Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sons Of Liberty Night 3 - and so it concludes...

Three nights is not enough to encompass everything that the Sons of Liberty and the men of the Revolution were about, but the History did a bang up job hitting on the key parts. The men cast to play these iconic historical figures were spot on - they brought them to life in ways no history teacher ever could. Sure, the creative liberties taken were sometimes in drastic contrast to the men's true character, but overall it wasn't a bad series. It definitely did what it set out to do which was make the time period more interesting and therefore got people looking up the different events and people highlighted in each episode.

Those who had a better than high school grasp of history fell into two categories - those ticked that History dared mess with the history, and those that could pick out the [many] inaccuracies and still cheer on the characters. There's no way Paul Revere was at every American battle on the front-lines leading the charge, and yet I was still sitting on the edge of my seat cheering him on (and not just because I love the actor). The cast and crew did their very best to make history come alive and be more exciting than fussy men in wigs standing in straight lines conducting civilized war. This was a new kind of politics, and a new kind of warfare. And it all started with a few angry men wanting more for their future.

The conclusion really centered around the battle of Bunker Hill. This was a significant early battle in the Revolution, and one that solidified the rebels in their cause. The same can be said of History's fictional Sons of Liberty. The key moment, of course, is when Dr. Joseph Warren refuses to fall back with Revere and the others and instead charges ahead. Revere's last view of his friend alive is that of him shaking his head no before jumping over the barricade. If you knew US History you knew what was coming next - you just didn't know how.

If there was one huge flaw in the entire series, it was Warren's death in battle. The unbelievable happens. Thomas Gage spots him through all of the chaos and charges towards him (uphill on his horse, basically a perfect target for any number of bullets). Warren sees him coming and just basically allows the inevitable to happen. A British soldier shoots Warren in the leg, and Gage comes up to him and shoots him in the back of the head to make it look like Warren was running away. He dips his hand in Warren's blood and leaves the battle field. As he walks away he tells his men to mutilate the body.

This is in direct contrast to what actually happened to Warren on the hill, and I don't know why they did it this way other than to bring the Gage-Warren affair full circle and show how Thomas Gage was a ruthless villain. Okay, fine, but at the same time I think it took some of Warren's glory in death away from him. If they wanted people to feel heartache for his death they could've easily gone with the real story that Warren was a young widower with daughters whom he had to send away while he fought in the resistance. He essentially left them as orphans. There's angst aplenty in that story.

Still when the battle is over and the rebels begin to search the dead and find Warren, Revere's reaction had my heart in my throat. Revere and Warren were not portrayed as being super close in the miniseries, but history suggests the men knew each other well. Revere in the mini series is wounded in the battle, but falls to the ground as he looks upon his friend and brother's mutilated body. The horror evident on his face. A missive is also sent to Sam and John Adams in the Continental Congress meeting in Philidelphia. John announces to Congress of the battle and of Warren's death while Sam stares at the paper in disbelief and profound grief.

Sam leaves Congress feeling responsible for leaving Revere and Warren behind to fight his battle. He's tired of people dying for him and his cause. Half way down the road on his horse he looks up and realizes he can't give up and turns around. Meanwhile Gage returns home to his wife and shows her his bloodied hand telling her Warren's dead. She flies at him screaming "No" he throws her down on a couch and gets on top of her - he doesn't rape her, but the entire audience believed that's what was coming. He leaves her crying there and locks her in her room telling the servants not to let her go anywhere that she was "not feeling well."

After Bunker Hill the ball rolls at a faster pace down the hill, Congress votes to allow Washington to take troops to Massachusetts and off he goes. He meets Revere with some 6,000 men and Revere is all too happy to step aside and let the General take over. Revere is instantly Washington's right hand man - but when they realize that Gage is moving troops from Boston to take New York he dispatches Revere to Congress to warn Adams and Company that they're running out of time. They need to vote to unite and declare independence. This is one of the few times that Revere's story actually follows the actual history.

The rest is a fast paced find the guy to write the declaration, let's all vote, let's all sign... and then the last scene we have is of Washington commanding the rebel troops to charge... and the VERY LAST SHOT is Revere holding the newly sewn American Flag and running ahead with the men.

Overall a successful conclusion to this excellent series. I still say that Night 2 is my favorite episode (it was just the best written/edited of them all), but really from start to finish the action never really let up. I actually had fun seeing where history and fiction intersected. The cast was spot on and brought humor where they needed to, and yet were all totally into their roles. Michael Raymond-James was as badass as ever as Revere, Ryan Eggold as Dr. Joseph Warren was a compassionate man, Jason O'Mara totally transformed himself to become George Washington (voice, nose, composure), Ben Barnes was the perfect [fictitious] Sam Adams, Henry Thomas portrayed John Adams in the standard way, Emily Barrington held her own as Margaret Gage, Marton Csokas was part Thomas Gage part Alan Rickman and it worked, Kevin Ryan was a solid John Pitcairn, and Rafe Spall... what can I say? John Hancock has always been my least favorite Revolutionary hero to read about... and Spall not only made him interesting... he made me fall in love. He was so odd and yet so loveable.

And Dean Norris making a small appearance each night as Ben Franklin. I wasn't sold looking at pictures and all, but wow. I was pleasantly surprised, especially Night 3. It was such a small role, which was surprising how much talk there was about him joining the cast.

Norris plays the elder statesman in the classic way that most actors throughout history have. He's a womanizer, he's intelligent, and he doesn't give a $#*! what others think. He tells it like it is, and he's ready for action. He enjoys the youthful enthusiasm of the Adams boys, and pushes them forward towards action in securing their place in history.

I don't know much of Norris' work, but it was nice to see him in this role. He's definitely one of my favorite Ben Franklins. I wish he'd had a bigger part, but really if we're looking more at the Sons of Liberty and Boston, then it makes sense that he didn't factor into the show much until it was nearly over.

Now I'm in withdrawls. I invested a lot in waiting for this project to premiere, and invested a lot of emotion into the characters and the action as it unfolded. And now it's over. And I don't quite know what to do with myself now. If this doesn't come to DVD I'm going to be horribly disappointed. But! It reairs this Friday (January 30) - and, yes, I have the tv programmed already. And I will be recording it just in case (but you can bet if there's a DVD release I'll be first in line)!

I may gush about individual actors/performances in later blog posts. I really want to gush about MRJ and Ryan Eggold and Rafe Spall... we'll see. Life is starting to get busy.

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