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 Mechanism is a series about detectives in Brazil who are working to bring down a gang involved in a money-laundering scheme. Because the crime at the center of this drama is financial, this show is less violent than most. Though characters are occasionally threatened with harm and even death (held at gunpoint, forced off the road in a car, threatened with a straight razor), these scenes are few and far between. Drugs occasionally play a small part in crimes, and adults smoke cigarettes and drink, sometimes to the point of being drunk and sloppy. A gangster who's pulled off a score hires two sex workers to dance with him and have implied sex; we see one of the sex workers bending over a table in her underwear while her client touches her back. Language is frequent: "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "a--hole," "hell," "goddamn," "son of a bitch," "pr--k."
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What's the story?
Brazil, thinks federal police deputy Marco Ruffo (Selton Mello), is being eaten up by a cancer of corruption -- and though he's been able to discover THE MECHANISM by which ruthless criminals are stealing billions from the people, arresting everyone has been another thing entirely. Criminals like Roberto Ibrahim (Enrigue Diaz) have spread their tentacles to seemingly every branch of the Brazilian government, and though Ruffo and partner Verena Cardoni (Caroline Abras) work hard to make their case, they're met with resistance at every turn. Created by Jose Padilha (Narcos), this series was inspired by a real-life case of massive Brazilian corruption.
Is it any good?
Helmed by Narcos creator Jose Padilha, this series has been clearly positioned to be the Brazilian brother to the Colombian crime drama, but though it's arresting, it doesn't hit Narcos' heights. First of all, it can't boast an actor as compelling and magnetic as Wagner Moura. Instead, Mechanism relies on a trio of characters to anchor its story, and none of them are as strong as Moura's Escobar. Money menace Roberto Ibrahim is the closest parallel, but he's no Moura, and Mello's Ruffo and Abras' Cardoni aren't as relatable, either.
Not helping matters: The real-life corruption story that Mechanism dramatizes is a lot more complicated than a straightforward cops-versus-bad guys scenario. While most Americans of a certain age are aware of at least the broad outlines of Escobar's story and the rise of cocaine in the 1970s and 1980s, most won't have heard of "Operation Car Wash," the corruption scandal that inspired this series, nor of "Petrobras," the much bigger case of money laundering and embezzlement that reaches the highest levels of Brazilian government. Financial scandals are by their nature harder to dramatize than gang crimes: Instead of photogenic and dramatic shoot-outs, you have investigators poring over papers and listening in on phone conversations. Some crime dramas have managed to make that process absolutely riveting -- but this one has only partially succeeded.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why criminal enterprises are so often the subject of dramas. What's dramatic or interesting about crime? Why are people compelled to watch shows like The Mechanism and to create stories about crime?
How are viewers supposed to feel about the criminal characters in this drama? Is Ibrahim supposed to be likable? Scary? Relatable? Are we supposed to see ourselves in him? How can you tell?
This series moves back and forth in time, from 2003 to 2013 and beyond. How does the series show the time change? As a viewer, do you like to be told straight out that a story has moved ahead or back in time, or do you prefer to be given cues in clothing, set dressing, or other methods?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love dark drama
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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