“Turn” Season 1 might be over, but the story of Abraham Woodhull and the Culper spy ring is just beginning. Though Season 2 has not yet been announced, creator and showrunner Craig Silverstein has big plans for the next chapter of the show.
Zap2it spoke with Silverstein about “The Battle of Setauket” and what he has planned next for “Turn” in terms of its romances, its historical figures and its game of spies.
Zap2it: Mary definitely came into her own in the finale. Were you holding back on her confrontation with Abe all season to have it explode in this episode?
Craig Silverstein: We begin with the two of them. That’s the first shot in the show, really, in the pilot. It’s not too surprising that it would wind back to them. For me, it was a completion of a little bit of an arc, or the first part of an arc, for Abe. He’s said, “I’ve never killed anyone before” multiple times this season. In Mary, who a lot of people felt was underserved in the season up until those last moments, and then you see this completely new person who you didn’t know was there step forward. I love those kinds of moments in stories and it was a lot of fun to do that, especially after the battle, which you assume is the main meal of the thing.
I sort of got the sense that she was less upset that he was a traitor and more upset that he didn’t tell her about it. Where is her head at?
I think that she is concerned, like she said, with her family first and foremost, and she’s thinking about how this is going to affect them. Yeah, she’s upset that he’s a traitor and that he didn’t tell her, but I think moreso she’s afraid. She’s afraid that if this comes out, it’s going to be the ruin of not just him but it will put a mark on her and her child.
Looking forward to Season 2, is she going to be Team Spy now, or is she going to be trying to steer him away from this life?
She’s Team Mary, basically.
I’m on Team Mary too, at this point.
[laughs] Yeah, and she has what she didn’t have before, which is she has power now. She has a chip in the game. What’s going to be interesting is to see how she uses this power to get what she wants.
At this point in the show, do you think Abe’s relationship with Anna or with Mary is more important?
For Abe, his relationship to Anna is more important because that is the sort of first and true love of his life. And because he feels responsible for his brother’s death, it led to him feeling responsible to take over his brother’s marriage that was coming. He looks at Mary as a symbol of the burden he had to shoulder. It was not a marriage born out of romance, which very few marriages were at the time anyway. In episode 3, when Mary comes to Anna and says, “Look, you can be his mistress, I just don’t want to hear about it,” that wasn’t like some new, provocative arrangement. That happened all the time. Mary made a miscalculation in doing that, but that wasn’t the first time it had been done. So I think Anna.
Abe has been flip-flopping all season. When he tells Ben that he’s Samuel Culper, is he ready to be fully committed as a spy?
Yes, I would say he’s all in. Of course, now he has some extra complications in the form of Mary and stuff, but he’s all in and on his terms. That’s why he shortened Mr. Culpeper to Mr. Culper. He’s really kind of taking charge now, not just taking orders.
I’m assuming that we’ll see an extra complication to that now that Selah is alive, even though Anna chose to stay with Abe.
Yes, [laughs] that is going to create a complication. For me, it’s more of a question of “What is Selah going to do?” There’s also one scene that we cut for time from the finale. I think it will be up online that you can see. The scene is Selah telling Anna, “We’ve got to go,” as they’re all packing up and Hewlett has struck his deal with Ben to leave the town and no further casualties. In that scene you see that Selah regards her — and again, common view at the time — really as property. His wife comes with him.
In the scene, she actually reveals that she has been spying for Washington. She doesn’t reveal the names of her co-conspirators in the Culper Ring, but she tells him that and he can’t hear it. He can’t process it, and says, “Whatever, get your stuff, we’re going.” That scene was sort of meant to show that this relationship isn’t the greatest one either between Anna and Selah.
With Hewlett right there when she left, that probably endears the Major more to her than he was before.
It definitely firms up her cover.
Simcoe going full mad dog this episode was one of my favorite moments. Can we expect him back next season?
We can expect some more of Simcoe. If you want, you can go online or whatever and get the spoilers, I guess, of what happened to the real Simcoe and you’ll see exactly where he’s heading next, which is very interesting. It’s also set up by another scene late in the show. But I can definitely tell you that he will be around and he will be even worse than before.
Is it too late now to have Simcoe write the first recorded Valentine’s Day poetry?
No, I don’t think so. It was a Valentine’s Day card that was pretty ill-received by the person he sent it to, which I think fits him. I think he does have a romantic side to him — he thinks. He really did pine after Anna, in his way. I think that we could still write that.
“Turn” showed audiences a depiction of slavery they hadn’t really seen before. How do you want to keep exploring those characters?
You’re right, you don’t hear a lot about New York slavery. At this time, or slavery during the Revolutionary War, it’s usually associated with the southern colonies a little bit more, but it was going on [in the north] obviously. The two characters we focus on, Jordan and Abigail, they’re both fictional characters because nobody recorded slaves histories individually. The adventures they go on link up to adventures that real people who were slaves and then freed and then found out they weren’t so free went on during this time period.
It’s true that Robert Rogers did hire a lot of freed blacks to serve in the Queen’s Rangers, which upset a lot of British officers. Abigail is in probably the best spy position and the most dangerous one of any of the characters. She’s right under John Andre’s nose, the head of British intelligence. He’s heading to Philadelphia, and she’s going to go right along with him.
John Andre is such a smart character. Does he really have that big of a blind spot that he wouldn’t think that this character would be a spy? Or does he have his suspicions of everyone?
It wouldn’t be the first thing in his mind that this slave could be informing back right under his nose and kind of wondering how she could actually do that, but I will say that we’ve seen John Andre has spotted spies before and decided to not capture them but use them as doubles or spread misinformation through them.
Looking back at this season, what was your biggest goal for Season 1 and do you think you accomplished it?
The goal was to introduce people into this world and the mindset of the people in this world, which might be a little bit different than what we’ve seen before in the Revolutionary War. Introducing the idea of ambivalence and the idea that not everyone knew what a big point in history they were actually moving through. A lot of people thought it was a blip that was going to be over soon. Getting that flavor in there, and then also showing how the Culper Ring comes together in that atmosphere was the goal. Now that they are established, we’re excited to move forward into the spy-versus-spy game.
Are there plans to introduce more recognizable historical characters, like you did with George Washington, in Season 2 and beyond?
As the story touches them, then they will organically come into it. We’ve made a deal with Ian Kahn to play [George Washington]. He’s going to play him in seven episodes of Season 2. He was awesome. And then Benedict Arnold is a big part of it, and he is coming. Of course, Benedict Arnold was a big hero before he became a big traitor, and he was somebody who Washington was friends with and was somebody who Benjamin Tallmadge looked up to very much and is a character who doesn’t know that he is going to become this huge traitor. It surprises him as much as everybody else.
Watching that rise and fall and his relationship with John Andre through this woman who they both are romantic with — John Andre was once engaged to, and then Benedict Arnold ends up marrying — Peggy Shippen, who’s a very different character from any of the women we’ve seen so far on the show. Those are some characters that are coming down the pipe that we’re very excited about.
How will the stakes rise in Season 2?
The information, the intelligence from the Culper Ring actually begins to pay off big dividends. It’s the thing that keeps the Continental Army alive at certain times. Showing that is going to be really fun, because they go on some missions, and some of those missions are ones that people may remember from your history books in terms of the battles. To see how the Culper Ring was instrumental in turning the tide one way or the other with their intelligence I think’s pretty exciting. They play at a much higher level than Season 1.
Do you think there will be another battle the scale of the finale’s Battle of Setauket next season?
There is a big set piece we’d like to do later on in Season 2, but I don’t want to talk about it now. It’s not a battle, I’ll say that, but it would be a pretty big set piece. Part of the thing that we’re looking at in terms of the big challenge we have is how we portray Philadelphia on screen. At the time, it’s the capital city, it’s the biggest city, it’s bigger than New York. That’s the first challenge to tackle.
What else are you really looking forward to exploring in Season 2?
The twisting path that Simcoe and Robert Rogers take, and the idea that Mary has sort of gotten what she wants, and Abe has been forced to move into Whitehall, his father’s place. Abe, Hewlett, his father and Mary are all under the same roof eating together and sleeping in the same house. I think that’s going to create a more “Downton [Abbey]”-y kind of tension.