'TURN: Washington's Spies' recap: General haunted by agonizing choice

"Should I pardon a brutal murderer to save a failed spy?" Washington ponders. "What should I do?"

Driven to near-insanity by an agonizing decision he must make, Gen. George Washington (Ian Kahn) enlists the aid of his trusted servant Billy Lee (Gentry White) on “Valley Forge,” Episode 207 of AMC’s “TURN: Washington’s Spies.”

Billy summons a physician after Washington experiences a terrible hallucination supposedly caused by “acute melancholia.”

“It is brought on by a deep moral conflict within the soul,” Dr. James Thacher (Scott Poythress) explains. “In the most extreme cases, the patient succumbs to madness.”

“You are to spare me no quarter,” Washington orders Billy once they’re alone. Billy must react with utter candor to the general’s words and deeds over the next several hours as Washington weighs the fate of two men facing execution.

“A commander who suffers from madness risks the life of every soldier under his command,” Washington emphasizes. Accordingly, what they discuss that night will determine if Washington remains in control of the American forces or submits his resignation to the Continental Congress.

The quandary involves Washington’s top spy, civilian Abraham Woodhull (Jamie Bell), imprisoned by the Redcoats on espionage charges. The quandary also involves British Maj. Edmund Hewlett (Burn Gorman), falsely accused of killing a Patriot captain and mutilating his body.

If Hewlett is freed, he’ll naively vouch for Abe’s innocence and thus spare him from the hangman’s noose. That’s because Hewlett believes Abe’s elaborate lies about pretending to be a spy so he can expose the Sons of Liberty, a secret band of rebels.

“Should I pardon a brutal murderer to save a failed spy?” Washington ponders. “What should I do?”

While Washington debates his next move, Abe is subjected to physical and psychological abuse by his jailers in hopes of exacting a confession. A visit from his stern father, Tory magistrate Richard Woodhull (Kevin R. McNally), adds to the misery.

Richard chastises Abe for putting himself and his family in jeopardy by continuing to commit treasonous acts against the British Crown.

“So perhaps this is the safest place for you,” Richard angrily says, “at least until this war is over!”

“As long as I have air in my lungs,” Abe retorts, “I will never, ever stop!”

Hewlett, meanwhile, rightfully insists his American captors have made a “grievous error” by intending to execute him for war crimes. This after the corpse of a Patriot captain was discovered with his severed tongue pinned to a bloody note.

“I am an officer and a gentleman,” Hewlett protests. “But above all I am a child of God. I could never inflict such horror on the body of a man, alive or dead!” Only a demon could enact such a scenario, Hewlett insists.

That “demon” is Capt. John Graves Simcoe (Samuel Roukin), leader of the Queen’s Rangers, who vengefully framed Hewlett for the murder.

The British officers became bitter rivals when Hewlett arrested Simcoe for barbarism. Moreover, they’re competing for the affections of American spy Anna Strong (Heather Lind).

After encountering a vision of Lawrence (Jesse Ruda), his deceased older brother, Washington decides to free Hewlett in a prisoner swap. Lawrence would never pardon a brutal murderer, Washington knows. But then again, Lawrence would never “lead a campaign against the mightiest empire on Earth.”

Just as the rebels receive word of Hewlett’s liberation, they’re attacked by the Queen’s Rangers while Simcoe enters a stockade to slay Hewlett. Surprisingly, however, the major stabs Simcoe with a hidden knife and escapes.

“Mark his grave. Say he was dead before we arrived,” Simcoe tells Jordan (Aldis Hodge), one of the rangers.

But Hewlett isn’t dead yet, Jordan responds.

“He will be,” Simcoe vows.

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