A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Patriot is a violent, profanity-heavy spy drama about an undercover agent working for the U.S. government on a risky international mission. There are many visually shocking scenes, such as the main character shoving another man in front of a truck and a child walking off a tall building, setting the dark tone. Intelligence officer John Tavner almost always looks depressed and distant as he tries to maintain his personal life and his sanity in the most dangerous of circumstances. Tavner uses violence, humor, and folk music to make it through missions to prevent rogue nations from getting a nuclear weapon. Tavner works for his Washington, D.C.-based intelligence chief dad and is often assisted by his congressman brother. His wife stays home, hopefully waiting for his next return.
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What's the story?
PATRIOT begins with main character John Tavner interviewing for a job at a U.S. manufacturing plant in Milwaukee, a job he secretly needs in order to work under cover in foreign nations for U.S. intelligence purposes. When he overhears company executives saying that the other candidate applying for the job will be hired, he finds that man and proceeds to push him in front of a truck, causing the man to sustain a serious brain injury. Tavner's dad has sent him on this mission to transfer money to a contact in Europe, money that will be used to fix an election in the Middle East to put someone in power that the U.S. government favors. To get the money to the contact, Tavner goes through many seriously dangerous situations and ends up killing attackers in Europe. An investigator there attempts to find out who the killer was, so now Tavner has officials looking for him. Meanwhile, Tavner's dad has sent his other son, Congressman Edward Tavner, to help John get back to America. Just when it looks like the mission has failed, the episode ends with John committing to see it through.
Is it any good?
This series tries -- and fails -- to make dark comedy out of serious ethical, emotional, and physical dangers. Patriot's three main characters are part of a father-and-sons national intelligence team. At times, it seems like the family business is causing the sons' lives to unravel. Edward (Michael Chernus), a Congressman, must lie about a son he's fathered out of wedlock. Dad Tom (Terry O'Quinn) sends son John (Michael Dorman) on a perilous mission to deliver money to Iranian contacts, even though he knows his son's mental and emotional health are unstable.
In between scary situations that lead to violent episodes, John -- a real tragicomic figure -- sings about his mental battles and heartache in folk songs; the music is one of the few reliably enjoyable elements of this show. Patriot adds even more confusion to the already complicated world of international intrigue and more often than not fails at its attempts to bring humor to a heavy subject.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how ethics get cloudy in high-danger lines of work, such as international espionage, and how humor is sometimes used in Patriot in dark ways to help those involved cope.
Mixing music or humor with violent images -- such as when Tavner pushes a man in front of a truck or stabs his coworker in the leg -- can change the tone of a scene. How does this change the impact of the violence?
Talk about John Tavner's character. Is he likable? Pitiful? Foolish? Brave?
For kids who love mysteries
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