As a fan of the movie by the same title, True Lies 1×01 “Pilot” is one of the most anticipated series premieres of the season. A show about a bored housewife who gets dragged into shenanegans when she discovers her “boring,” computer-selling husband is a spy? If done even reasonably well, the series promised to be fun based off the premise alone. Then trailers started to drop, and my excitement for the series only grew. Did the end product live up to the hype? Let’s dig in.
Marriage and Mayhem
As one might expect, there are many similarities between the True Lies series and the movie by the same title. In both, Helen Tasker is your typical, somewhat boring (and definitely bored) housewife and mother. Her days are filled with work, ferrying her kids to and from school and extracurriculars, and the occasional workout. Her husband Harry is seemingly a good – if somewhat detached – husband. Decent, but perhaps a bit bland. Except there’s more going on under the surface than meets the eye, as it turns out he’s secretly a spy. Helen’s life changes completely when she gets caught in the middle of one of his missions.
The series has a few Easter eggs to the film, such as when Helen (Ginger Gonzaga) tears up her dress. The circumstances are different, of course. In the series, she tears off strips to tie up a would-be interrogator/torturer. In the film, Jamie Lee Curtis tears up her dress to “seduce” a stranger – who turns out to be her husband (Arnold Schwarzenegger). But while the show takes clear inspiration from the film, it also embraces the fact that its own thing.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the series – outside of the chemistry between Helen and Harry (Steve Howey) – is the way the show embraces that the heart of the show is a marriage. The serialized format will allow the show to explore the full impact of what this means for the couple, once the truth comes out. In the film, Curtis quickly came to embrace her new reality within the span of a couple of hours. (To be fair, life-or-death situations tend to put things in perspective and help incentivize you to process things quickly.) By the end of the series premiere, Helen has accepted that Harry is really a spy. Except…
Listen, discovering that one’s spouse has kept such a huge secret would realistically be a hard thing for anyone to process. It isn’t just that he lied about his profession. He lied about being afraid of heights and being unable/unwilling to eat certain foods. It was all part of his cover, but it understandably has Helen wondering what else he’s lied about. Does she even know him at all?
Furthermore, while Helen in the film freely embraced her newfound life as a spy, Helen in the series is more reluctant. And who wouldn’t be? She went to Paris for a romantic getaway, was kidnapped, had her life threatened, discovered her husband was a spy, and has now been told she has to basically become a spy herself. She has homework. On things like how to effectively kill people. It’s a lot to process.
She wanted excitement and adventure, but there’s a big difference between wanting to take a helicopter ride over some volcanos and risking life, limb, and family to be a spy. That she isn’t entirely thrilled about her new reality is both understandable and adds an interesting dynamic to the series that I can’t wait to see explored.
Fleshing Out the World
Of course, Helen and Harry aren’t the only characters in the show. There’s a whole host of supporting characters. To be fair, it’s a little early to say whether these characters work on the whole or not. Other than Gib (Omar Benson Miller) as the Guy in the Chair, the members of the spy team don’t have a lot going on just yet to distinguish themselves from each other. Yes, we saw them work together on a mission. But I couldn’t tell you just yet what their specific strengths and weaknesses are. But that’s okay. We’re just one episode in, and the Pilot had a lot to do, after all.
This isn’t to say that none of the background characters stand out. Gib is the most prominent, as Harry’s friend/conscience/support. Mrs. Myers (Deneen Tyler) has a much more limited role in the premiere but is an absolute stand-out as “crazy cat-lady neighbor” who is secretly a master assassin. We haven’t yet seen her skills yet, but her method of avoiding attention by boring everyone around her to the point that they’d rather gnaw off their own arm than pay too much attention to what she’s doing is top-notch. I can’t wait to see her first action scene.
The Tasker children, Dana (Annabella Didion) and Jake (Lucas Jaye) had some interesting set-up for their characters in a limited amount of time. While Harry has clearly always thought of himself as a good husband and father, the truth is that his secret life has caused him to miss some things. Like getting to know his wife and children. His secrecy and frequent absences cause him to fail to realize that his son doesn’t wear baseball caps. (Is he even into sports at all?) And he also doesn’t realize that his daughter isn’t eight anymore, and snowglobes probably aren’t the be-all-end-all of gifts anymore. If they ever were.
The pilot also sets up some trouble ahead for Dana. She’s already hiding beer and sneaking out. I have a feeling that both Helen and Harry will continue to miss the signs that their daughter may be on a bad path for a while. They do have a lot going on right now, after all. When Harry realizes just how much he’s missed out on in his many trips abroad to save the world, that truth is going to hit hard.
Does It Live Up to the Hype?
So, did the True Lies premiere live up to my lofty expectations? So far, yes. Okay, if I’m being perfectly honest (and maybe a little overly critical), there were a couple of moments where the action felt a little clunky. And the green screen was readily apparent in at least one scene. But neither of those critiques are unusual for series premieres, and neither of them detract from the strength of the episode overall.
True Lies 1×01 “Pilot” does an outstanding job of setting up the main characters, the premise of the series, and the dynamics and conflict that will undoubtedly carry us through the season. The series has more to do in fleshing out some of its more prominent supporting characters, but I’m already invested and can’t wait to see more. And, yes, the show is every bit as much fun so far as I’d hoped it would be. I’m hooked already, and I couldn’t really ask for more from a series premiere than that.
- Helen’s skills as a linguist will clearly be an asset to the team (eventually). Making her a far better spy already than I would be – unless a spy team really needs someone who can eat their own body weight in peanut butter. If there is such a team out there, hit me up. I’m definitely your gal.
- I kinda love that Helen began to suspect her husband of an affair before she discovered that he was actually a spy. She might have been on the wrong track about the cause, but she did start to clue in that he was hiding a secret life. And who would jump to “spy” over literally any other plausible explanation?
- Harry is both master spy and the second-best computer salesman at his company? That puts my life into rather harsh perspective. I can barely handle one-and-a-half day jobs. Overachiever.
- There was more than one person eating the cheese, Helen! Jeez!
- Helen and Harry bickering over who should try to talk the kidnappers down was one of my favorite scenes in the whole episode. Just their whole vibe of “Harry, you should let me do this because you have a great many things you do well, but I’m willing to bet I’m better at talking people out of murdering us.” “What I’m literally a salesman, Helen!” Chef’s kiss.
- Helen learned how to choke someone out using her thighs at the gym? I’m dying to sit in on that class to see how it’s run. “Okay, everyone. I want you to grab your partner and scale them like a tree…”