Venerable action megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger is back with "Fubar" on Netflix, his first-ever television series (read the /Film review here). With the cancellation of "True Lies" on CBS after just one season, the eight-episode run of "Fubar" will be the closest thing to a quasi-sequel to James Cameron's 1994 action comedy hybrid that starred Schwarzenegger as a covert agent who keeps his spy adventures a secret from his suburban wife and teenage daughter. In "Fubar," Schwarzenegger plays Luke Brunner, an aging CIA operative on the verge of retiring when he finds out his daughter Emma (Monica Barbaro) is also an undercover agent working on the same case.
In the series, the action takes a backseat to the relationship between Luke and Emma as they try to stay alive long enough to sort out their family issues and complete a mission that's suddenly grown a lot more complicated. "Fubar" could have easily turned into a run-of-the-mill action vehicle for Schwarzenegger in the vein of Liam Neeson's "Taken" or "The Old Man" starring Jeff Bridges. Instead, the real success of the series comes out of the easygoing chemistry that Schwarzenegger and Barbaro have with each other that helps showcase some surprisingly strong writing, elevating "Fubar" from a predictable action comedy into an engaging series with a great father/daughter relationship at its core.
The show also puts Schwarzenegger's career in a new light by offering up another example of him as a loving dad who faces impossible odds and perilous situations in order to be there for his daughter when it counts the most. Schwarzenegger gravitated to these types of stories early on during his action hero peak in the '80s and early '90s, and he's returned to that dynamic several times in his later, post-gubernatorial roles once he returned to acting.
A One Dad Army
"Fubar" happens to be the best onscreen father/daughter story Schwarzenegger has ever been a part of, but there are some clear standouts, most notably in 1985's R-rated instant action classic "Commando." The unbreakable connection between retired Delta Force soldier John Matrix and his daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano) is established early on in the opening minutes during what is surely the most macho montage of Schwarzenegger's career. The showcase of Arnold's muscles as he carries a tree trunk down a mountainside is immediately thwarted when he swoops up Jenny in his arms, cueing up a sweet collection of scenes showing their idyllic, solitary life at a remote cabin.
Now that their connection has been shown onscreen, when Jenny is kidnapped minutes later by Matrix's old partner Bennett (a virtually unrecognizable Vernon Wells), it's entirely justified for Matrix to start amassing an arsenal that ends up kicking off one of the bloodiest rampages of the eighties. By the time "Commando" enters into its explosive, graphically violent final act, Matrix has already jumped out of a plane, swung like Tarzan through the Sherman Oaks Mall, kidnapped a flight attendant, dropped a man off a cliff, impaled a former Green Beret, and committed grand theft by breaking into an army surplus store.
But that's ok! It's all in the name of his daughter, who has to be rescued at all costs. Matrix becomes an unstoppable one-man army that literally murders hundreds of people just to save Jenny. By the end, Matrix is only carrying his daughter in his arms instead of the massive array of guns, grenades, and rocket launchers it took to get her back. Luckily, Jenny wasn't there to witness her dad dole out an extraordinarily disturbing level of carnage just to make sure she was safe.
Mourning A Daughter
After "Commando," Schwarzenegger learned to balance his action persona with a more paternal side, a quality that carried over into Cameron's "True Lies" when his daughter Dana (played by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" alumni Eliza Dushku) had to be rescued from terrorists on the wings of a Harrier jet. "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" also saw Schwarzenegger play an unconventional father figure role as a reprogrammed T-800 sworn to protect the leader of the resistance, John Connor.
There's a running theme here, but it wasn't until the 2015 zombie drama "Maggie" that Schwarzenegger had to rely on his acting chops more than his muscles to try and save a daughter who's slowly turning into a newly minted member of the undead. Abigail Breslin takes the crown away from Alyssa Milano in "Maggie" to become part of the best onscreen father/daughter relationship in Schwarzenegger's career up to that point. In one of his best performances after his comeback, Schwarzenegger plays Harry Vogel, a desperate Dad who has to weigh the decision to either relinquish his daughter to the drab reality of quarantine life or euthanize her himself.
"Maggie" is Schwarzenegger's heartfelt horror indie that proves once again that he's the most likable and relatable when he's being a concerned father who only wants what's best for his little girl, even when they're both facing the grim future of a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland. The end of "Maggie" is decidedly tragic if not a bit overwrought with melodrama, but it's still a standout for Schwarzenegger.
Finally Being There
With "Fubar," Schwarzenegger is now a much older CIA agent on the border of retirement who gets to use his age as the butt of a few jokes and as a way to have a substantial onscreen relationship with his daughter when she's a fully grown adult. Up to this point, the daughter roles in Schwarzenegger's films have all been teens who can't necessarily fend for themselves. Emma doesn't need her father's help anymore and she'd rather not even be on the same mission with him, after years of them both secretly working at the CIA but somehow never running into each other at the office.
For all the faults of the new Netflix series, Schwarzenegger and Monica Barbaro hold the spy comedy together with their constant bickering and infighting, bringing a much-needed extra layer of substance to a show that crashes and burns a few times thanks to some ill-timed jokes. The dynamic between them takes the father/daughter trope that's been featured in some of Schwarzenegger's previous films and raises the bar, giving the Austrian Oak an opportunity to spar and jab with his offspring instead of having to be a one-man cavalry.
Here, Luke and Emma are a team that finds themselves on relatively equal footing where Emma has just as much of a chance at saving Luke than the other way around. The husband and wife team-up in "True Lies" is updated in "Fubar" to a father and daughter duo forced to do one last job together, and Schwarzenegger benefits from the change-up. After decades of blowing stuff up, "Fubar" shows that Schwarzenegger is still at his best when he's a Dad first and a soldier second.
"Fubar" is now streaming on Netflix.
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The post Arnold Schwarzenegger Has Always Loved Father/Daughter Stories, But FUBAR is the Best appeared first on /Film.