Harry (Steve Howey) and Helen (Ginger Gonzaga) have been straddling the line between marriage and spy life for a while now, and these two worlds intersect more than ever in True Lies 1×06 “Working Vacation.” It turns out, even spies must be subjected to annual conferences and “team building” exercises. Apparently nobody can be spared that special torture.
A Real Marriage
Harry’s used to working with a team. He’s done so for many years. But working with one’s spouse is a totally different thing. When your spy-partner is your real-life wife, the lines are so easily blurred. It’s easy to fall into familiar patterns.
Harry and Helen are still trying to navigate the intersection of new and old dynamics, now that she’s a full-fledged member of the team. She’s used to organizing their home, so she naturally think she should step up and organize their spy lives, too. And on the one hand, maybe her husband could benefit from her organizational skills. On the other hand, he’s become used to working in a particular way. Moving things around may make sense. They may even make things easier in the long run. But when you’re in the middle of a firefight isn’t the best time to have to ask where someone packed away your spare ammo.
While the Taskers try to work through these logistics, they have bigger problems at hand. Their annual spy conference is crashed, and they have to try to save all the attendees without blowing their cover. It’s a task that’s made even harder by the fact that their kids could be caught in the crossfire. They accompanied their parents to Mexico, and no vacation the Taskers take will ever likely be a real vacation again.
It’s this subplot that makes True Lies feel once again like it’s still trying to find its footing. And missing opportunities while doing so. “It’s fine that you organize our personal lives, but I need you to not organize my professional life” is maybe a marital conflict that makes sense for the Taskers to address. But it feels better suited to a one-off scene than an entire episode. Meanwhile, there are huge issues that haven’t really been addressed – either at all, or to the extent that it feels like they should.
In True Lies 1×06 “Working Vacation,” the Tasker children are nearly endangered. It’s only a touch of luck and Luther’s (Mike O’Gorman) intervention that keeps them safe. But his cover in doing so leaves them…we’ll say “concerned.” About his judgment, if not his very sanity. And while I won’t say that Helen and Harry aren’t worried about their kids, they take it remarkably well in stride. Particularly since their kids were followed by men with guns.
True Lies is a fun series. That’s clearly what it wants to be. (And, to its credit, Maria (Erica Hernandez) was the most fun – and endearing – she’s been to-date in this episode.) There’s nothing wrong with being fun, of course! But focusing on the fun sometimes means overlooking the potential heart of the story.
After all, Helen really didn’t choose this life. It was chosen for her. I’m not saying she should complain about that every episode – or even in several episodes. But I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in the fun part of spycraft. It’s another thing entirely when you realize the direct impact your new profession has on your children.
Yes, Harry and Helen have a whole fleet of people who can help step in and keep Dana (Annabella Didion) and Jake (Lucas Jaye) safe. And ignorant of their parents’ true professions. But I think it would be reasonable for this kind of wake-up call to make Harry and Helen step back and wonder if this is really the life they want for their kids.
Maybe they don’t really have a choice anymore. Maybe you can’t really “opt out” of being a spy, once you know the truth. But I still think failing to let them struggle with that is a missed opportunity. As is failing to give them room to address the new terrifying reality their putting their kids into – without their kids even knowing about it! The show has briefly addressed the question of how much surveillance is fair to their kids. But that’s not the only question at hand. Are they being fair to their kids by putting them at greater risk and not telling them anything that might help them protect themselves?
Again, maybe the answer is that there’s literally nothing more they can do to give their kids more information to protect themselves. But not even asking the question feels like a missed opportunity. And, honesty? Making it seem like the question has never even crossed their minds? Doesn’t make the Taskers look like they’re really approaching their new life with the gravity it warrants.
Beyond the issues with their kids, Harry went from having a (secret) professional life and being able to decompress in his personal life. Now he – and Helen – lack that distinction in their worlds. Because they work together and live together, they’re immersed to a certain extent in spycraft all the time. Hopefully a later episode will deal with the stress that would cause, allowing them both to acknowledge they need to find a space where they can just be.
Hey, maybe the Taskers can worry about that while Confirmed Bachelor Gib (Omar Benson Miller) explores his love life. His scenes with Eva (Jacqueline Grace Lopez) this week were super cute. As long as I’m making a personal wish list, I’d love to see him embrace his own love connection.
A gal can dream, right?