The year was 1776 and the war for independence was just underway and not going well for America. Everyone knew the British has spies within the separatists but Washington needed spies of his own and it didn’t take long for a group to take up that call against the British.
We had a chance to preview this period drama from AMC and see if could draw in our interest and leave us wanting more. The answer is yes on both counts. The story is not unlike a modern day Jack Ryan story or James Bond spy movie. The only difference is this is set during the Revolutionary War and spying was far more basic in available tools, but far more complex. And unlike James Bond, the characters are more relatable and ‘civilian’. What makes the series work more than anything is the cast itself. Anna Strong (Heather Lind) and Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell) are two friends, young and stupid but passionate about their beliefs. Abraham’s father is played by Kevin McNally, and is Judge in their small town. The ranking member of the British army in that area is Burn Gorman as Major Hewlett.
The story is well paced and expertly thought out. Each little detail from speech to events is woven in with historical fact to make the story feel like you are watching a factual documentary but with all the twists and turns you would expect from a good spy novel. The story of America’s first spy ring is told in new research uncovered in the book “Washington’s Spies”. Checkout this preview trailer for the series, some photos and background on both the show and the story of The Culper Ring.
About The Show
“TURN” is a layered, character-driven spy thriller that unravels the untold story of America’s first spy ring. Set during the Revolutionary War, we are taken behind the battlefront to a shadow war fought by everyday heroes: men and women who defy king and family to create a new nation while vowing to keep their work a secret. Based on remarkable new research in the book “Washington’s Spies,” by Alexander Rose, “TURN” centers around Abraham Woodhull, a farmer living behind enemy lines in British-occupied Long Island. Abraham bands together with a group of childhood friends to form The Culper Ring: an unlikely team of secret agents who help George Washington turn the tide of the war in favor of the Rebels. Their daring efforts revolutionized the art of espionage, giving birth to modern spycraft in all its moral complexity. “TURN” transforms history into suspenseful and resonant entertainment.
The Story Of The Culper Ring
On July 4th, 1776 the United Colonies of America declared their independence from England and King George’s tyrannical rule. Within three months, the fledgling Continental Army had been chased into the wilderness and was on the verge of annihilation. By the end of the year, its Commander-in-Chief, George Washington, had lost Boston, New York City and the morale of his soldiers, along with most of the populace. He needed a miracle.
A daring, top-secret mission across the Delaware River on Christmas night resulted in a much-needed victory and gave the Continentals a small shred of hope. It also showed Washington the value of new thinking, of bold approaches…and of secrets. In the ensuing months, he began to improve upon a certain branch of the military, one that had desperately fallen short up until now: Intelligence. Little did he know that at its center would be a group of childhood friends. Helping to turn the tide of the American Revolution, they would go down in history under a special name: The Culper Ring.
Abraham Woodhull, Benjamin Tallmadge, Caleb Brewster, Anna Strong, four citizens who all hailed from a small Long Island town called Setauket. By the outbreak of the war, they’d found themselves scattered across the Eastern Seaboard. Caleb Brewster had become a whaleboat man in Nova Scotia, before the nation’s call to arms beckoned him back home and into the fight. Ben Tallmadge, a student of Yale, had been inspired to join the Continental Army by another friend named Nathan Hale. Anna Strong had become wife to a local Patriot leader. And Abe Woodhull had stayed home on his farm like most civilians, trying to steer clear of the violence, until fate came calling.
It was under General Washington himself that Ben Tallmadge formed his small band into a cohesive spy network. Through their bravery, the Setauket friends risked their lives and honor to obtain valuable intelligence and transmit it back to the General. Through trial and error, they constantly invented new ways to survive and win, and their methods wound up serving as a foundation to all modern espionage tradecraft.
Ultimately, it was not Washington’s military tactics that inspired citizens so much as it was the citizens who inspired him. Their war was won by individual sacrifice contributing to a patchwork of collective action, all under a blanket of anonymity and in the face of danger. They each undertook a vow of secrecy, to conceal their efforts. It is only now, over 200 years later, that their story can finally be told.
“TURN” is that story.