Tin Star

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Tin Star TV Poster Image
Murder, mayhem, twisted storylines in violent drama.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The tone of this show is pitch-black, with murder, mayhem, and all manner of violence. Small-town Canada is alternately mocked and lionized on this show, with the camera clearly admiring beautiful mountainous backdrops, while characters call it "s---ty" and say it's the "ass end of nowhere." Law enforcement officers can't always be trusted, even though some are hardworking and loyal. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Few characters in this drama are without fatal flaws or hidden motivations, or caught in the grip of circumstance. Jim is a tortured man who has so many good reasons to stay sober and on the straight-and-narrow, yet viewers can expect he won't. Elizabeth worries over the damage her oil-company employers are doing to the town of Little Bear, yet sides with the bad guys. Constable Denise, a First Nation woman who tries to reconcile tribal interests with those of the townspeople and the demands of her job, is one of the more ethical characters as well as a rare First Nation TV representation. 

Violence

Expect sudden, shocking, bloody violence and extreme images: A wolf run over in the road with fatal injuries is shown at length; we see a woman who's been shot in the head in her car, blood and gore all over the inside; characters are abruptly shot and blood drenches a teen girl's face; children are in danger and actually die; thugs kidnap and torture a man, keeping him in dog cages. 

Sex

The focus is more on crime and complications than on romance, but a teen has a fraught relationship that results in her having her first sexual experience, during which (and afterwards) her male partner is harsh to her. A man has a double life in which he is unfaithful to his wife; we see characters in bed kissing; female sex workers are hired by a character, presumably for group sex. We see one of these workers nude from the front and the rear; breasts, buttocks, and pubic hair are visible but genitals are somewhat obscured. We also see male pubic hair and bare backsides. 

Language

Cursing is frequent: "ass," "s--t," "f---ing," "f--k," "a--hole," "pissed," "son of a bitch"; women are called "whore" and "bitch." Many characters salt variations of "f--k" into their speech liberally. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs, drug dealers, and addiction to alcohol and drugs play a part in this drama; expect to see characters drinking and making fatal mistakes when drunk.  

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. 

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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?

TV details

For kids who love drama

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