TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
Bellevue TV Poster Image
Eerie small-town crime drama is violent but engrossing.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Themes of justice and acceptance are there but hard to see among heavier themes of betrayal, disappointment, cruelty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character is committed to detective work and bringing justice to evildoers, though often at the expense of her own well-being (and that of her family). Another character, a female detective with First Nations heritage, brings an important new perspective to the force. Bellevue is one of the few shows to cast a transgender actress in a transgender role, and does a decent job of fleshing out her character beyond just "victim."


A lot of death, including by murder and suicide. More than one fistfight shown, some characters use guns. Arson and strangling touched on. "Conversion therapy," the method of trying to change one's sexual desires or orientation through often violent methods, is discussed and depicted. A character is shown engaging in self-harm. Someone is hit by a car; impact is bloody. Disturbing details at crime scenes, such as missing fingernails and a tooth.


A few sex scenes; a female is briefly shown topless. A main plotline centers on the sexual identity of a transgender teenage girl, whose self-expression is met with violence and bullying.


"Hell," "bitch," "t-ts," "damn," "bastard."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Multiple scenes take place in a dive bar; frequent depictions of drinking and smoking. A character is overly dependent on pain medication. Two characters snort cocaine. The story involves a drug dealer and his distribution ring; some of his supply is shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bellevue is a dark, gritty crime drama starring Anna Paquin (True Blood), centered on the mystery of a missing transgender teen and the disturbing events that led up to her disappearance. The show features plenty of violence, ranging from bullying and fistfights to outright murder. There are some disturbing crime scenes mixing blood with religious iconography and pornography. Suicide and self-harm are recurring themes, and drinking and drug abuse are shown. There are a few sex scenes with mild nudity; a woman's breasts are briefly shown. There's a lot of discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity, which may inspire questions and discussion.

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What's the story?

Annie Ryder (played by Academy Award winner Anna Paquin) is a hard-nosed detective in the small town of  BELLEVUE who will leave no stone unturned in her search for transgender teen Jesse Sweetland, who has gone missing under highly suspicious circumstances. A single mom with serious relationship issues, Annie is troubled by childhood memories of her father's suicide, and the sudden return of a mysterious stranger who played cryptic mind games with her after his death. As she begins to suspect a connection between Jesse's disappearance and a 20-year-old unsolved murder (that happened to be her dad's final case), Annie must figure out who she can trust -- or if she can even trust herself. It also stars Shawn Doyle (House of Cards) as Police Chief Peter Welland, who worries Annie may be coming as unglued as his former partner: her dad.

Is it any good?

This moody, absorbing drama has a lot going for it, including a female lead who is allowed to be at once sympathetic and unlikable, flawed but fierce. The atmosphere is suitably eerie, a tangible gloom making it readily apparent that Bellevue is a town full of broken dreams. The dynamic between Annie and her boss (and erstwhile father figure) Peter is terrific. Paquin and Doyle really show their range here. Newcomer Sadie O'Neil -- who is a transgender woman in real life -- does her character Jesse justice, with a sensitive portrayal that elevates her beyond mere "victim" status.

With that being said, the show is packed with so many storylines and twists that it begins to teeter right on the edge of overambitious. The dialogue can also be wince-inducing at times; Annie speaks her thoughts aloud a lot, which is simply unnecessary and starts to get annoying. It's almost always better to show not tell, and missteps like this are what make the show good but not great.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way Bellevue portrays transgender issues, and the way families and communities can sometimes react to people who are different. Was Jesse someone you could relate to, even if you don't share the same views?

  • How do you feel about the show's depiction of mental illness? How do characters' choices affect their personal and work relationships?

  • The show deals a lot with feelings of failure: a high school hockey star who could have gone all the way and didn't, a detective who can't crack an important case. How might these characters' lives have turned out differently if they had achieved their goals? What kind of effect would this have on the people around them?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries

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