Thirteen

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Thirteen TV Poster Image
British kidnapping drama is talky but absorbing for adults.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Law enforcement professionals are present, capable, and intrepid, which helps counter the scary message sent by a drama about a kidnapped teen.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Family members have strong bonds and are supportive of each other; characters also have complicated motives that emerge over the course of the drama. 

Violence

The story concerns the kidnapping and 13-year imprisonment of a 13-year-old girl; young woman submits to a rape investigation on-screen, and we see bruises, marks, her underwear being bagged for investigation; firearms are brandished (but not fired) in a home invasion; references to rape.

Sex

A couple is seen naked in bed (no private parts); a reference to "shagging." Subtle references to rape -- for example, a rape kit is gathered on-screen.

Language

Cursing: "s--t," a man calls a woman a "bitch" jokingly. A woman calls a man a "pussy" to say he's cowardly; a reference to "shagging"; characters sometimes scream at each other: "Shut up!" 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character chops up lines of white powder on a mirror with a razor in a brief scene; of-age characters drink wine at dinner. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Thirteen is a drama that centers on the kidnapping and long imprisonment of a 13-year-old girl. There are references to rape; we see part of a rape investigation that shows bruises and marks on a young woman's body and her underwear being taken and bagged. Guns are brandished but not fired during a home invasion; the details of the imprisonment are discussed. The emotional effects of the kidnapping are shown at harrowing length. A brief scene shows a sympathetic character chopping up lines of white powder on a mirror; of-age characters drink wine at dinner. Cursing includes "s--t," a man calling a woman a "bitch," and a woman calling a man a "pussy." The plot moves slowly and is centered on grievous crimes, making this drama unsuitable for young viewers. 

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What's the story?

THIRTEEN years ago, 13-year-old Ivy Moxham was kidnapped. Now a young woman (Jodie Comer) claiming to be Ivy has reappeared -- and thrown the world, and her own family, into chaos. Ivy has few details about her kidnapping, kidnapper, or imprisonment to tell investigators Elliott Carne (Richard Rankin) and Lisa Merchant (Valene Kane), and what she does have to say doesn't make a lot of sense. Her sister Emma (Katherine Rose Morley) suspects that this isn't really her sister; her mother Catherine (Natasha Little) and father Angus (Stuart Graham) refuse to believe anything else. Ivy's old boyfriend Tim (Aneurin Barnard) finds himself bewildered by the changes in Ivy yet captivated by her strange charms. And as the police chase her kidnapper, the answers seem to keep getting further away. 

Is it any good?

Creepy, measured, and mesmerizing, this drama takes a clichéd premise and makes it fresh and absorbing with finely drawn characters played by magnetic actors. Missing children and women-in-peril stories are crime-drama staples, and even the makers of rote TV police procedurals know that an easy way to grab viewers is to present a pretty young thing in peril with a tearful family praying for her safe return.

But there's more at work here. Thirteen takes the time to acquaint viewers with characters, chiefly Ivy, a bundle of twitching nerves whose haunted eyes speak volumes about the damage she's suffered, even if it takes investigators some time to work out how. Plot points are doled out slowly -- the drama thankfully lacks the cliffhanger-before-each-commercial-break structure of American TV shows -- and viewers who like a more slam-bang type of plotting may find the whole thing talky. But viewers with a bit of patience will enjoy watching the Ivy's puzzles unfold slowly, realistically, and with mounting menace. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Crime is a staple of TV drama. Why? Why do viewers like to watch stories about violent acts? What impact does watching stories about crimes have on viewers, especially young viewers? 

  • Death is often glossed over in movies and on TV shows -- a character dies, but we don't see the effect of that death on loved ones and family members. Why is that choice made? Does this describe Thirteen? Does the realism of this series make more of an emotional impact on viewers? 

TV details

For kids who love mysteries

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