Sons of Liberty “Independence” Review (Part 3)

Sons of Liberty History Channel 31

“They think it’s over.”

You know what’s disappointing? Aside from one other scene, the best part of Sons of Liberty was the closing montage of “Independence.” And what made it work was Jason O’Mara’s delivery of the Declaration of Independence combined with that stirring score. The actual signing never felt earned though. The final “aye” amongst the 13 colonies to band together should have exuded triumph but fell flat. It all comes back to the fact that Sons of Liberty focused more on theatrics than actual story and character. The show is shot beautifully, that can’t be denied. Unfortunately, looking pretty can only take a production so far. Turn had a truly laughable CGI moment in Season 1, yet I’m able to forgive that because I was truly invested in everything else. Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, etc., those were all real men who lead fascinating lives during a truly important era of our nation’s history. The writers had plenty to work with and chose to only skim the surface. Covering a time span of 10 years in only 6 hours did not help either. It doesn’t allow investigation into the minutia of what occurred. Back to Turn, the first season of 10 episodes only covered a couple of months. Perhaps if the writers had focused on just one or two events during that 10 year time frame the quality would have increased. Why not revolve everything around the Second Continental Congress and the Battle of Bunker Hill? Why show the first 9 years if an exploration of the Stamp Act, Tea Act, and Intolerable Acts weren’t going to be shown? Those events shaped the thoughts of Sam Adams and John Hancock. Why not include more of Jason O’Mara’s George Washington when he did more with his time compared to Ben Barnes and Henry Thomas combined? I’m a fan of that era and have studied it which makes me more critical, yet I can’t help feeling that I still would have been let down had that not been the case. Take Game of Thrones as an example. The creators of it know how to put on a compelling show, but then they also give you these fabulous conversation scenes that can last minutes, and they’re just as brilliant. It can be a tricky line to walk, but when done right the outcome is sensational. Real history, without all the added dramatics, can make for fantastic television. It’s a shame that’s not done more often.

More Thoughts as I Join or Die

– Besides the closing montage, the other scene that raptly held my attention was the fireside meeting between George Washington and General Gage. Like Gage’s scene with John Hancock, it’s one of the few moments were character was allowed to filter through. Their relationship wasn’t nearly as antagonistic in real life, yet I’m letting that slide because O’Mara and Marton Csokas did a fine job of measuring each other up. It was subtle, but Gage betrays a hint jealousy almost towards Washington. Under all the scathing criticism he spews, Gage reveals that Washington was chosen by General Edward Braddock to help head the expedition at Monongahela during The French and Indian War. I got the sense that Gage resented how well liked Washington was. The expedition ended up being a disaster, but that didn’t change how Washington was viewed. And now he’s the one representing the colonists in negotiating. Talk about adding insult to injury. O’Mara also did a fine job of standing his ground. Washington doesn’t fire back or try to make excuses. He just says things the way they are which makes his comment about being ready for the “next one” hit home even more.

– Rafe Spall received a nice close-out in his comment to Sam Adams about his signature being big enough to be seen by King George. It may be the only thing Hancock is really known for today, but what a way to be remembered.

– The Battle of Bunker Hill true and false: Both Dr. Warren and Major Pitcairn died at Bunker Hill yet one of their killers was changed for dramatic effect here. True- Pitcairn was shot by former slave, Peter Salem. I thought Jimmy Akingbola did an excellent job with his short time and wished we’d seen more of him. I even had a slight pang of sadness when Pitcairn died because of his defiance towards General Gage at sacrificing so many soldiers. You may not agree with who he fights for but his reverence towards his fellow men is admirable. False- Joseph Warren did die at the Battle of Bunker Hill (with his body being mutilated), but not at the hands of General Gage (most likely it was Lt. Lord Rawdon). This change was probably added to give a more personal revenge on Gage’s end. “You slept with my wife! Prepare to die!” And yes, Maggie was sent back to England.

– If you really want a more character driven show regarding the American Revolution, I urge you to watch AMC’s Turn, now called Turn: Washington’s Spies. And if you’re looking for a historically accurate outing, I highly recommend Liberty’s Kids from PBS. It does an excellent job of taking the audience through all the major events while meeting the who’s who of the men and women involved.