I'm baaaaaaaaack! And oh, how awesome it is to have The Lost Heiress turned in and be free to catch up on other things. =)
One of which is my opinion on the wrap-up of AMC's first season of Turn. I was a couple weeks behind on watching due to the hockey finals and traveling...and for a few weeks there I really wasn't sure what I could say anyway. I didn't know how to put my finger on why the show was bugging me, other than the rather blatant ignoring of actual history (which I recognize most viewers wouldn't even recognize, having not studied it as I did for Ring of Secrets).
Then they helped me out by making it very clear--adultery ain't cool, man. Especially when it's (a) not accurate to history, (b) unnecessary, and (c) used to try to appeal to the viewers.
In a previous post after the first episode, I'd noted (with no complaints) some of the ways the show was fictionalizing history. And I'm quite obviously FINE with fictionalizing history, LOL. At first, I thought they were doing a grand job of doing so, too. They were putting key players together who really weren't in reality, but that was okay. It was the for the sake of tension, and I really liked how they played off each other.
But here's where they failed. They took the historical figure of Abraham Woodhull, who was in reality a farmer with firm Patriot roots who took great joy in pulling the wool over the British's eyes, and turned him into a character who wasn't sure what he believed, who was constantly changing his mind, and who had to be bullied into his role in the Culper Ring. Worse, they took a man of strong faith and made him a murderer, an adulterer, and absent any moral compass.
The Abraham Woodhull I read about in Washington's Spies was a wee bit skittish, had opinions he shared too freely in his letters to Washington, but was a good man. A likeable man. One I cheered for when reading history.
I don't want to cheer for Turn's Abe anymore.
Largely because of the adultery. In reality, Abe wasn't married at the time. In reality, Anna Strong was a decade older than him, never a love interest. And while fiction-writer-Roseanna is all for introducing a made-up romance (ahem), why why WHY did they have to make it result in adultery??
Anna, at least, thought her husband dead. But Abe. Why give him a wife, just to have him cheat on her? And why did the show assume that would make viewers like them? I guess their thought was to appeal to our desire for love. Yes, we can feel sorry for a character who married a girl he didn't even know for noble reasons and then was still pulled toward his childhood sweetheart. But appealing to our base instincts--the ones that say Feeling is more important than commitment. What you want is more important than what's right. The pleasurable is more important than the noble.--doesn't work. A good TV show will portray a character's failings in a way that makes us want them to be better. In a way that makes us ask ourselves what we'd do if put in such an impossible situation. In a way that makes us see the noble in the ignoble.
I didn't see that here. Instead, I saw the noble be eclipsed by the ignoble.
And they missed a key ingredient--guilt. People falter, people make mistakes, and I'm all for using that in a fictionalized story (even if it's a mistake the historical figures didn't make). But the story would have been richer if Anna and Abe felt some remorse for what they'd done instead of basically flaunting it for all to see. Can you imagine the outrage in a small New England town if he really dueled for her? If she really jumped out of her husband's boat and ran straight back into his arms?
In my opinion, that plot thread would have served the story much better had they left it at sexual tension. Have the Christmas scene where they almost falter, where Mr. Baker (best character they wrote!) interrupts. Leave that simmering between them, but give Abe a bit of a backbone. Have him care at least a little bit what he does to his family.
And that is, in my humble opinion, the other failure of the show. Abe isn't driven. Abe has no backbone. Oh, he takes a few risks...but they're not rooted in conviction.
What I love about the real historical Culper Ring is that they're all about conviction. They lack skill, they lack professionalism, they lack training--but they definitely, 100% have a deep-down, scared-but-willing belief in what they're doing. That, even before the adultery schtick, was what I was missing from the show. By all means, have them run scared now and then (the real people did). Have them second-guess whether they should pass something along for fear of getting caught (the real people did). Have them drive Washington slightly mad with their caution (the real people did). But give them the right heart.
The heart was what turned the real people into real, ordinary heroes.
The heart was what made me ask myself Would I be strong enough to do the same?
The heart is what has the potential to make viewers cheer through failures and setbacks and threat and victories.
Don't strip the characters of it.
Will I watch next season? Probably. Because I really, really, really want them to redeem this story. I want to like the characters, and I want them to eventually tell the story of the Culpers I love. But I gotta say, I'm disappointed. I had high hopes, I was ready to love this show and shout about it to the world. And instead, I spent a lot of episodes sighing and shaking my head.
And now I'm down to a hope for improvement next season.
Fingers crossed that Abe gets a backbone, conviction comes to call, and they find a new character to give a bit of morality to now that they killed off the one who had it before.