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 Taken is a tense series that serves as a prequel to the action-movie franchise of the same name. Just as in the movie series, Bryan Mills is a CIA operative who lives a dangerous life. Expect near-constant mayhem and violence: gunfights, car chases, helicopters, on-screen deaths, and lingering shots of gory wounds. Villains and heroes alike have high-tech guns, laser sights, silencers, and night-vision goggles. People are shot, stabbed, hit by cars, and hung up by their wrists beside trays of torture instruments. Violence is frequently justified by characters who rationalize killing or hurting others by claiming they're protecting family members, seeking revenge, or fighting terrorism. Mills is in near-constant danger, and his methods are indistinguishable from those of the "bad guys": guns, espionage, trickery. Government officials and those in power cannot be trusted. Villains are frequently coded as "other": Latinos or Europeans. Cursing includes "bastards" and "hell," and a man is called a "bitch," implying he's weak. There's also coarse/insulting language: "jeez," "numbnuts." Drugs are mentioned in passing -- a foreign cartel is smuggling drugs into the United States.
What's the story?
From executive producer Luc Besson (The Fifth Element), TAKEN is the origin story of counterintelligence agent -- and all-around badass -- Bryan Mills (Clive Standen), the vigilante dad from the Taken film franchise. This younger version of Mills is fresh from several tours in Afghanistan, a stint as a Green Beret, and a shadowy role in an anti-cartel operation that left the son of cartel head Carlos Meija (Romano Orzari) dead -- and Meija, also known as La Carnicero ("The Butcher"), seeking revenge. After an incident that leaves one of Mills' loved ones dead, he's on the run, tailed both by the cartel and by national intelligence operative Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals). She's looking to recruit him. Mills is just hoping to stay alive.
Is it any good?
Dark, gritty, and jammed full of action, this prequel to the film series has the same tone and setup as the movies you already know (and maybe love). Once more, the story is set into motion by a violent act against one of Mills' female relatives -- in this case, his sister. No, we're not spoiling things -- it happens in the first two minutes of the show. Why waste time, when Taken's obvious aim is to drop Mills into a world of machine guns and double-crossing agents, tough guys in black cars, and helicopters with searchlights? It doesn't take long to sort out the players. Mills and anyone connected to him: good. Cartel or any thick-necked guy in black: bad. If the crackerjack action style of the films is your groove, this will be, too, despite the fact that the demands of network TV tamp down the gore and torture a bit.
The stylistic flourishes Besson sometimes puts into his work aren't here, unfortunately -- everything looks blue-washed and somber, all the people bummed out. But the pacing is brisk, the action inventive, so what if the story is pretty weak? An uncomplicated shoot-'em-up is what fans of the film seem to want, so that's what they get.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes the network TV show Taken different from the PG-13-rated movies? Is the violence less graphic or upsetting? Why, or why not? What impact does seeing this kind of violence have on teens?
Just as in the movie franchise Taken, events are set into motion by the endangerment (and, in this case, loss) of a main character's female relative. What do you make of this?
Families also can discuss the ethical and moral lines that characters cross in the movie. Are Bryan's actions justified because he's in danger?