'TURN: Washington's Spies - Second Season'
(Daniel Henshall, Heather Lind, Jamie Bell, Kevin McNally, Seth Numrich, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2016 / Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Overview: 'TURN: Washington's Spies' takes viewers into the stirring and treacherous world of the Revolutionary War and America's first spy ring. In this season, the Patriot cause has suffered the crushing loss of their capital city of Philadelphia to the British. Washington's army faces desertion and death, and the embattled General faces conspirators from within his own ranks, as well as personal demons he keeps hidden from the men he leads.
DVD Verdict: So, and first and foremost, 'TURN: Washington's Spies' is an interesting theme and time period for a series. Although it is fictionalized for the soap-y through story line, I am so totally intrigued by the real historical accuracies that after every episode I am reading the on-line content, researching bits, and have even borrowed the copy of Washington Spies that I gave my Dad for Father's Day a few years ago to read. Still, some three seasons in!
Taking it from the top and I thought the very first episode of season one was just good enough for me to tune in the second week. By week four though, TURN had challenged 'Mr. Selfridge' for the "which do I watch and which do I DVR?" By episode eight I was craving TURN in between episodes! Not much has changed here now, as the TV show enters its third season, and the brilliant second season has just landed here on my lap for review.
Criticisms: Playing Devil's Advocate, the accents: I think the accents - which DO enrich the characters and would have been present in that era - makes the dialogue hard to understand at times, and I watch with closed captioning on at least once in order to catch all of it. The accents don't confuse the action but particularly when they use a period colloquialism, I find myself worried I missed something subtle.
Who is who: It took me five full episodes of this second season to sort out the British! In truth, none of them had enough screen time in the first four episodes for me to know who was who for whom. So, that was hardly down to me, but I do like to know what's what and who's who, sorry!
CGI Backgrounds: OMG, this is the worst criticism I have. The CGI ocean ACTION scenes are so freaking bad and it cheapens an otherwise high production value. They remind me of the final ocean scenes in Truman!
The Pros: So well acted, and I don't say that lightly. Sure, in the opening episodes I did actually think they leaned rather too heavily on Kevin McNally (obviously to assure the audience this was serious performance drama), but none of the characters - except Anna and Abe - get a great amount of screen time in any one episode either. So every look and every word and every action has to project a great deal of information to the viewer. I think this show is as well acted as any of my regular viewing which is mostly Downton Abbey, Big Bang Theory and HBO.
In closing, the incorporation of the historical, the literary, and the vehicle. Very well done. The likability of the characters: Each of these characters are not entirely likable and yet all are riveting. Captain Simcoe's chilling, amazing, insane gestalt shriek! Abraham Woodhall's transformation. John Andre's perfection. Anna's broken heart over and over, and awesome latent feminism. I could go on. Cultural and period accuracy to the fore throughout, 'TURN: Washington's Spies - Second Season' is now out on DVD and Blu-ray and I urge you to purchase it and swallow some history whole yourselves! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features:
Inside TURN: Washington's Spies
Deleted & Extended Scenes
A Treacherous Trio
Washington & Billy Lee