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TV Series Review

Before Jason Bourne, there was Treadstone.

Fans of the Bourne franchise will remember that Treadstone was a secret government program within the CIA that created sleeper agents like Bourne. Fans also remember that Bourne exposed the program and it had to be shut down.

Or was it?

Cold War Origins

In 1973, American spy John Randolph Bentley was kidnapped by a KGB agent code-named Petra. She delivered him to Dr. Meisner, an East German doctor developing brainwashing techniques to create and control assassins.

Meisner considered Bentley a success, calling him a cicada: “An amazing little creature. They burrow underground just beneath the surface for years at a time and wait. And then they awaken from their long slumber.”

“And die,” Bentley adds.

“Yes,” Meisner says, “but not before they fulfill their destiny.”

While his kidnappers believe they have created the perfect double agent—and an effective assassin—Bentley’s conscience kicks in and he fights back (not unlike another Treadstone agent we’re familiar with). He breaks out of the building where he’s being held, kills a few communist spies and makes his way to a NATO safe house to let his American comrades know that he’s alive and coming home.

Present Day Repercussions

In the present day, British citizen Tara Coleman (a discredited journalist who was fired for chasing after a wild conspiracy regarding a Soviet-era missile) receives information that her theory was correct: In fact, North Korean rebels are now trying to obtain the nuke’s launch codes. But more than that, she’s told that the CIA has begun waking their own “cicadas” from the Treadstone program.

Across the globe in North Korea, SoYun Pak, a piano teacher living in Pyongyang, discovers a hidden talent for martial arts and the ability to speak English after hearing the tune “Frère Jacques” (the same song that Meisner used to trigger Bentley). In Alaska, an oil rig worker named Doug McKenna finds himself able to fend off multiple attackers in a barfight with abilities he never knew he had.

Sound familiar?

Are You Sleeping, Brother John?

From its origins in the Cold War to the present-day repercussions of not shutting it down, Treadstone gives fans a new look at the infamous program that created super-spy Jason Bourne.

Language is rough—and, at least in episodes downloaded from Amazon, uncensored--but not frequent. And while the show does make occasional references to sex, it seems that the new Treadstone agents are more concerned about completing their missions than delving into sexual dalliances—especially since both SoYun and Doug are happily married to their respective spouses.

In fact, Treadstone’s biggest setback is the violence. Fingers are chopped off, bathrobe ties are used as choking devices, people are thrown from buildings and secret agents (controlled by a children’s song) ruthlessly kill without quandary. Furthermore, the concept that sleeper agents can be anyone, anywhere, woken by a fairly common and simple tune, is more than a little unnerving for anyone watching the series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Oct. 15, 2019: “The Cicada Protocol”



Readability Age Range





Gabrielle Scharnitzky as Petra; Tracy Ifeachor as Tara Coleman; Hyo-Joo Han as SoYun Pak; Brian J. Smith as Doug McKenna; Jeremy Irvine as John Randolph Bentley; Emilia Schüle as Young Petra; Michael Gaston as Dan Levine; Michelle Forbes as Ellen Becker; Martin Umbach as Dr. Meisner; Omar Metwally as Matt Edwards; Tzi Ma as General Kwon






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Emily Baker

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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