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'Turn' review: Season 2 premiere not quite revolutionary

Meegan Warner as Mary Woodhull, Jamie Bell as

Meegan Warner as Mary Woodhull, Jamie Bell as Abe Woodhull and Kevin McNally as Richard Woodhull in "Turn: Washington's Spies," Season 2. Credit: AMC / Antony Platt

THE SHOW "Turn: Washington's Spies"

WHEN | WHERE 9 p.m. Monday on AMC

WHAT IT'S ABOUT This Revolutionary War drama about Long Island's Culper spy ring and its leader, Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell), picks up in the second season far from his home in Setauket. It opens at the court of King George III, where the mad monarch is posing for an artist; during a fit, he does something that may change the course of the war. Back in the colonies, Philadelphia has fallen to the British, and Peggy Shippen (Ksenia Solo), the future Mrs. Benedict Arnold, is getting to know John Andre (JJ Feild). At Morristown headquarters, George Washington (Ian Kahn) demands closer eyes on New York. Woodhull devises a plan to get there, which his wife, Mary (Meegan Warner), nearly scuttles. Meanwhile, Woodhull's one true love, Anna Strong (Heather Lind), gets a troubling offer.

MY SAY "Turn" didn't get a second season because AMC has a soft spot for a hidden story from an ancient war and the village on Long Island from whence it came. Like all networks, AMC has a soft spot for ratings. "Turn" obviously delivered. In fact, this was a real success -- 2 million dedicated viewers, which is maybe even more than "Mad Men."

What fans will see in Monday's two-hour opener should continue to please them. This remains an intelligent, well-made drama that wants to get most of the history right, or at least not adulterate it too much. The second season also moves to a broader stage -- a global one, in fact -- while New York, called just York City here, assumes a bigger role, too. Bigger stage, bigger stakes? There's a strong hint of that as well.

But, alas, same virtues, same flaws. "Turn" can be sullen and grim. A great war that will change history is underway, but where's the basic human passion that's driving it all? Bell's ascetic, wan Woodhull had charisma problems last season. Those haven't been corrected.

Monday's episode really comes alive when the dastardly John Graves Simcoe (played to exuberant evil abandon by Samuel Roukin) arrives. And wait until you see the madness of "Turn's" King George. He barks, he screams, he tosses thrones.

As usual, the villains are the most fun.


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