TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
MI-5 TV Poster Image
Violent British terror drama raises big questions.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Government agents put their lives on the line on a daily basis to fight global terrorism and maintain citizens' safety. But their methods include lying to the people they love, using threats and bribes to force others' assistance, assuming fake identities, and forging insincere relationships with unwitting accomplices. They can also alter personal and financial information to take down terrorist groups and other criminals.


Guns and other weapons (bombs, biological warfare, etc.) are used frequently; in at least one scene, a woman is shot in the head at close range. In multiple scenes, characters are beaten, burned, cut, and stabbed.


Occasional references to sexual activity include comments like "I'm banging your sister" some kissing scenes.


Sporadic use of words like "damn" and "s--t" (unbleeped).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many characters (all adults) drink and/or smoke in social and business settings.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this suspenseful British spy action-drama isn't for the faint of heart. It features a hefty amount of realistic, bloody violence, including stabbings, brutal beatings, and gunplay. Characters are also bound and gagged, taken hostage, held at gunpoint, and killed onscreen. Storylines often reflect real-world events, so topics like race violence, domestic abuse, illegal immigration, and terrorism are common. The main characters are government agents who, although admirably courageous, must lie to their families about their work; forge false relationships to gather intelligence; and use bribery, threats, and even violence to accomplish their goals.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byD-Fresh June 16, 2011

A very well made British alternative to '24'

I love the quality of this BBC production. Very realistic, and not over the top in any way. Obviously not for children. I wish American TV producers could come... Continue reading
Adult Written byAmyJane October 22, 2011

Excellent series but not appropriate for children.

This is a fabulous show that is incredibly well-made and well-acted! It is also absolutely not appropriate for kids. I have seen every episode and can say that... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written by6277 October 5, 2014

I'm a teen, I love this show

It's definitely violent, and the politics can go over the heads of some kids and teens -- especially if you're not from the UK, but the calibre of wri... Continue reading

What's the story?

British action-drama MI-5 follows the inner workings of a fictional team of agents within the United Kingdom's real-life Military Intelligence security agency. Section B's covert operatives fight global terrorism on a daily basis, often putting their own lives on the line to ensure that the bad guys are stopped in their tracks. The series often bases its storylines on modern world events; most plots center on the seemingly limitless threats posed by terrorists. On any given day, the agents are called upon to infiltrate extremist groups, befriend or bribe potential informants, intercept weapons of mass destruction, and diffuse explosives. Through it all, these highly trained \"spooks\" keep cool heads and attempt to out-maneuver their dangerous enemies, all while maintaining their top-secret cover and keeping their families and friends at an emotional distance -- and in the dark about their true identities. Over the series' many seasons, the cast has undergone plenty of changes as agents have been killed or injured on duty or otherwise ousted from the elite group. But the imposing head of the task force, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), remains, as does a core group of agents that includes Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker), Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones), and Zafar Younis (Raza Jaffrey).

Is it any good?

Fast-paced and smartly written, MI-5 is filled with suspense, action, and unexpected twists and turns that will keep spy fans guessing. But the series' violent nature makes it iffy for tweens and young teens. Gunplay, beatings, stabbings, and bombs are common, and characters are often shown bloodied, in pain, pleading for their lives, and even dying. Sensitive viewers -- especially those personally affected by terrorism or other violence -- may also be disturbed by the idea of the unseen threats posed by covert terrorist groups.

And, of course, there are the often-questionable methods the agents use to get results -- including violence, threats, bribery, and deception. Young viewers may not understand why the so-called "good guys" are able to cross the lines in certain situations that would otherwise call for serious consequences.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the media deals with terrorism. Do shows like this offer a realistic portrait of the issue? Why or why not? How does this British series compare to American shows like 24, which handle similar themes/topics? What role does violence play on both sides of the issue? Which makes more of an impact on you -- a show that's based on fact or one that's totally fiction? Why? Families can also discuss whether it's OK for the agents to use tactics like deception and violence to get results. Is it acceptable for the "good guys" to cross the line? why or why not?

TV details

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