The summer is upon us, which means it’s staycation season! While the young ones are running with scissors in the backyard or splashing around the pool unsupervised, you finally have a chance to park your rear in the recliner and watch shows involving bad guys with heavy ammunition and plucky spies determined to stop them. Here are the best TV shows on Netflix for a Secret Squirrel to while away those lovely listless hours. Here are the best shows to go back to your place when you’re feeling more Netflix and kill than ‘Netflix and chill.’

Turn: Washington’s Spies

As long as there have been civilizations, there have been spies. Those enough old enough to remember the Cold War are perhaps spoiled: was there ever a more glorious age of espionage? As it turns out, the answer is yes! The American Revolution was won in part because of the work of spies, and far from keeping them at an arm’s length, General Washington was deeply involved in their doings. Turn follows members of the Culper Ring, an espionage branch established by Washington to stay appraised of British activities in New York City. What makes Turn especially compelling is the painful shifting of opinion by colonists. Little by little, the British subjects in North America change sides and embrace a revolutionary cause. Talk about never knowing someone’s true loyalties—it makes our spy games against the Soviets seem like amateur hour.

Man in the High Castle

“Amazon Prime Instant and chill” doesn’t have the same ring, I think we can all agree, but there is one show that no fan of history or espionage thrillers can afford to miss: The Man in the High Castle. Based on a story by Philip K. Dick, the show is an alternate history depicting a Nazi Germany victorious in World War II. (They beat the United States to the atomic bomb, and obliterated Washington, D.C.) It takes place decades later, the U.S. divvied up between Japan, who controls the west coast, and Germany who controls the east. A sliver of neutral ground separates the two powers, and for ordinary Americans, life goes on. The show’s central plot involves a propaganda film being smuggled by an underground resistance movement. Simmering beneath the surface, however, is the looming death of Hitler. Himmler and Goebbels are each vying for control of the Reich, and are both eager to start a war with Japan on American soil.

The Americans

The Americans asks a very simple question: What is it like to raise a family in the United States when you and your spouse are secret agents working for a foreign power? (“Simple” is a relative term.) Set during the Cold War, The Americans follows two married KGB agents embedded in Washington. They have children who have no idea what’s going on (how do you lie to your family every day?), and an FBI agent living next door. They have a job to do—the American imperialists aren’t going to defeat themselves, after all!—but they also have to go grocery shopping and attend PTA meetings and throw children’s birthday parties. The lives of such spies are rarely explored like this, and the result is enormously compelling binge-worthy television.

Agents of Shield

If you’re a fan of the Marvel movies, you’re probably already a fan of this show. If you’ve not seen it, however, you’ll be blown away by how intimately the show’s plotlines intersect with the films. The show follows Agent Phil Colson, who first appeared as a background character in the initial wave of Marvel movies, and would later apparently be killed in the Avengers. (He wasn’t. Nobody really dies in comic books!) In addition to just being a fun show with witty Whedon dialogue and that jaunty Marvel vibe, a superhero spy agency actually makes weird sense. In a world with Thor and Hulk and the like, the intelligence community would need a secret squirrel agency to handle such matters. Shield has to mollify a government not exactly thrilled with godlike entities wreaking havoc on the country, and meanwhile work to thwart expansive supervillain enterprises. (Captain America can’t fight Hydra all day, every day, after all. Send in the spies!)

Burn Notice

In a more just world, I could just write “Bruce Campbell is in this” and you would immediately close your browser window, park yourself in front of the TV, and start watching. (But seriously, stick around on ClearanceJobs for a while. Click links and find a better job. You can celebrate by watching television.) Burn Notice, as the title suggests, follows a former CIA employee who has been “burned,” or disavowed by the agency and left high and dry, no money, no background references for employment—nothing. He uses his very particular set of skills to become a private investigator in Miami, all while working to restore his name with the agency. The show was first conceived by a former officer with the CIA, and I’d love to know what other members of the intelligence community think of it. Let us know in the comments!

The Heavy Water War

During World War II, the Germans had an atomic weapons program of their own, and The Heavy Water War concerns Norwegian commandos who worked to prevent the Germans from acquiring the “heavy water” necessary to build doomsday weapons. You might say that this is the show that prevented The Man in the High Castle from becoming a reality. It’s also a reminder of the precariousness of the course of history, and how very small groups of very brave individuals can change the world.

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David Brown is a regular contributor to ClearanceJobs. His most recent book, THE MISSION (Custom House, 2021), is now available in bookstores everywhere in hardcover and paperback. He can be found online at