John Adams

Season 1 Episode 1

Join or Die

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Mar 16, 2008 on HBO
out of 10
User Rating
74 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Following the Boston Massacre, John Adams takes on the role of serving as the defense attorney for the British soldiers.

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  • About this episode

    It had great visual effects.
  • In Part One Of A Seven-Part Miniseries, John Adams Takes On The Role Of Serving As A Defense Attorney For The British Soldiers.

    I am not an American, but I am interested in its history. That is why I bought the DVD of this miniseries and I am happy with my purchase. "Join Or Die" was a very good way to start this much-hyped series. The acting here is fantastic and the cast is perfect (Well, there is one expection). Yes, Paul Giamatti is here in top-form but the choice for the character of Adams could have been better. Also the scenery is very well done in terms of realism. The suspense throughout the episode is a highlight too. The courtroom scenes were great. The scene where black tar was poured on the man was frightening. "Join Or Die" ends with an interesting cliffhanger. Overall, I recommend this series for those who are interested in history. Great start!moreless
  • A good, if slightly smug and over-the-top, presentation of the seeds of the Revolution.

    This looks like it's going to be a good miniseries. The acting is, on the whole, very good and the sets are superb. It captures the essence of the historical period without wallowing in it.

    I do have some problems so far with this first episode. The oratory and performances are a little over the top. I know that oratory was very theatric at the time, but the grandstanding did get in the way of humanizing the story. Also, I'm still not sure that Giamatti was the best choice for Adams. Yes, I know that Adams was actually portly and bald, but Giamatti makes the man seem so wishy-washy that he's more of reluctant anti-hero than anything else. I hope that as we see Adams grow in prominence and increase his attacks, we'll see more Giamatti become less of the Harvey Pekar-type character and more of a Founding Father.

    Also, I'm kind of surprised that there weren't any review on this yet. I thought a lot of people were watching!moreless
Melissa Blue

Melissa Blue

First Mourner

Guest Star

Cheyenne Casebier

Cheyenne Casebier

Father Sewall

Guest Star

Dara Coleman

Dara Coleman

James Forrest

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • There were two small mistakes in the Boston Massacre trial.
      1) John Adams was living in Preston, Mass at the time not Boston and there is no credible evidence that he saw the event.
      2) Not all soldiers were acquitted. Two were convicted of murder for firing into the crowd, they "Plead the Clergy" (a one time use legal defense of the time asking for mercy on religious grounds) and the charges were reduced to manslaughter. The penalty was to be branded on the thumbs. This was done not to punish the soldier but to give evidence that they had availed themselves of the "Plead the Clergy" defense and could not do so again (This was a one-time only defense).

    • The theme song for the series is "Sea Shanty" performed by John Bell.

  • QUOTES (1)

    • John Adams: We New England men are not fit for the times, Abigail. What have we seen of the world beyond Boston? What have we seen? I fear we not know what we do, Abigail.
      Abigail Adams: When men know not what to do, John, they ought not to do they know not what.

  • NOTES (7)


    • Boston Massacre, 1770, pre-Revolutionary incident growing out of the resentment against the British troops sent to Boston to maintain order and to enforce the Townshend Acts. The troops, constantly tormented by irresponsible gangs, finally (Mar. 5, 1770) fired into a rioting crowd and killed five men-three on the spot, two of wounds later. The funeral of the victims was the occasion for a great patriot demonstration. The British captain, Thomas Preston, and his men were tried for murder, with Robert Treat Paine as prosecutor, John Adams and Josiah Quincy as lawyers for the defense. Preston and six of his men were acquitted; two others were found guilty of manslaughter, punished, and discharged from the army.