TV Series Review #6: The Americans (Season 1)

The Americans Season 1 Poster (source: moviegeek.de)

Title: The Americans (IMDb)
Season: Season 1
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor (ep. 1), Adam Arkin (ep. 2, 10, 13), Thomas Schlamme (ep. 3), Jean de Segonzac (ep. 4), Holly Dale (ep. 5), Daniel Sackheim (ep. 6), Alex Chapple (ep. 7), Bill Johnson (ep. 8), Jim McKay (ep. 9), Nicole Kassell (ep. 11), John Dahl (ep. 12)
Written by: Joe Weisberg (creator), Mike Batistik (staff writer, ep. 1-13), Sneha Koorse (staff writer, ep. 2-13), Joel Fields (ep. 3, 4, 8, 13), Melissa James Gibson (ep. 5, 11, 12),  Joshua Brand (ep. 7, 9, 11, 12), Bradford Winters (ep. 10)
Year: 2013
Length: ~44-64 min., 13 eps.
Rating: 16
My IMDb rating: 9/10

The Americans tells the captivating story of two KGB spies living in America in the time of the Cold War.

The show begins at a time at which the agents are already fully integrated into American society. They are living in a suburban area, are married and have two children. Their children, of course, don’t know that their parents are Russian spies. Their covers are perfect. The first season focuses on introducing the main characters, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, and their antagonist, the FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich).

Elizabeth (Kerri Russel) is portrayed as being a hundred percent loyal to Russia and their cause. She wants her children to grow up knowing that Russia is not the enemy the US makes her out to be. This is a very subtle undertaking that doesn’t seem to work very well as her children are growing up with all the privileges and political influences that are part of their lives as American kids.

Philip (Matthew Rhys) is rather disillusioned with his motherland and the KGB. He fulfills his role as a KGB spy because he has to, not because he believes in the cause any more. He enjoys life in America and seems to understand its people and politics much better than Elizabeth. This causes a lot of issues between the couple in the course of the first season which not only threaten their private life but also their mission.

The Americans is a good example of good, complex storytelling accompanied by brilliant acting. While we get to see the emotional development of each character, we also understand the difficult situations they are placed in. This applies not only to Elizabeth and Philip but also to other KGB members, FBI agents and informants on both sides. I was fascinated by the amount of time we got to spent with minor characters. Character development is something that is neglected in a lot of series when it comes to minor characters.

In addition to the great storytelling, very talented actors help the audience to believe what they see on screen. As a result of the time we get to spend with each character, the actors get to show what they are truly capable of. Emotional and action scenes play hand in hand. On more than one occasion, I was shocked by the brutality that the Cold War demanded of its agents. Neither America nor Russia had any qualms with neglecting morality when it came to winning this war.

The settings, costumes and music only help the viewer to get sucked into The Americans.

It has been an absolute joy to watch and I can’t wait to see what season two has to offer.

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