The Enemy Within

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Enemy Within TV Poster Image
Cliched crime thriller has some gore, great actors.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Law enforcement and intelligence officers are attempting to protect human lives by stopping terrorists; the most compelling parts of the drama include the moments in which they use planning, strategy, and intelligence to stop crime instead of brute force. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Erica Shepard is an interesting antihero who has done terrible things for relatable reasons. The cast boasts extensive racial and ethnic diversity, and women are at the center of the action. 


Both law enforcement officers and criminals use guns; characters are shot point-blank in the head and die, with blood ranging from a trickle to a puddle. Expect sudden violent scenes: bodies fly around during explosions; a gory operation to put a spy implant into a character is shown with gaping bloody flesh and sutures being stitched; a woman deliberately breaks a tooth and then gets a shot in the dentist's chair. 


Many characters are single and looking for love; expect kissing and romantic complications. 


Language is infrequent and mild: "hell," "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Enemy Within is an action-adventure TV series about a jailed CIA operative who is sprung by an FBI agent to help catch a dangerous terrorist. Language is mild ("damn," "hell"), there's no drinking, smoking, or drugs, and though parents should expect romantic complication and kissing, romance is dialed down. Violence is the only issue that may give parents pause. Many characters are killed onscreen, either shot by law enforcement or each other (criminals seem to have curiously awful aim). Blood ranges from nonexistent to a trickle to pools, and some imagery is particularly disturbing: a character bites a metal tray to deliberately break a tooth, which she then removes from her bloody mouth before getting a shot of Novocaine from a giant needle. In another scene, a tracking device is implanted in a human and we're shown bloody flesh being held open by surgical instruments. Given that this show's villains are terrorists, you can also expect bombs and explosions. 

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What's the story?

Three years ago, THE ENEMY WITHIN's Erica Shepard (Jennifer Carpenter) was a brilliant CIA operative who had a warm, if complicated, relationship with her teenage daughter. But that was before she gave top-secret information to dastardly terrorist Tal (Alex Feldman) that resulted in the death of four people, including the fiance of FBI Agent Will Keaton (Morris Chestnut). But when a new series of attacks occur in four different cities at the same time, the intelligence community expect an even more deadly attack is looming. Reasoning that to catch a spy you have to think like one, Will temporarily springs Erica from her supermax prison with just one mission: stop Tal's plan by any means necessary. 

Is it any good?

Thanks mainly to leads Chestnut and Carpenter, both of whom are fascinating to watch, this cardboard-cutout pastiche of action series clichés is better than it would have been. But those cliches sure do pile up in The Enemy Within. Faceless law enforcement office with every single actor in gray suits, check. Big bad villains who do their skulduggery from a distance so they don't require humanizing who employ faceless henchmen with terrible aim, check. An angry cop fueled by the death of his woman, you better believe that's a check.

Carpenter's Erica, aka "the Benedict Arnold of our generation," the pilot tells us, stands out, though. Loving mom/murderous terrorist is a pairing we haven't seen often (though it's clear that her character shares DNA with Keri Russell's Elizabeth Jennings on The Americans), and viewers will want to see what she does next, as well as the backstory behind the events that landed her in prison. She's an interesting character -- marooned in an average series that rarely goes anywhere that'll surprise you. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why series like The Enemy Within about law enforcement officers fighting crime are so common. What dramatic possibilities do they offer? What inherent interest do they hold? 

  • Does this show remind you of any other shows? Which ones? What specific scenes have you seen before in other movies and TV shows? Why do the same scenes play out in many different movies and TV shows? 

  • Is the outline of this show -- foreign terrorists planning a large attack -- realistic? Is this a scenario that you fear? Why do terrorists make attractive villains in action/adventure narratives? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

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