Turn Review: “Of Cabbages And Kings” (Season 1, Episode 3)


It is a pity that AMC decided to air their newest drama, Turn, in the same timeslot as HBO’s crowning series, Game of Thrones. The two shows have much in common and can benefit from sharing an audience on different nights of the week. Both series are filled with intrigue and action and deal with characters whose loyalties and alliances try to stay strong even in the worst of times. Meanwhile, friends can turn on one another in both Westeros and the northeastern United States circa-1776. However, the fantasy behemoth is probably taking away much of the glory from Craig Silverstein’s historical drama.

So far, each episode of Turn has been better than the last, due to more coherent plotting and a game cast playing some conflicted historical characters. Since some viewers – including this critic – give a show around three episodes to prove itself before confirming whether or not to commit to the series, it helps that “Of Cabbage and Kings” is the best episode of Turn yet. The characters have more to do, their actions and reactions more unpredictable, and the espionage stories more captivating. It is also becoming a show very much connected to families, those that stood together during times of war and those houses that were divided due to political disagreements.

Abe and his father, Richard, head to New York to trade some of their livestock so that the Woodhull family, stricken by a poor harvest, has the necessary meat and vegetables to survive the winter. There are some terrific scenes between Jamie Bell and Kevin R. McNally here as Richard tries to mend his disapproving stance toward his son. “I see how you dote on him,” Richard tells him, referring to Abe’s protective attitude toward his son, Thomas. “You want what’s best for your son. So do I.” It is heartbreaking that Richard’s delight at seeing Abe bargain in a cunning way is a sleight of hand. His son is not actually the Loyalist that Richard desires for his son. However, since Richard tells Abe that he trusts him in his affairs, Abe now has to trick his father week after week.

In New York, Abe knows he has to keep an eye and ear out for details that could benefit the Rebels. Although he said he was uncertain of continuing his role as a spy at the end of “Who By Fire,” he commits to sneaking into a British base at King’s College and finds out some pertinent intel from German soldiers. Abe realizes that although the Brits are going to draw back in the wintertime, another militia (the one the Germans will fight on) will be based in Trenton. This is big news for a force seemingly daunted by the news of Washington’s capture.

Before this scene, all seems lost for the Patriot rebels. The British have taken over Fort Lee and the American army is captured, along with commander George Washington. In the opening scene, the Rebels are carting Cpt. Simcoe through the woods and encounter a thick fog, uncertain if friend or foe stands on the other side. It is a terrific foreshadowing of the mutiny that will come later in the episode, as well as an indicator of one of Turn’s greatest strengths: its unpredictability, despite being based in history. Since Turn is bringing to light a story that is a minor footnote in most American history textbooks, there is still genuine suspense.

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