Independence

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Photo Courtesy Of History Channel

Photo Courtesy Of History Channel

Warning: Spoiler Alert

No matter what your political convictions, Progressive, or Conservative, Republican, Democrat or Independent, I’d challenge any American to walk away from a well-made movie or TV program, about the fight for Independence from the British Empire and walk away without feeling pride for our nation. Although the History Channel Original Event “Sons Of Liberty,” started out slowly, the network presented a series that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of the Premium Cable Channel’s lineup. The miniseries presented its last chapter Tuesday night, with an episode jammed with action, triumph and in some cases heartbreak.

One of the aspects of the six-hour showcase that I enjoyed, is the series evoked the period perfectly, as it looked like realistic cities and towns in the New World, in the latter stages of the 18th century, however the characters have a modern sensibility about them. The characters, responded as we do under the same circumstances in the early portion of the 21st century. The BBCA series “The Musketeers,” projects that same kind of balance, letting the viewers of today know how folks lived 400-500 years ago, experiencing it through relatable characters.

Two actors, that I’d had little to no knowledge of, before this series, stood out; Ben Barnes, portraying the protagonist Samuel Adams, appears to have the skillset to make it as a leading man in films or television. The other man, who impressed me was Rafe Spall, in the role of John Hancock. He played the part perfectly, but he’s got a face that’s expressive enough for comedy, he reminded me of a younger Peter Scolari or Rick Moranis.

The third episode opened, right when the previous chapter ended, as we’re in a field in Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775, watching the red-coats squaring off against the Colonial militia. The start of the scene’s in super slo-mo, so we watch the flintlock getting struck, the heat of the bullet leaving the barrel, followed by the smoke and bullet Then we return back to real-time and we start seeing the casualties, on both sides. Tim Kelly’s leading the way for the colonists while the red-coats fight under the command of General Gage’s military-aide, Major John Pitcairn. The red-coats quickly overpower the colonists, Tim Kelly taking one in the shoulder and another in the leg and falls to the field, his compatriots beat a hasty retreat.

Paul Revere’s heading for Concord riding through the woods, when he confronts two red-coats on horseback, he throws a knife at one killing him, then shoots the other one off his horse. A new soldier arrives and he shoots Revere’s steed, causing both the horse and the Patriot to fall to the ground, Revere rolling a few yards after falling. The soldier turned him over to see how badly hurt his opponent was, but Revere was playing possum and struggled with the Brit for his rifle.

Revere initially gets the advantage, but the red-coat regains the upper hand and hits Paul in the head with the butt of his rifle. He’s about to beat him to death, when Samuel shows up and takes him out. Another guard sneaks up on Adams his gun pointed, but someone kills him first, when the smoke clears we realize it’s John Hancock. He’s struggling with the moment, ten-years prior, the thought of killing another human would have caused him to convulse in laughter, the idea so ludicrous. Within this makeshift band of brothers that these men built through the years, Hancock has evolved the most, a subject we’ll return to. Revere comes to, thanks John and tells them to get to a safe spot, he’s riding on to Concord.

We return to the field of battle and a soldier rides up to inform Pitcairn, that Adams and Hancock escaped. The Major continues walking past the bodies of dead or wounded colonists, when he passes Tim Kelly, he tells two of his soldiers to raise him up. The big man’s badly wounded and Pitcairn asks him where Adams and Hancock are hiding. He stays silent, so the Brit took Kelly’s own hunting knife and stuck it into the wound in his shoulder, twisting and turning the blade. Tim spit blood but he remained silent, Pitcairn removed the knife and gently tapped Kelly on the head, then told a soldier to kill him. A bullet to the head took Tim Kelly’s life.

We’ve moved onto Barrett’s Farm in Concord, Massachusetts according to the graphic and we watch a man riding there rapidly on his horse. As he ties his animal to the post, we see a gun peeking out from the corner of the building, then realize, the area’s filled with snipers. A man in the front doorway asks the man who he is and what’s he doing on his land. The man tells him his name’s William Dawes, he’s Paul Revere’s friend (which causes Barrett to wave off the guns) and the whole state of Massachusetts, knows what in his barn. Is there anyway to hide it. Barrett opens the barn and it contains scores of rifles and barrel after barrel of gunpowder. He tells Dawes he’ll get some guys and they’ll bury it.

The men work like finely tuned machines and within hours they’ve got everything hidden, meanwhile each member of the militia, receives a rifle and pistol. They hide in the woods as Pitcairn and his regiment march towards the farm, the Major and another officer ride ahead and Pitcairn greets him as Captain James Barrett, to which Barrett replies he’s not been called Captain in years.

Pitcairn tries making social niceties, but it only lasts so long, he tells Barrett that the Brits are aware he’s a close ally of Paul Revere and he stores the munitions for him. Barrett tells him to look around as much as he wants and the red-coats look everywhere and all they find is one tiny musket ball about the size of a pea. Pitcairn shows it to Barrett and he laughs and says it’s a memento from the glories of war, nostalgia doesn’t connect to treason. The Major has the other soldier rough up Barrett and he’s on the ground, Pitcairn stands over him with a pistol pointed at him and says nostalgia’s going to get you killed.

Right then Revere gives the command to fire and the Brits go down one after another, suffering major injuries. Pitcairn gets shot in the thigh, then gives the order to fall back to the bridge. This time it’s the red-coats on the run as the Colonial Army gains their first victory, over the planet’s strongest military. Barrett grabs a flag the red-coats left behind and Paul tells him that’s his prize, now let’s get going and take back our city.

The red-coats limp back into Boston, with cart after cart of injured men, they pass the State House and General Thomas Gage tells Pitcairn to dismount while addressing his commanding officer. Gage then asks how did this happen, the Major responds his men fought viciously, but the rebels are savages. He tells Gage that the colonists are on the march and could be outside the city’s walls. They couldn’t find Adams, Hancock or the munitions, somebody tipped them off. Gage blames his soldiers and tells Pitcairn to thoroughly investigate which of his men’s the traitor.

That evening Gage stands in contemplation in front of his fireplace then heads to Margaret’s bedroom, he startles her and he asks if her friend Dr. Joseph Warren’s mentioned John Hancock or Samuel Adams? She says she’s never heard the names and barely knows Dr. Warren. Gage looks at her and says I know it was you, their blood is on your hands, you traitor, then walks out of the room locking her inside.

The graphic tells us we’re now at a Colonial Encampment, four miles west of Boston. The entire field’s filled with tents and Warren offers Sam an apple for breakfast which he refuses, Joseph asks him when he last ate? Adams looks at his old friend and asks if the rumors about Joseph and Gage’s wife are true and Warren stays poker faced. Sam says you’ve watched out for me over the years, but now I’m telling you to be careful. John Adams rides up ending the conversation.

John tells his cousin that they want to convene a second Continental Congress and they want Samuel to explain his actions. Adams says we’re a bit busy right now and all they’ll do is write another lovely letter to the Crown, then says he won’t go. John says then they’ll align with the British and wipe Boston off the map, Hancock quickly agrees with John. He says he’s been around money-men all his life and they’ll do anything to preserve their fortune. The English will bribe the other colonies wealthiest citizens and they’ll accept the deal. Revere says he and Warren will command the lines, they should head to Philadelphia.

Gage’s melting-down in front of his officers, he tells an aide to get a letter off to Lord North telling him they need another 20,000 soldiers. He tells one of his officers to take charge of locking down Boston, nobody leaves the city, anyone attempting to will be shot on sight. He says we’re in a war now start acting like it and dismisses his officers.

We’re back in Philadelphia at the State House for the second Continental Congress and it’s like a bad rerun, as the delegate from Pennsylvania, that was against Boston the first time’s back on his soapbox. He says there aren’t troops in Pennsylvania, or New York, just in Boston and because of this man Samuel Adams. He then says that he and his thuggish friends have made life tougher for the rest of the colonies.

Samuel stands up and gets right in the other delegates face and says he wasn’t there, or the rest of them. They have no idea what conditions they live under, good, patriotic men have lost their lives and possessions for this cause. I’m willing to work with you, any of you to solve this problem. The other delegate responds that he created and Adams walks out. Hancock says we need another way to win these men over and John Adams smiles and says he has an idea.

The three men go to visit a man in Philadelphia, acting like schoolboys waiting to see Santa. John says this is the place of greatness, while Hancock says he can’t believe he’s still alive. Suddenly the door opens and their stands Ben Franklin in a bathrobe, paying a lady of the evening for her company. As she leaves he asks the trio why there in his house? John replies they have an appointment with him, then introduces himself and the others, Franklin says as long as you don’t tear down the place come on in.

Back at the Colonial Encampment, now located one mile north of Boston, Amos tells the others that Gage and the British still hold Boston, but they’re surrounded on all sides. They can’t hold out much longer, then they’ll attack the colonists. Warren asks about the militia, Amos responds it’s growing every day, but the man aren’t trained. Revere asks if they can handle a full-out attack  and Amos responds, perhaps two or three rounds, but they’d fall.

Franklin sits down with the three men and outlines what their desires are for their colony and all three men agree they’re on the same page. Franklin says he’s lived in London for the last ten-years and Parliament won’t give them a sliver of what they want. He tells them they aren’t talking about defending their rights, they want to become another country, with all 13-colonies banded together as a new nation. Is that what they really want? Samuel immediately responds with a yes and Franklin smiles and says the idea’s completely nuts, but that’s what he wants as well. Now they just have to sell it to the others.

With Franklin in tow (in lieu of the Cowardly Lion,) the four head to the State House and immediately get the support of Virginia delegate Thomas Jefferson. John congratulates him on the convert and Franklin says he was already on their side, he opens the door to the chambers and says here’s where the fun starts. Franklin, John Adams and Hancock, sidle up to all the delegates, Adams even asking the Pennsylvania delegate, how he can address his concerns. When they return to Franklin’s, Samuel asked what all that talk’s going to accomplish. Franklin says politics is like playing chess, you always plan five steps ahead, in five steps the colonists take their King.

Back in Boston, General Thomas Gage’s barely holding it together. He says the British Empire has the most powerful in the world, yet this band of colonists has them at a standoff. One officer says that they’re just colonists, but they far outnumber the red-coats. Gage says no excuses, then an officer suggests a plan that will cost them hundreds of soldiers, they cross the harbor and march through Charlestown to capture Bunker Hill. Pitcairn says the losses they’d suffer would end up as a horrific number, the officer counters they can lose lives, they can’t lose Boston. Gage silences his Major and the plan goes into effect.

On June 16, 1775, Gage sends the orders to start the battle for Bunker Hill at daybreak. As the soldiers line up the next morning, Gage addresses his troops, tells them what they march to do today, we do for King and country and the troops respond back, for King and country. Many of us will die today and we will die with honor, The troops respond back, for King and country, HOOSAH, HOOSAH.

The colonists look to the water and see five British ships heading their way, they then start fortifying Bunker Hill so they can save it from being won back by the English. Revere pulls out a flag with a snake cut in pieces, with each colony representing a different piece of the reptile, above it read the banner, Join Or Die. They put it atop the hill and wait for their opponents arrival. Paul tells his soldiers he knows they’re scared and there’s no shame in it, anyone who has something’s afraid of dying. But he tells his men to hold the high ground and don’t let the red-coats take the hill.

The battle went through three stages, the first one the Brits pounded the colonists into the ground with rapid-fire cannons. The colonists fell back and the British advanced and this time the rebels kicked the English tails, killing line after line of red-coats as they marched in procession to their deaths. An officer called for the red-coats to fall back and seeing they had the English on the run, got the colonists giddy as they killed more and more men. Gage ordered that the retreat be halted, then tells his troops to prepare for a second advancement and he tells Pitcairn, that he’ll lead the charge. Pitcairn realized it was a suicide mission and that’s why Gage held back, but he rallied the troops by yelling for the glory of the Marines.

The Colonists had the advantage early and Pitcairn got shot on his horse fell to the ground and bled out, while his soldiers marched past him. There’s always that one scene in war films, where one of the good guys realizes his chance of survival are slim but he’s going to take out as many opponents, as he can before he falls. It’s used for dramatic effect and of course it was Dr. Joseph Warren and when Gage saw him on the battle field, charged into the fray. Warren took out a lot of soldiers, then got shot in the leg, he fell to the ground but rose when Gage rode up. Gage passed him on his horse, then stopped and shot him in the head, telling his men to mutilate the body. He first though dips his hands in Warren’s blood.

He heads straight home marches into Margaret’s bedroom and tells him he killed Warren with his own hands and shows her the blood, she starts crying and hitting him. He tells her to pack her things she’s sailing for England on the next ship.

At the Continental Congress, John Adams receives a message and tells the delegates the war’s started, as Gage killed hundreds of colonists including their good friend Dr. Joseph Warren. The delegate from Pennsylvania asks for a moment of silence. George Washington slams his hand on the table and says no, we’ve been silent too long. General Gage, is a vicious, brutal tyrant that will stop at nothing. I’ll ride to Boston and take care of him myself, any objections? The room stayed silent, Washington leaves and seconds later Samuel leaves.

John Hancock goes out to the stable to talk to Samuel, he tells him that without him, this thing falls apart. Adams says everybody in there has an agenda and Hancock agrees, everyone but Samuel. John says I finally got what you’ve fought for all this time, you just want folks to have a good life and existence. He then tells Adams that he changed Hancock, he says I’m broke and I’m okay with that, this is all I’ve got and he throws Adams the signal coin. He begs Sam not to leave, but Adams gets on his horse and says good luck. He rides a mile or so, then stops reflecting on his options. Hancock, John Adams and Franklin are at Franklin’s trying to figure out if they got all the delegates they need. Samuel walks in and says enough games, this time we do things his way. Franklin says glad you’re back.

Paul Revere’s pleasantly surprised as George Washington and six thousand soldiers arrive to help battle Gage. When the British General finds out that Washington’s arrived he tells an aide to set-up a meeting for the two of them. Gage rides out to the Colonial Encampment at night with one soldier to meet Washington, whose got Revere by his side.

Gannon attempts to rile up George’s temper by bringing up unpleasant circumstances from the past. Finally Gage tells Washington that he wants safe passage for he and his officers, or he’ll burn Boston to the ground. Washington agrees to the terms and Gage rides away.

In Philadelphia, Franklin pulls John Hancock aside and tells him he wants him to be President of the Continental Congress. John’s shocked that Ben’s picked him over Samuel, but Franklin asks if John knows he grew up in Boston and Hancock says he does. He said that he knew Hancock’s uncle very well and he could do impressive things in some areas for some people and John smiles and agrees. Ben looks him in the eye and says I know where you come from and I know where you ended up. You’re the man for the job.

Graphic tells us we’re back in Boston for Evacuation Day March 17, 1776. The red-coats are leaving Boston in droves, the colonists are elated, shooting off fireworks, dancing and drinking. Washington and Revere walk through the crowd smiling and George says to Paul, they think it’s over.

Samuel Adams addresses the Continental Congress and says to the delegates he knows what they think of him and he agrees he’s all the things they don’t like. However he says I’m meaningless to the Crown and so are all of you, they behave as if we don’t exist. We need a fair and equal chance, that’s our God-given right and I’ll fight for that and die for it. South Carolina’s the wild card for a unanimous passage and they vote yes.

As the delegates sign the Declaration Of Independence, Washington reads it aloud to his troops, we see the document getting signed, flashbacks along the journey and the British returning to the colonies to fight. But Washington yells charge and we leave these founders of our nation, to win Independence.