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TV Review: THE AMERICANS Season 1

TheAmericans_S1_BLU_eTHE AMERICANS Season 1
Starring Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich and Margo Martindale

It is 1981, the height of the Reagan Era and at first glance, Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) seem to be living the American dream. They run a successful travel agency, have two great kids, and live in a beautiful suburban house just north of Washington, D.C. To the outsider, their lives appear to be perfect. No one, not even their children, know that Elizabeth and Phillip are in fact working for the KGB.

THE AMERICANS opens with an intense, wonderfully directed kidnapping sequence, set to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”. Elizabeth and Phillip, along with two of their comrades, have been tasked to capture a Soviet officer who has defected. Things go awry as one of their partners is shot, and they are forced to drop him off at a nearby hospital. FBI agent, Stan Beeman (the criminally under appreciated, Noah Emmerich) is assigned to their case. He also happens to have just moved in across the street from the Jennings family.

Through flashbacks we learn that even though Elizabeth and Phillip share two children, there has never been any kind of romantic connection between them. Their entire marriage had been arranged by the Soviet government so that they could successfully be planted in the US.  This setup has worked for the past fifteen years of the Jennings’ marriage, until both Elizabeth and Phillip realize that they have begun to develop real feelings for each other.

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The show works extremely well, and if given the opportunity, I’m sure many viewers will end up binge watching it. The mood of the 80’s is captured with the use of music, retro telephones, and the incorporation of real life events, such as the attempted assassination of President Reagan. THE AMERICANS will remind many viewers of “Homeland”, as both deal with homeland security and the threat of terrorism. At times the show does give off a “Homeland” vibe, but manages to be more fun and stylistic than the rather serious Showtime series. While THE AMERICANS does have a heavy subject matter, it’s hard not to laugh at the ridiculous disguises Elizabeth and Phillip assume when undercover.

After the first few episodes, I noticed the issue that everything seems to be working out a little too well for Elizabeth and Phillip. I mean, being a spy for the KGB can’t be that easy, right? As usual, the show outsmarted me in its sixth episode, entitled “Trust Me”. I don’t want to give the episode away, but let’s just say that it shows us that Elizabeth and Phillip aren’t as good at their jobs as they think they are.

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The performances by the entire cast are quite strong. The most impressive among them surely comes from Russell, who I will admit to hating before watching this show. Russell’s delicate portrayal of Elizabeth manages to make you root for and sympathize with a ruthless KGB spy, which is a pretty tough task, if you ask me. Emmerich is excellent as always, and with THE AMERICANS is finally given a long overdue starring role. Another great performance is given by Margo Martindale (AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY) in her Emmy-nominated performance as Claudia, the Jennings’ KGB advisor. Martindale continues to be cast in supporting roles, but any Margo is good Margo, so I’m content.

After an enthralling first season, I can’t wait to see what the show has in store when Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings return in the second season on Sunday, February 26th. If you haven’t started watching THE AMERICANS yet, I encourage you to run and get the first season on DVD/Blu-ray as soon as possible. When everyone catches on to this excellent show, you surely won’t want to be left behind.

4.5 sheep

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