American Odyssey

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
American Odyssey TV Poster Image
Gritty ensemble drama draws inspiration from actual events.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The search for truth and justice is a dominant theme, but powerful forces -- including the U.S. government -- stand in the way, so suspicion looms.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The three characters at the center of the story (one of whom is a woman working in the male-dominated military) all are in pursuit of the truth and have generally positive motives; some characters are duplicitous.


Intense battle scenes mimic live-action footage and involve gunfire and explosions; death and serious injuries with realistic amounts of blood.


Sexual tension.


"Ass," "hell," and so on.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Odyssey echoes fairly recent history in its exploration of big business, world politics, and the military with a realistic approach to violence that nets some sobering (and often bloody) visuals. You'll see shootings, explosions, and intense battle scenes and hear characters use words such as "damn" and "ass." Some characters drink socially, and there's light sexual tension.

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What's the story?

AMERICAN ODYSSEY weaves together the stories of three strangers who’ve stumbled upon different points of a grand conspiracy involving government, big business, and the military. American soldier Sgt. Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel) is the sole survivor of an attack on her Special Forces unit that was carried out by private contractors, but the world believes her to be dead; trust-funder Harrison Walters (Jake Robinson) is a political activist who unearths evidence of a government cover-up linked to the attack; and corporate lawyer Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli) is a former U.S. attorney who learns he’s working on a merger with a company that’s secretly funding terrorists.

Is it any good?

American Odyssey has lofty aims to deliver an engrossing drama with multiple main characters and intersecting plot points that, for added gravitas, reference recent events in world history through thinly veiled fiction. But, though it's absolutely gripping in parts, American Odyssey also can be confusing and not entirely convinced of its own relevance, as events such as Osama bin Laden’s death and the Occupy movement already feel decidedly dated.

Of the three leads, Friel is by far the most compelling, and her story is worthy of full-time coverage. But since American Odyssey's structure dictates that her plight abroad is only one third of the show, you're forced to shift focus stateside when you'd much rather stick with Friel to see what happens next. For the times you're with her, though, American Odyssey feels like the addictive drama it's so desperately trying to be.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about American Odyssey's fictional elements and the factual events that inspired them, from the Occupy movement to Osama bin Laden's death. What's the point of creating drama that's so close to real life?

  • What messages does American Odyssey send about the military, Muslims, corporate greed, and the American government? Who are the heroes here, and who are the villains?

  • What do you make of American Odyssey's title? What does it mean, and does it have any similarities to Homer's epic Odyssey poem?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love current events

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