The Governator’s disastrous first Netflix series
The big problem with FUBAR, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first Netflix series, is that actually it got made.
This is the major issue, not only regarding FUBAR but with the vast majority of streaming platforms’ content: almost everything sucks. And we are getting used to it. We are swallowing whatever they show us and taking it in, while automatically expecting a next season, whether we like it or not.
But I’m here for what I consider a necessary therapy session after spending eight hours of my existence watching FUBAR. I needed an escape, a cerebral way out after such a visual/psychological/sexual/linguistic/boring debacle in which I even ended up questioning the importance of us as human beings.
Let’s start with the fact that FUBAR (8 episodes comedy/action series, created by writer Nick Santora; The Sopranos Law & Order, Prison Break, Reacher, among many others) is almost a replica (or tries to be) follows the premise of James Cameron’s True Lies: The undercover CIA agent whose family doesn’t know what he really does.
Luke Brunner (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a CIA agent nearing retirement at age 60, after 40 years working mostly undercover. But he goes on a final mission to Guyana to meet with a certain terrorist named Boro Polonia (Gabriel Luna). But why do they send Luke? Well, because it turns out that Luke (under the secret identity of Finn) was the best friend of Boro’s father, whom he murdered (Boro doesn’t know), and he has such a bond with Boro that he even paid for his studies. Boro calls him Uncle Finn. Luke’s mission (this is where the madness begins) is to steal a weapon from Boro: a nuclear device that fits inside a small suitcase (seriously) and extract “Panda”, a CIA agent who has been working undercover for Boro, but whose identity is about to be revealed by…who knows?
I almost did not survive the first image of the series: Arnold lighting a cigar. I mean, I know it’s the Schwarzenegger series. But is it necessary to start with the cliché of him lighting the cigar? And everything that happens in FUBAR is directly connected to that question: Does any of this make sense? The first example is the nuclear weapon in the little suitcase. They open it like nothing…I want to assume, hell no! What about the radiation? Sorry, let me do some meditation here.
Ok, let ‘s move on. Next is poor Luke looking at HIS DAUGHTER!, fist fighting a man for, I don’t know, fun, or in the middle of a betting round. Who cares? There she is: his 28-year-old daughter, Emma (Monica Barbaro) with whom he has a more than complicated relationship (and this is the real plot of the series) is also a CIA agent, shame on her!
Both have lied about what they do. That led to the failure of Luke’s marriage to Emma’s mother, Tally (Fabiana Udenio), and Emma always blamed her father’s absence for her mother’s suffering. So, they don’t get along.
But now they must work together to get out of Guyana alive. The dialogues between the two are so flat… what is supposed to be funny in this series? I honestly don’t know. Nevertheless they accomplish the mission, get away with the nuclear weapon that fits in the suitcase without worrying about radiation and then return to the CIA headquarters.
Here comes the problem: Boro finds out the weapon was stolen by his dear Uncle Finn (he still doesn’t know he’s a CIA agent) and Emma comes to the conclusion that (ready?) Boro’s ego is so big that he will surely seek to build another nuclear weapon (that also fits in a small suitcase). And each of the episodes consists of father and daughter (and other less than memorable characters) trying to anticipate Boro’s moves and steal components so he can’t build more nukes.
But eventually he does…not one but NINETEEN nuclear weapons. I never imagined that this would be so simple. I also want to have a nuclear bomb… just for the sake of it.
In certain scenes, the characters’ arguments and dialogues border on the absurd: Luke is concerned to learn that his daughter (28 years old) may not be a virgin and that she smokes and drinks alcohol. And there is a discussion between Emma and her other teammate Aldon (Travis Van Winkle) who is something like the heartthrob of the team and who uses the “technique” of the honey pot (seduce female spies to obtain information) and Emma questions this in the best woke style (and I was like, don’t you dare to open your mouth since your papa Arnold S. was the first man pregnant, he was woke before woke even exists!): claiming that it is disrespectful for him to use and do that to women, that’s not the way to treat an enemy spy!
Oh god, what would Bond say, James Bond? But…too bad for her. Turns out she has to do the honey pot with this man to get some “important?” data and…well, no one criticizes her. Not to mention all the times Luke talks about “cuckolding”… or finding Emma’s lipstick, which is actually a vibrator.
Bring the therapist
Given the problems between Emma and her father, the CIA forces them to receive joint therapy with Dr. Pfeffer (Scott Thompson). Again, we are talking about the CIA. Of all the options, possibilities, ideas or whatever a writer could imagine… in FUBAR, the psychologist resolves as follows: he gives each one a Muppet so that Emma and Luke mimic the other. If Emma had said “Hasta la vista, baby.” I would have jumped out the window.
During the season, Luke tries to get his marriage back and Emma tries to deal with the secrets she’s keeping from her fiancé. All this in the middle of poorly elaborated action sequences (they try to extract nuclear waste from a train to a helicopter, using a rubber hose) and forced dialogues that do not help the actors who, obviously, do the best they can. The season finale is just as crazy as the rest of the episodes. There is no character development. After eight hours of watching this series, I don’t even remember the names of most of the characters, because they simply don’t engage, they don’t generate empathy or any emotion.
But I must admit that I learned two important things after my eight hours of FUBAR:
1. I will never worry about radiation from nuclear weapons again. Final spoiler: Boro survives the explosion of all his nukes (although his face is slightly, just slightly disfigured) to be killed Tarantino-style by Luke and Emma. In this case, a bunch of bullets were more efficient than 19 nukes.
2. The last human being who could go undercover would be Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Jokes aside, when you watch series like FUBAR, Citadel, The Diplomat and so on, you end up with a bitter taste when it comes to storytelling. There is a creative void, a lack of originality and an endless repetition of worn-out formulas. It’s boring and at the same time worrying. It seems enough to write anything silly and cast the female pilot from Top Gun Maverick and Arnold Schwarzenegger to have the most watched series in the world. Obviously, talking about human evolution is a waste of time: we are still the same people who enjoyed watching gladiators kill each other. But come on, at least let’s try not to be bigger idiots.