My initial reaction to previews for “The Americans” was that I’ve seen this before. There have been other series about foreign spies living as middle class suburban Americans, and even broader, there have been tons of series where suburban Americans have some terrible secret that they spend each week trying to keep others from finding out.
But, since I have always liked Keri Russell, and one of the EPs credited on the show is Graham Yost (Justified), I decided to give it a chance. I’m glad I did.
First of all, the show is a period piece, set in the 1980′s, the heart of the cold war, just after the election of President Ronald Reagan. With the exception of the use of too much jazzy 80′s music in the initial sequence, which annoyed the crap out of me, the period setting provided a lot of fun and interest to the otherwise overused concept.
Secondly, the show is very well cast. Russell is doing the best work of her career as a true believer of KGB and the “Motherland” (Russia) who thinks absolutely of the mission first, is a violent and deadly agent when the need calls for it, and, as a mom, is dedicated to making sure her children do not grow up embracing American values. Likewise, Matthew Rhys is flawless as her husband, whose passion for Mother Russia has waned and who considers defecting, but who has also fallen in love with his pretend wife over the years. (Under Rhys’ quiet exterior lurks an agent every bit as deadly as Russell’s, though, as the pilot showed us.)
Of course there are the usual too-coincidental bits of plot shenanigans, such as the FBI agent who happens to move in just across the street, and some scenes are a bit too “on the nose” because of this. At least once I said “oh come ON” out loud. But that’s typical of this type of show, as the main plot contrivances will be the jeopardy of being found out. But other than that, it was a solid opener, really well acted and fun, with the appropriate level of spy action as well as a nicely drawn human story within.
Recommendation: Check it out!