TV review by
Dana Anderson, Common Sense Media
Patriot TV Poster Image
Spy drama's dark humor and violence don't blend well.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
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

Humor is used in dark and often inappropriate ways, including making light of a man's disabilities after the main character throws him in front of a truck and he's brain-damaged as a result. While the main character's mental health is in question, his father still asks him to go back into dangerous international intelligence work.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character, John Tavner, has a brother who is a generally loyal person, even though he hides the fact that he has a son out of wedlock. The brothers put themselves in harm's way to promote democracy and protect their nation at the request of their father, while also trying to keep stable home lives for their loved ones.


Use of guns and knives to depict violence against guilty and innocent people, including a coworker whom the main character called a friend before stabbing him in the leg. Close-up views of gunshots to an innocent man's forehead. Main character shoves a man interviewing for the same job in front of a moving vehicle. Plot implies that the behavior is justified; consequences are trivialized. Graphic choking. An image of a child jumping off the top of a building (he does not die).


Passionate kissing in bed by husband and wife, partially dressed; man's dad walks in on scene. Passing discussion on the street by a man hiring escorts.


Multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "d--k," some in the presence of kids. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main character says he smokes pot to try to forget the traumatic things he's done and seen in the line of duty. He asks another man to give him a urine sample so he can pass a drug test during a job-intake process. Other characters are shown smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol.

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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAlexander D. March 27, 2017

Really excellent off beat humor but not for everyone, also sexual content

The review fails to mention that there is sexual content in the final episode. At 36:10 (in episode 10 of season 1) a character is briefly seen watching pornogr... Continue reading
Adult Written byLucast1934 September 12, 2020

Very depressing and dark

Very well done, don’t listen to the other reviews. Content isn’t 18+ like I put, but i day 18+ because of the darkness and depressing subject of the show. This... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byScottyFrank December 30, 2019

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? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

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