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 Tin Star is a grim and mature drama about a complicated cop who becomes a chief in small-town Canada after fleeing past mistakes in London. Violence is frequent, bloody, and shocking, including a terrible family tragedy involving a child, and a woman shot in the head with blood and gore all over. Sexual moments include a scene in which multiple female sex workers are hired; we see one of them fully nude from the front and rear (genitals are obscured). In other scenes, we see male buttocks and pubic hair, and a teen having her first sexual experience (with a male partner who is cruel to her afterward). Drugs also play a role in this drama: A main character is an addict who does terrible things when he is blackout drunk. Cursing is frequent: Many characters use variations of "f--k" often; other language includes "s--t," "ass," "a--hole," and "son of a bitch." Women are called "bitch" and "whore." Even heroic characters are complicated, and have selfish and/or violent impulses. It's worth noting that this drama has a First Nation main character and a subplot about local tribal interests. Women, too, have numerous strong and central roles with agency.
- Parents say
- Kids say
Very very slow. Very hard to keep interested
Unanswered character questions ... just not good
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What's the story?
Formerly an undercover detective in London, Jim Worth (Tim Roth) now wears a TIN STAR in Little Big Bear, a beautiful tiny town at the edge of the magnificent Canadian Rockies. He and his wife, Angela (Genevieve O'Reilly), teen daughter, Anna (Abigail Lawrie), and young son, Petey (Rupert Turnbull), have come to Little Big Bear full of hope that Jim can stay sober and put the mistakes of his violent past behind him. But when villainous North Stream Oil builds a refinery in town under the direction of duplicitous exec Elizabeth Bradshaw (Christina Hendricks), and other, darker criminal forces converge in Little Big Bear, the Worths are forced to make tough choices and navigate murky waters to keep their family (if not their town) safe.
Is it any good?
Though it reaches for Fargo or Breaking Bad-type regular-people-doing-very-bad-things mayhem, this series' clichéd writing and characterizations keep it from classic status. Roth is, as always, terrific, the best part of the show; Abigail Lawrie is also a realistically cranky teen and a compelling performer. But most of the other actors aren't given as much to chew on, locked as they are into types: Big Business villains, an aging hero looking to right past wrongs, complicated criminals. As the drama jumps back and forth in time, showing us Jim before Little Big Bear, the unspoiled wilderness he moved to, and the thoroughly spoiled oil town it turned into a year after North Stream Oil made the scene, it hits the same beats as the other modern antihero dramas it's clearly inspired by.
Yet Tin Star does have a couple of shiny spots. Its Canadian setting is a wonder and a beauty, injecting a little bit of (ever so slightly) foreign intrigue into the goings-on for people who live in towns without roaming bears and powerful tribal interests. A subplot about Anna's love interest and his connection to Jim is twisted and Shakespearean, and a criminal quartet that emerges from Jim's past is fun. But the drama doesn't rise to the level of true artistry -- it's a "watch if nothing else is on" show, not appointment TV.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Tin Star's characters and who, if anyone, we're supposed to root for. Is violence ever justified? Is Jim a protective and good cop as well as a violent man who makes terrible choices? Is Elizabeth a cut-and-dried villain or something more complicated -- and what's the difference?
How does Tin Star compare to other TV crime dramas, particularly when it comes to the level of violence? How would the series be different if it aired on network television as opposed to being streamed by Amazon?
How is an antihero different from a traditional hero? Is it possible to care about a character who isn't sympathetic or likable in the traditional sense? What, if anything, makes Tin Star's characters worth your time?
For kids who love drama
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