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 The Assets is a tense, adult-oriented miniseries about a real-life CIA mole and the coworkers who ferreted him out. Many of the characters on-screen are duplicitous and dangerous; main characters will be in situations that are full of menace and include guns, occasional dead bodies, and some blood. There are a few curses and some rough language, as well as drinking and talk about adultery. Understanding the goings-on requires some knowledge of the CIA and espionage; younger kids will be quickly lost and also bored by the talkiness. Save this one for adults who are interested in the Aldrich Ames case, for watching after the kids are in bed, or with teens interested in politics or spying.
What's the story?
Based on the real-life crimes of CIA mole Aldrich Ames, THE ASSETS centers on intrepid CIA agent Sandra Grimes (Jodie Whittaker), who's starting to catch on that something's going wrong in the agency's Soviet spying program. Spies stationed in the USSR, known to the CIA as "assets," are being arrested by the KGB at an alarming rate. Could there be a double agent in Grimes' own office? Grimes and her partner Jeanne Vertefeuille (Harriet Walter) are starting to put together the pieces. Is colleague Aldrich Ames (Paul Rhys) on the Soviet payroll? It's up to Grimes and Vertefeuille to find out.
Is it any good?
The book Circle of Treason: A CIA Account of Traitor Aldrich Ames and the Men He Betrayed isn't required reading for enjoying The Assets, but it would help. Those without at least a cursory understanding of who Ames is and what he did will be a bit lost in the goings-on, when spying terms are thrown about with abandon and things move too quickly for a lot of explanation. That's actually a good thing for the type of viewers who will want to see The Assets, spy junkies who want a look at what really happened.
For said junkies, The Assets is a fiesta of inside information. Viewers will learn a lot about the CIA's inner workings and the United States' Cold War relations with the USSR. It's deeply creepy stuff, and it's illuminating to realize what was behind the Ames headlines. Meanwhile, a lot of the action will be boring for viewers who don't get the importance of what's going on. A clued-in viewer sees the fate of the free world at stake; one coming fresh to the Ames story sees an office worker frowning over pieces of paper in manila files. This is real-life spying, not a James Bond movie; adjust expectations accordingly.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that The Assets is based on a real-life case of a dangerous CIA double operative named Aldrich Ames. Does this make the miniseries more interesting or less? Why?
The Assets is set during the 1980s and 1990s. What lets the audience know that this is the setting? Clothing? Hairstyles? The type of technology that is around? What else?
Spies and spying is a popular topic for drama. Can you think of any other movies or television shows about spies? How is The Assets like these other movies and shows? How is it different?