The Game

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Game TV Poster Image
Espionage drama is smart, twisty Cold War tale.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The idea of working toward something larger than oneself is one thread, though lying, spying, and seducing folks are all part of the method.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main characters are supposedly the "good guys," but it's hard to tell the difference in the methods used by the good guys (Brits) and the bad guys (the Soviet Union and other communist states). 

Violence

Characters are shot or stabbed offscreen; deaths also occur offscreen but are discussed; there are blood and non-gory injuries; and the threat of nuclear war drives the series' plot. Characters are frequently in mortal danger. 

Sex

A government agent has sex with women to find out secrets. Couples are shown in bed with private parts covered by sheets; kissing, flirting, and references to sex including one character asking another if he was supposed to "screw" her. 

Language

Cursing is mostly of the "bloody" and "blasted" variety; a female character is called a "bitch." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol; no one acts drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that twisty, smart espionage drama The Game is too confusing and menacing for kids, though serious older teens might be interested. Most characters have murky motives and secrets. There is some on-screen kissing and flirting with references to sex, particularly from one character who uses his sexuality to pry loose state secrets. Couples are shown naked in bed with private parts covered by sheets. A female character is called a "bitch," but most cursing is of the British "blasted" and "bloody" variety. Characters smoke cigarettes and drink on-screen, in keeping with the era. Violence occurs mostly offscreen, but viewers will see some blood and hear references to deaths. Most characters are in physical danger, perhaps even mortal danger; there are many tense scenes in which characters may be caught in acts of espionage. 

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What's the story?

The six-part miniseries THE GAME centers on 1970s London, where a secret committee of intelligence officers are assembled to investigate a KGB attack threatening Britain and the world. M15 head Daddy (Brian Cox) has learned of the existence of a Soviet plot code-named Operation Glass. Operation Glass may already have planted nuclear warheads on British soil. Now it's up to the M15 committee to defuse the plot. At the heart of the action is interrogator Joe Lambe (Tom Hughes), who has some very intimate ways of getting the information he wants -- and secrets of his own. Working alongside are the head of counterespionage, Bobby Waterhouse (Paul Ritter); conflicted husband-and-wife team Sarah and Alan (Victoria Hamilton, Jonathan Aris); and secretary-with-ambition Wendy Straw (Chloe Pirrie). 

Is it any good?

The deeply creepy idea of shadowy terrorists seeking to sneak warheads onto enemy soil resonates with American viewers, which lends menace to this already heart-stoppingly thrilling show, easily the equal of the early seasons of Homeland or cable drama The Americans. The pacing is quick, the motives murky, the characterizations deft. We know everything we need to know about one agent when she sizes up an undercover colleague as a spy because he hadn't thought to crack the spine of the novel he was pretending to read.

Knowing the history of how the Cold War developed and turned out is useful -- things move pretty fast on-screen -- but it doesn't spoil the action, as this is a small offshoot of a greater conflict examined under a microscope. The proceedings do require that viewers pay attention, as many characters are thrown at you all at once, and things are not neatly summed up by clunky bits of exposition. Many of the most important lines are thrown off or mumbled; much action takes places offscreen. However, that only serves to make what's on-screen more emotionally juicy and resonant. The Game is brilliant drama.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the history of the Cold War. What is a Cold War? How is it different from a regular war? What countries were involved in the Cold War? What was at stake? What happened? 

  • Is espionage "the game" referred to in this series' title? Why would espionage be like a game? Why does this series have the title it does? 

  • Do these characters' jobs and lives look like fun? Why, or why not? Would you like to be a spy? Does The Game make spying look attractive? Scary? Boring? 

TV details

Themes & Topics

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