The Daily Stream: Spy X Family Reinvents Found Family With Espionage, Murder, And Absolute Absurdity

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Series: "Spy x Family"

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu, Crunchyroll

The Pitch: Like many badass spy thrillers before it, "Spy x Family" begins with a cold war: two rival countries (Westalis and Ostania) are waging a war in the shadows. They've spent years battling for dominance via espionage, sabotage, and assassination — but when our story kicks off, their uneasy peace is on the verge of breaking. Westalis has no choice but to send in their best agent: enter Twilight, aka the man of a thousand faces, an elite spy and master of disguise who's been given his most important mission yet, "Operation Strix." If he manages to pull it off, he could completely change the tides of the war. So what exactly does this world-altering task entail? Nothing much — he just has to find himself a wife and child, as quickly as possible, and get said child into the most elite private school in the country.

Now going by the name Loid Forger, Twilight poses as a psychiatrist and in an amazing stroke of luck, manages to find everything he needs pretty quickly: a genius six-years old orphan named Anya and Yor, an upstanding civil servant willing to pose as his wife. Except it can't really be that simple, right? Sure enough, Loid is missing a few key details and neither of his new family members is exactly what they seem. Anya is actually a lovable, peanut-fueled agent of chaos who is secretly a telepath and knows the truth behind Loid's identity. And Yor is an infamous Ostanian assassin nicknamed The Thorn Princess. Somewhere in here is a joke about a spy, an assassin, and a telepath walking into a bar, except instead of a bar, it's a tiny apartment, where they will now live as a family. Lots of hilarious hijinks ensues from there, as they stumble from one ridiculous situation to the next. All the while, "Spy x Family" blends a slick, retro spy aesthetic with the simple joys of slice-of-life comedy. Once you let this show into your heart, prepare to happily cling tight for dear life.

Why it's essential viewing

"Spy x Family" dares to ask, what if "The Americans" but wholesome? The AMC hit was a hardboiled look at the realities of cold-war espionage but slowly revealed itself to be a deep dive into the complications of marriage that was merely masquerading as a spy thriller. Meanwhile, "Spy x Family" is a wholesome comedy about found family masquerading as ... a wholesome comedy about found family. Don't get me wrong, there are spy thrills galore — between Loid and Yor, whether it's bloodlust you're after or just some general death-defying feats of action insanity, your hunger will definitely be satiated. But the real pull is what happens when those two forget about their jobs and start enjoying the joys of domestic bliss.

Let's think about this gold-mine of a dynamic once more: Loid is keeping his true identity as a spy hidden from Yor, who keeps her true identity as an assassin hidden from Loid. Despite being tactical geniuses, they never question the insane skillset of their fake significant other because let's face it, they aren't that bright and have no idea what normal people are actually like. But even though they can't suss out the truth, they can't actually hide any of this from Anya, because she's a telepath and pretty much knows all about their double lives. Is she afraid of the dangerous situation they've brought her into? Of course not! She's thrilled! She's six and obsessed with excitement! Her new parents are absolutely awesome and she pretty much decides that she is now Loid's fellow spy, helping him in the ongoing mission for world peace.

A spy, an assassin, and a telepath

There's something so wonderfully simple about this show's genius premise — it's all the thrills of an espionage caper entangled in hilarious family drama. And it works because at the center are three incredibly drawn-up characters: Loid may be a world-renowned spy, but no number of disguises, decoding, or espionage training could prepare him for the stresses of fatherhood. He finds himself constantly baffled while caring for Anya. As for Yor — she has a heart of gold and approximately one brain cell unless murder is involved because then she becomes a bloodthirsty genius who can slaughter a room full of trained killers with terrifying ease. In other words, she's the perfect mother for young Anya! And her relationships with Loid? Think Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but less murderous sexual tension and more blushing awkwardness. Loid has a long road ahead when it comes to embracing his emotions, but Yor is irresistibly bubbly and kindhearted — and secretly an assassin, which makes her absolutely perfect for him.

And then there's Anya, the glue that holds this family together. Not only can she read minds, but she happens to live with a spy and an assassin! With that amount of access and knowledge, this kid could take down an entire government ... except that she's six and has none of the smarts to pull that off. Plus she's very preoccupied with making this family situation work because she absolutely adores her parents and wants to preserve world peace and stuff. While any one of these three could carry a show all on their own (especially Anya), "Spy x Family" pushes them all front and center, and that's how the magic happens.

Come for the action, stay for the found family

Found family is the backbone of most workplace and friend-group-based comedies, but in this case, it happens to be the roadmap for a family sitcom. Because once you strip away all the bodies, car chases, and telepathy, that's what "Spy x Family" is: a sitcom, with all the tropes we've seen a million times before. A frazzled dad, a doting but ditzy mother, and a troublemaking kid. The details — spy, assassin, and telepath — are a big change but hey, every family is different! What pushes things to the next level is that they aren't related by blood but three people that come together for their own odd reasons. Loid is on a top-secret government mission and Yor needs a fake-husband to keep her double identity under wraps, since being a single woman draws so many questions. The outlier is Anya, who is purely in search of a family, something the other two don't even realize they're missing until they stumble upon it.

If not for bizarre pretenses and oddly specific circumstances, Loid, Yor and Anya may have never crossed paths — but there's no denying that this family belongs together. Despite his emotional distance, Loid became a spy so that no more children would experience a tragic childhood like his. Meanwhile Yor became an assassin to provide for her younger brother after being orphaned. Being with Anya (and each other) not only reminds them of these backstories, but offers them a home they didn't know they needed. 

Or stay for the memes

On its face, "Spy x Family" sounds like the breeding ground for some pretty dark situations (and my comparison to "The Americans" probably didn't help), but in reality, this show is as lighthearted as sitcoms get. So long as you can stomach a couple dozen murders, here and there. Anya and her powerful facial expressions should be enough to draw you in — at long last, you'll have context for her meme-worthy faces taking the internet by storm — but this premise's great potential is how insanely weird things can get. Not knowing key details about one another and each having their own secret agenda means many absurd scenarios await the Forger family. Sometimes work bleeds into life: like when you contemplate murdering a government elite for the sake of getting your adoptive daughter into a good school. Or when you put your spy skills to use and reenact your daughter's favorite show by going on an epic chase to save her from a fake supervillain. And then there's the normal stuff — like helping your kid with their homework, a task that sounds simple enough, but even for two trained secret agents, is basically impossible.

And then there are the obvious questions: when will the truth come out? What will the reactions be? "Spy x Family" is about seven episodes into its first season so these answers are still looming on the horizon and it might be a good while before the status quo is interrupted by truth. Until then, there's plenty of other things that can go wrong!