Sons of Liberty “The Uprising” Review (Part 2)

Sons of Liberty History Channel 20

“The Uprising” improved from Sunday’s first installment but still suffered from my previous complaints. Like “A Dangerous Game,” this outing had an exciting scene before the opening credits, slogged through the first hour, and then finally upped the pace for the second. Where Sons of Liberty rose is this: less Ben Barnes as Sam Adams and more time focusing on the surrounding characters.

Let’s begin with Marton Csokas and Emily Berrington as the Gages because they were the highlight of the evening. First off, the portrayal of Thomas Gage is not entirely accurate, but then again, not much else is on here, and Csokas is so great at chewing scenery that I’m fine with him channeling Jason Isaacs in The Patriot. I’ve known of him since he played Borias on Xena, and that hypnotic voice never gets old. Honestly, I think it’s why he’s asked to play villains so often. In my cinematic world, he would use that voice as Dracula (yes, he’s from New Zealand, but that last name is very Hungarian). The problem is no one on screen felt capable next to his Thomas Gage. Jason O’Mara’s George Washington could, but we haven’t had the chance to see those two interact yet. It goes back to the problem of Barnes being woefully miscast as Sam Adams along with everyone else barely passing the grade (more on that below). Thankfully, along with Thomas came his wife Margaret. I don’t know if Emily Berrington is the best choice as the sole woman in the miniseries yet her character is compelling enough because she is active in her choices. And Maggie’s desire to act didn’t feel shoehorned in to make her more dynamic. The colonies were her home, and I bought her need to assist them. Having her husband also be more of a two-dimensional villain here helps as well, yet I would have still understood her actions had that not been the case. Her being in the picture also made Joseph Warren more engaging. I’m not usually a fan of adding romance into a story just for fun (Maggie was most likely Warren’s informer; the affair is debatable), but that aspect made Ryan Eggold more interesting to watch. His scenes with Berrington gave Warren an extra depth than anything prior.

Back to our other men, Rafe Spall continued to be MVP as John Hancock. My favorite scene in the whole two hours was when Gage took the former’s house. Hancock just didn’t realize that someone could be as ostentatious as him in material needs. And Csokas’ delivery of “the King thanks you for your service” was priceless. Hancock’s eventual aligning with the Patriots still made sense though. He wants the freedom to be able to make money without the restrictions of the British Empire. His uncle did it by trading with Holland illegally. And I can understand Hancock’s personal interest in the Revolution more than Adams’ righteous one, at least in the aspect of how Spall and Barnes are portraying the characters. Spall’s Hancock is a person; Barnes’ Adams is just a bunch of clichés put together. That’s especially disappointing considering how much material there is with a man like Sam Adams. This also applies to Henry Thomas as John Adams and Michael Raymond James as Paul Revere. On second thought, Thomas is not passable as John Adams. James is better as Revere but not by much. And both of them are capable of excellent work. Like Barnes’ Sam Adams they are playing the cliché: Thomas as the by the book John and James as the swaggering, gruff Revere. Both the actors and the characters deserve better. We also barely had time for Jason O’Mara to make any impact as George Washington, and Dean Norris appeared for what felt like just 2 minutes again.

Tonight’s concluding installment looks to be the meat and potatoes of the miniseries. That makes me excited, but can the final two hours make up for the major shortcomings of the first four? At least the series has looked spectacular along with the fabulous score.