In our new era of prestige television, no other show on the airwaves has depicted the harsh realities and painful sacrifices that have to be made in the high stakes world of espionage more than FX's "The Americans." In the series, which ran for six seasons, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play two Russian spies who are assigned together as an unassuming husband and wife couple named Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings. Working for the KGB, they must blend in with the American way of life that they detest (at least at first) to steal secrets from the U.S. during the Cold War. By the series' end, they've committed unforgivable acts and forever altered their relationship with their daughter, and are then forced to return to a homeland they no longer recognize. It's a dark fate, and one they manage to survive because they have each other and they've been through the fire together as a couple.
For real-life couples entrenched in the day-to-day operations of the intelligence community, their lives don't resemble the suave and sexy world of intrigue seen in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and Prime Video's new, wildly expensive spy thriller "Citadel." Once again, FX showed what a life dedicated to the CIA could really be like with "The Old Man," starring Jeff Bridges as a hunted fugitive haunted by his past sins.
Netflix's eight-episode action comedy series "FUBAR" shouldn't be taken all that seriously (read /Film's review here), but it does share a common thread with "The Old Man" by following Arnold Schwarzenegger's lifelong CIA agent, Luke Brunner, as he wrestles with retirement and comes to terms with the fact that his dedication to the agency led to his own divorce. Oh, and he finds out that his daughter Emma is a spy, too.
A Broken Circle Of Trust
From the very first episode of "FUBAR," Luke Brunner is wrapped up in his own fantasy where he can sail around the world after retirement with his long lost ex-wife, Tally (Fabiana Udenio), an outcome she exhibits little to no interest in making come true. Luke's daughter, Emma, is pretending to be perfect, until it's revealed that she's been keeping secrets for years. When Luke and Emma are thrown together in the same high stakes mission, Emma is furious with her dad for lying to her mom for decades, forgetting the fact that she's keeping her double life from her doting, dorky boyfriend, Carter (Jay Baruchel).
When the dust settles and the jokes stop flying in "FUBAR," there's an underlying commentary about how life in the CIA can potentially destroy relationships, with multiple characters talking about how much they've given up to serve the country. Luke spends more time with his team than he ever did with his wife and daughter. Whether he realized it at the time or not, his colleagues Roo (Fortune Feimster), Barry (Milan Carter), and Aldon (Travis Van Winkle) have gone from his co-workers to his chosen family.
While "The Old Man" does delve into the dark underbelly of being an operative, "FUBAR" isn't necessarily saying anything deeply profound about family sacrifice, but it isn't afraid to bring it up, either. That may be because there are actually some pretty telling facts and real-life examples of how loyalty to country can erode the institution of marriage.
The Problem With Being Sworn To Secrecy
Two actual Russian spies, Vladimir and Lydia Gurvey, served as inspiration for "The Americans," adopting the names Richard and Cynthia Murphy after they moved to the United States in 1990. They were discovered in 2010 and whisked away by the FBI to never return again. And after being sent to the electric chair for revealing secrets about the atomic bomb during WWII, the most famous spy couple may be Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. But what about some of the actual, faceless couples on our side whose sacrifices were never sensationalized in the national media?
A declassified document titled "The Unique Roles of C.I.A. Wives" was approved for release by the Central Intelligence Agency in December of 2011, and it set out to highlight the hardships of women married to agents in the field. The life for spouses supporting the CIA mission when they are also staying abroad with their partners while they are undercover is especially difficult. These so-called "CIA dependents" were found working the equivalent of an unpaid 40-hour work week to ensure that appearances were kept up in foreign countries so their spouses would have more maneuverability when contacting other assets. Because of the need for secrecy, wives seldom even had access to the same diplomatic protection their husbands did.
For those back in the States, the reality of secret agent life isn't much better. Appearing before a divorce court proved difficult because the CIA rules for security prohibit someone from telling a judge the reasons why they're actually filing for that divorce. In 2012, The Pentagon reported that 29,456 of 798,921 military couples divorced the year previous, amounting to roughly 27% of marriages (via The Washington Post). The CIA, however, does not keep records of the divorce rates of its employees, though one retired CIA senior paramilitary officer claimed he was told "the divorce rate for the agency's operations division was astonishingly high."
So while "FUBAR" may get a little over-the-top at times, at least it got this one thing right. The show is currently streaming on Netflix.
Read this next: The 12 Best Arnold Schwarzenegger Films, Ranked
The post FUBAR Showcases The Dark Divide of a CIA Agent's Double Life appeared first on /Film.