The career of Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to defy logic. The body-builder-turned-actor-turned-politician truly embodies mogul status. Schwarzenegger dominated the action genre in the 1980s and 1990s, and his cultural impact remains to this day. However, his post-gubernatorial career has not generated many hits. FUBAR looks to reinvigorate his career as he jumps to TV. While the series is surprisingly funny, the “father knows best” tone keeps the show from reaching its full potential. Still, it’s hard to dispute that Netflix found a potential sleeper hit.

After completing a violent mission, CIA operative Luke Brunner (Schwarzenegger) read says for retirement. However, his handler Barry (Milan Carter) tells him the agency needs him for one last mission. To Luke’s surprise, his mission takes him face to face with Boro Polonia (Gabriel Luna), the son of a man he assassinated. Even worse, the CIA has an agent with Boro whose cover is about to be blown. That agent? Luke’s daughter Emma (Monica Barbano), who joined the CIA unbeknownst to her father.

FUBAR Arnold Schwarzenegger
Fubar. (L to R) Travis Van Winkle as Aldon Reece, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Luke Brunner, Monica Barbaro as Emma Brunner, Fortune Feimster as Roo Russell in episode 106 of Fubar. Cr. Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix © 2023

Schwarzenegger’s storied career and impact on the action genre cannot be overstated. His one-liners remain popular to this day, and he helped boost the careers of several auteur filmmakers. His ability to believably play comedy and action has long been his greatest strength. Sure enough, he thrives in the scenes that ask for that mix but falls short on more dramatic beats. Additionally, playing a Dad who watches over his daughter feels below him.

Worse, the series begins to pester easter eggs throughout. Jokes about “choppas” or taking a wallet and gun off a dead security guard feels shoe-horned into the teleplay. The first time it might get the audience giddy. But after the fifth or sixth time, the scenes feel overwritten. In many ways, the series plays as a True Lies sequel, which is undeniably intentional.

FUBAR Milan Carter
Fubar. Milan Carter as Barry Putt in episode 101 of Fubar. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

The rest of the ensemble gets showcase moments. Luna delivers as an emotionally raw wildcard. He lashes out with extreme violence that feels unnerving. In early episodes, Fortune Feimster and Travis Van Winkle serve as an excellent joke factory. They step up in the second half of the series to more active roles, but the comedic foundation eases the audience into the season. Barbara Eve Harris adds gravitas and stakes to what might have been unwieldy, no-consequences missions.

However, the series struggles with a central relationship. Jay Baruchel joins the show as Barbaro’s significant other but gets forced into the roles he was playing a decade ago. It’s a redux of She’s Out of My League, but somehow he’s given less agency. Baruchel is on to better things, but seeing him utilized like this is still frustrating.

Meanwhile, Barbaro plays her character as generic as possible. Every move feels telegraphed, and there’s little nuance in the character. Using her as a pseudo-“fish out of water” makes little sense, given the character’s background. While Barbaro does not elevate the role, this all appears to stem from extremely weak writing for this character. We cannot believe she’s a super spy and also has little to no understanding of the agency or job she’s worked for more than a decade.

Fubar. (L to R) Gabriel Luna as Boro Polonia, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Luke Brunner, Monica Barbaro as Emma Brunner in episode 101 of Fubar. Cr. Christos Kalohoridis/Netflix © 2023

The writing and narrative are where FUBAR struggles the most. The story makes very little sense, and the agency bends over for Schwarzenegger’s every request. Some of these actions are literal war crimes on behalf of Schwarzenegger’s personal life. While the concept appears funny, we are also asked to handle the emotional fallout. FUBAR cannot walk that balance, often skewing into comedy. It makes FUBAR a fun watch, but it’s also a rather empty experience.

With Arnold at the helm, there was some hope for FUBAR. However, the series cannot fully handle the tonal shifts, limiting the series from reaching its potential. Instead, it’s a fun ride and requires the audience to shut down their brains. The pieces are here for the show to take a leap forward in Season 2. However, as presented, this is about as average a show as Netflix can make.

Alan’s Rating: 6/10

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2 thoughts on “TV Review: ‘FUBAR’ Entertains with Arnold Schwarzenegger But Struggles with Tone

  1. Fubar may not be a masterpiece but it is really fun to watch and watch it all – even in one go. Easy scenario, not a lot to think – times passes quickly

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