailed. I don’t see how it can make it to a second season. Please, for the love of God, have someone kill off Simcoe before it ends. His character was already assassinated by way of accuracy, so even though he did not die during the war, he can still meet some horrific end. Hell, if George Washington can have a British accent, then anything is possible. Maybe he will even walk on water by the season finale.


One thought on “I’m Just About Ready to Give Up on AMC’s “Turn”

  1. Chris Evans

    I agree. ‘Turn’ is a complete mess.

    What a convoluted depiction of the Revolution and I thought ‘The Patriot’ was over the top.


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