Trickster

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Trickster TV Poster Image
Sublime supernatural drama has drugs, drinking, violence.

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A lot or a little?

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

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Positive Messages

Mature content is frequent, but basically this is a show about an under-represented type of character on a heroes journey despite many obstacles. Themes of courage and perseverance are clear in the struggle; other positive messages include proper respect for deep and supportive family love, kindness towards friends and others in need, and kindness towards animals. 

Positive Role Models

As a drug dealer, manufacturer, and user, Jared could be considered an anti-hero, but he does what he does because he desperately needs money to support his family, and to self-medicate due to his many stresses. He's loving to his family and friends, kind to animals, thoughtful to people in need, and otherwise a stand-up young man. It's worth noting that Jared and almost all other main characters are Indigenous, who are rarely represented in media positively; all characters are quirky, non-stereotypical, and have agency; supernatural elements also blend in myths from First Nations culture. Parents are close and loving, but complicated and make Jared's life difficult; they too are humanized though, particularly mom Maggie, who has a mental illness. Expect racism that's depicted negatively, such as when a white man praises Jared at work: "You're not one of the lazy ones." 

Violence

Violence often has a supernatural aspect, i.e. a mysterious man steals a baby from a screaming woman, and then is shown with unnaturally dark eyes, and then with blood coming from his eyes and mouth after the woman beats him. In another scene, a growling dog runs after a character and is then struck and killed by a truck; we see the dog lying on his side as if asleep, then later, see the dog's body on the road with the sound of flies on the soundtrack. Characters are often in danger, like when a drug dealer says a woman will be a "dead bitch in a ditch" if he doesn't get paid back for a delivery. 

Sex

Romance plays a part in this drama, with main character Jared meeting and beginning to date a female teen; expect kissing, flirting, dating, passionate making out. In another storyline, a woman says she "worked out" a drug debt, implying she had sex with the dealer. 

Language

Cursing includes "bitch," "hell," "damn," "s--t" is bleeped out. Some characters use insulting language towards each other, calling one character "douchebag" and another "maxipad." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Our hero manufactures and sells ecstasy; we see him in his lab producing pills and then selling them to customers at his fast food restaurant. Characters drink frequently, including scenes in which teens drink heavily and adults play drinking games with teens. A high school character lines up and drinks three shots of hard liquor. Characters smoke cigarettes and marijuana, including when driving. We see ashtrays full of cigarette butts and beer bottles discarded all over a house; we also hear about the problems associated with addiction: poverty, violence, difficult relationships. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Trickster is a supernatural coming-of-age drama about an Indigenous Canadian teen. It's loaded with iffy content but also has an unusual and underrepresented setting and characters, as well as positive messages and characters that make it worth a watch. Main character Jared is an Indigenous teen in an unnamed Canadian town who struggles to support his parents, both of whom have drug problems (his mom also has an undiagnosed mental illness that may be connected to the supernatural goings on in Jared's family and town). One of the ways he supports his family is by making and selling ecstasy; scenes show him manufacturing the pills in a lab in a desolate shack, and then selling the pills to other teens at parties and at his after school job. Scenes show teens using drugs, including smoking marijuana, and drinking heavily, including a scene in which Jared lines up and drinks three shots of hard liquor. Jared's mom smokes marijuana while driving and urges her son to "take a drag" to relax; he does. She also plays drinking games with teens partying in her home. The consequences of addiction are not glossed over or glamorized; we see the troubles Jared's family has that are connected to or caused by addiction. It's also clear that the bonds between family members are deep and loving, even if their relationships are complicated. Sexual content is also mature; Jared dates a girl his age, expect romance, flirting, kissing, references to offscreen sex. Violence is often supernatural and includes blood but no gore; watch out for a scene in which a charging dog is hit by a truck and killed. Characters are frequently in mortal danger, sometimes from otherworldly and mysterious forces. Cursing  includes "bitch," "hell," "damn;" "s--t" is bleeped out. Despite all the mature content, Jared and his friends and family are doing their best under difficult circumstances and emerge as realistic characters who are flawed but admirable anyway. 

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What's the story?

Based on bestsellling trilogy of novels by Indigenous Canadian author Eden Robinson, TRICKSTER is a supernatural mystery steeped in Canadian First Nations culture and mythology. Jared (Joel Oulette) is an Indigenous teen struggling to support his family. His mom Maggie (Crystle Lightning) has an undiagnosed mental illness and self-medicates with drugs and alcohol; his unreliable dad Phil (Craig Lauzon) is battling a painkiller addiction and is basically unemployable. Jared holds down an after-school job at a fast food restaurant and makes and sells ecstasy on the side to pay the rent and keep everyone fed. But things get a lot more complicated when he starts seeing strange things: talking ravens, shapeshifting monsters, taunting doppelgängers. Just what lies in the past and present of Jared's family, his hometown, and Jared himself that's threatening it all now? 

Is it any good?

Gritty, brimming with magic, and set in a Canadian world that's as mesmerizingly cool as it is grim, this series breaks the mold for coming of age supernatural mysteries. Jared already has a troubled life when we meet him: he's foundering at school and supporting both of his unstable parents with his fast-food wages, as well as by manufacturing and selling ecstasy to local teens. He lives in a trailer with his mom in a dead-end town, who sometimes talks to people no one else can see, and who has an ominous relationship with a scary local dealer. But then Jared starts seeing things like strangely sentient ravens and a steely eyed man who's entirely too curious about Jared's life (and already seems to know too much). "Crazy's hereditary, right?" he asks his budddy Crashpad (Nathan Alexis). But it's not crazy coming for Jared, it's something else altogether, and to reveal more would be a crime against this bewitching and utterly unique drama. 

Who is Jared, and exactly what powers does he have? How is his mom's quixotic, unbalanced nature and shadowy past wrapped up in his own identity? And just what does the arrival of oil and gas company Terminal (a portentous name if we ever heard one) have to do with both Jared and with his home? The answers are slowly spooled out as Jared struggles both against the new mysteries in his life, and the problems he already had, against a background with many  First Nations details: a neighbor carrying spoiled moose meat, Crashpad's t-shirts, which declare him a member of the "Sasquatch Research Team," or complain "I was told there'd be fry bread." It's a world that's as enchanting as it is freaky, as relatable as it is singular, making Trickster an unmissable supernatural treat. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Indigenous represenation in Trickster. Is it obvious? Is it unrealistic? What demonstrates that Trickster is set in Canada? What shows that Jared, Maggie, Crashpad and other characters are Indigenous? Are these common aspects of TV shows or movies you have seen? Does it make the story more interesting? 

  • Trickster is adapted from a series of books. Must you have read the books to appreciate the show? Does knowing the source material improve upon or detract from your enjoyment of a TV show or movie adaptation? People often say the book is better than the movie or show, what do you think? 

  • Does the amount of drinking and drug use in Trickster seem realistic? How do drugs affect Jared's life negatively? Does the show realistically depict the consequences of addiction? 

  • How do the characters in Trickster demonstrate courage and perseveranceWhy are these important character strengths?

TV details

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