Turn: Washington's Spies

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Turn: Washington's Spies TV Poster Image
Popular with kids
Historical series doesn't downplay war's graphic realities.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 12 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The central message is that standing up for what you believe takes courage, passion, and bravery -- but that you might have to betray your family and government to do it. Average citizens can become heroes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The show's central character is a relatable, everyday hero who makes sacrifices and risks his life for the sake of doing the right thing. That said, female characters are scarce, and there's a noticeable lack of minority role models. 


Graphic visuals include shootings, bayonet stabbings, and beatings that result in dead bodies and spurting blood.


Sex is strongly implied with thrusting, moaning, bare backs, and hints of buttocks and breasts; sexual harassment and innuendo.


Words such as "damn" and "hell" (and, in one instance, "tits") audible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking; occasional drunkenness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Turn is a historical drama set in 1776, during the early years of the Revolutionary War. Violence tends toward the graphic and realistic, with shootings, stabbings, beatings, and spurting blood. As for sex, it isn't constant, but it's strongly suggested in most episodes with passionate kissing, partial nudity, and some love scenes that leave little to the imagination. Language is generally tame (think "hell" and "damn" and, one time, "tits"), and characters drink socially, sometimes to excess.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11, 13, and 17-year-old Written byAaron M. June 23, 2014

"Iffy" for young people.

While very interesting historically, the blatant sex bars it from family viewing. I was disappointed that a show purportedly about America's first spy rin... Continue reading
Adult Written byJpmills1 December 7, 2019

Powerful, inspiring, compelling

It is true, there are sex scenes in this show and some of the violence is disturbing, in particular a torture seen in the last season. However, the story overal... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bybookgeek101 April 25, 2015

Historical Gem

This show was almost cancelled, but it is truly amazing! A great historical show with great role models and realistic situations (from the 1770s of course). But... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byDJLaker May 11, 2014


Though there is lot's of blood, the channel adds so much that you never forget that it is fake blood. As for sex, the show REALLY pushes the line. There... Continue reading

What's the story?

When the rebel Americans serving under General George Washington need a "man on the inside" to help them spy on British forces during the Revolutionary War, unassuming cabbage farmer Abe Woodhull (Jamie Bell) becomes an unlikely hero as part of America's first spy ring. But deciding to TURN against his colonial government -- and his loyalist father (Kevin McNally) -- puts everything Abe has worked for at risk.

Is it any good?

Based on Alexander Rose's nonfiction book Washington's Spies, which charts the creation of America's first spy ring, Turn gets points for bringing history to the small screen and shedding light on a little-known benchmark in American espionage. (The show's opening credits -- with animation that mimics the look of hand-cut silhouette art and music by the National's Matt Berninger and the Civil Wars' Joy Williams -- also are a compelling highlight.) But the thrill will be gone for some not long after the series gets going, thanks to a slow-building story and characters who take their time giving us reason to root for them. Still, the show’s die-hard fans know it does get better, even buzzworthy, if you just give it time.

On the surface, Turn seems like a great way to learn something about American history in a format that’s far more appealing than a textbook. But parents hoping to use it as a learning tool for older teens might want to think twice, given its graphic visuals and suggestive sex that skirts the line of age-appropriateness. We also wish the show's female characters -- to say nothing of people of color, who are mostly shown doing menial tasks for white characters -- contributed more to the story than subplots and supportive lines.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Turn's take on the Revolutionary War and whether that portrayal seems accurate or exaggerated. Which elements contribute to a sense of realism? (Think about violence and costuming, for example.) How does the show compare with what you know to be true about the American colonies during that time?

  • How does Turn's title foreshadow the central conflicts of the series? How many levels of meaning does the word "turn" have in relation to the show's plot and characters?

  • How much screen time does the series give to women and minorities? Does their limited presence mirror the realities of the time period, and does that make the show's lack of diversity OK?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate