True Lies 1×05 “Unrelated Parents” might have been titled “Boy, teenagers sure are brats, aren’t they?” If one obnoxious teen wasn’t enough, this episode gave us another. No need to be so generous next time, show. Really. I insist.
Parenting Is Hard
Yes, teenagers are often…difficult to deal with. Often for good reason, since they’re dealing with a lot of physical and hormonal changes while trying to navigate the murky waters that are the transition from childhood to adulthood. And perhaps Harry (Steve Howey) and Helen’s (Ginger Gonzaga) daughter Dana (Annabella Didion) has more cause than most to grapple with teenage angst. After all, whether or not she knows it, both of her parents are spies. Which means she often doesn’t get their full attention. And while she may be used to that from her dad, her mom is probably more distant now than she once was.
Being generous, maybe Dana isn’t wrong to complain that her parents don’t really know her. And, being as fair as I can, that’s not entirely due to the spy life. After all, her mom didn’t realize she was sneaking beer in her room even before discovering Harry’s secret life. There’s also something to be said for the fact that Dana’s a teenager. Teenagers are sometimes…unpleasant to deal with. Writing them otherwise wouldn’t be very realistic writing. And if True Lies is going to explore Harry and Helen’s struggle to balance spy and family life, highlighting the trials and tribulations of being a teenager’s parent is part of that.
I just really, really struggle with stories that focus on teenagers being brats. It’s a me thing, I’m sure. I choose not to think about what that means for my future as a parent. At any rate, that’s several years in the future, and “Separate Parents” is in the here-and-now. About the time Dana expressed that getting a ring light for her TikTok videos was an emergency, my teeth started to grind and I wanted to chuck her out the window.
Not Being Parented Is Worse
As though to encourage the audience to cut Dana some slack, the episode writers gave us a teenager who was even more obnoxious. Enter Max (Charlie Nix). The asset that the team unfortunately has to track down and work with to prevent a war. There’s probably something deep and meaningful that can be examined in the juxtaposition between Dana and Max. Probably revolving around the fact that, while she’s struggling with teenager-hood, Dana has (and has always had) loving parents. Max lost his and is on his own, seeking “family” in his cadre of message board friends.
There’s also something that can probably be extrapolated about the nature of family. Not just the Tasker family, but the pseudo-family Harry and Helen have found in their spy team. A found family that would die for either one of them. And, at times, almost have. Versus the online “family” that Max has latched onto, only to discover they have betrayed him.
Yup. There’s probably a lot that can be analyzed about the dichotomy between Dana and Max and how that’s shaping who they’re turning out to be. That Dana, troubled though she currently is, has a lot fewer cards stacked against her, so the odds are better that she’ll turn out okay in the end. Even if, right now, she’s not particularly thrilled about her parents’ show of support for her career aspirations.
All I know is, about the time that Helen broke the television, I was desperate for someone to use one of the missiles on Max.
Ultimately, True Lies 1×05 “Separate Parents” was probably an episode that needed to happen, given the show’s focus on the intersection of spycraft and family. Being parents is hard in the best of times. Teenagers don’t always go through the best of times. It’s a difficult job, managing a difficult age, with children who are navigating some very difficult transitions. And all without any kind of instruction manual. The struggle is real, which makes episodes like this somewhat realistic ones. But “realistic” doesn’t always mean entertaining.