The Americans Review Archive

Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Annet Mahendru, Holly Taylor | Created by Joseph Weisberg

THE AMERICANS 1×07 – “Duty and Honor”

We’ve seen since the beginning of The Americans, that Elizabeth and Phillip’s marriage has always been hanging on by some tenuous grasp. There really wasn’t any love there but rather a sense of staying together for the mission, and refusing to defect everyone when the possibility of doing so seemed to be the right thing to do. But, Phillip’s changing mindset on this new country versus his old country and obligation to them all the same caused Elizabeth’s distrust of him and all of the strongly boiled to a head last week.

Fortunately, all of that carried over this week and ‘Duty and Honor’ is another strong outing for the show with a big bulletproof track record. The theme of infidelity and distrust run throughout the episode just like a big bolt of lightning. This theme ran cohesively with the long-standing notion that we’ve never really learned who these people were. We know who they’re supposed to be, but because they put up the curtains of their secret identities. We’ve only seen bits and pieces of the whole past of both Philip and Elizabeth but these have been fragments, like Elizabeth assault at the hand of the defector back in the pilot or Philip’s picture of a woman he had to give up when he became an agent. This week, we get more glimpses, more of the picture coming clearer into focus.

The whole mission that Philip gets sent off on this mission to discredit the Polish pro-democracy leader trying to foster and independence from Moscow. Sure, that’s the real plot of the hour but really, it serves one purpose to continue the divide between both husband and wife. It also gives us a glimmer of who Phillip was back in the Motherland. He was a terrified kid named Mischa and his former love, Irina. And he gave it up for the mission and his new false life. Philip and Elizabeth have never let their “marriage” or the illusion of it get in the way of “the mission,” but to see the flash of jealousy splash over Elizabeth’s face as she discusses the fact that Phillip would be reunited with his former love during the mission stung a little. Both Rhys and Russell do so well in selling the hurt and anguish of their love for each to her but the detachment that both bring to the table as they fall further apart.

They have Anne tell Philip that they had a child back in Russia before he left, but they never for sure follow through on this. It’s possible, but the meat of the matter is that she becomes disgusted with the line of work. This in an interesting facet of the plot because it shows that the operatives can get fed up with the cloak and dagger, and ruining people’s loves because they do run the life of the leader pretty badly. It raises an interesting idea behind it though. With Anne plotting an escape and running away, does Philip see this as an end, and in his head if escape were a possibility, it’s one that ends one of two ways.

Russell’s side of the coin this week deals with furthering the plot momentum by getting a new insider in the technologies field to replace Adam, the man she killed in ‘Comint,’ just a few weeks ago. It’s just another great reason to show how badass Keri Russell is in getting people to do what she says, and noticing that she does use her feminine wiles (but not sex) to get what she wants. The meeting between her and Claudia post-fight was just brief but still well dne, even if Claudia is recovering from a pretty brutal beatdown at the hands of Elizabeth. Claudia keeps toying with her and saying Elizabeth’s name and it unsettles her. Because it should, the thin line between covered and uncovered is simply a name. They also tie together Elizabeth and Stan’s wife cohesively, both women fraught by their men, men who work daily to perform duty and honor irregardless of what they have to do or who it affects in the long run.

And the infidelity only grasps the men this week, it seems. Stan’s in a marriage that may have had love in it at one time or another, but for reasons hinted at and sometimes outright said, the center cannot hold. But wheras Phillip’s infidelity is not as earth-shattering because his marriage is an illusion, and we’ve seen him sleep around on Elizabeth (think back to ’The Clock’) Stan’s isn’t. But he sleeps with Nina, and this isn’t something out of left field, it’s been coming for a long time now, and frankly, it was a little surprising to see how they would handle it, because for a moment there, it looked as if she wouldn’t reciprocate. But she does, and left in the wake of all of this, is Stan lost adrift in a sea of his thoughts and Gaad placing the thoughts in his head that maybe, she’s using him for extradition any way she can. It may not be true, but hey this is a show about deception. Anything and everything is possible.

THE AMERICANS 1×06 – “Trust Me”

“Trust me.”

This phrase keeps getting repeated over and over throughout by people on both sides of the game. Stan says it several times to his own little mole Nina, and Claudia says that it’s all about trust after she concocts a secret attack and puts her pressure on Philip and Elizabeth. It’s about the lie, about believing it more than that.  The things we’ve learned is that when Stan says it to Nina, he means it. Because it’s his job, he was even learning the phrase in Russian to make it a reassuring statement. But Claudia’s job is all about smoke and mirrors, and the same goes for Philip and Elizabeth. They don’t even know it but their children are even lying to them about the crazy day they had, although not as crazy as their parent’s day was by many a mile. It all weaves in to each other like a dark tapestry of mistrust.

The clear mission statement of ‘Trust Me’ was plain and simple. The writers wanted to throw a big monkey wrench into everything that’s going on in Philip and Elizabeth’s life, both professional and personal. And it was so effective because it felt right and it felt real. All the moments up until they pull back and reveal that the interrogation was just a façade and just a test for Claudia to determine if both Philip and Elizabeth were in fact the sought after mole, was just the most taut, heart attack inducing moments in the show thus far. Because they didn’t show any seams of a façade, and the way that Philip is kidnapped before the credits even hit, really seemed like the muck was coming to light. So many thoughts roll around in your head – Who are these people? How will they get out of this situation? Because it couldn’t be so simply done, it had to make sense and allow for them to get away from these people who clearly know what they’re doing and know that they’re undercover spies, and they have to stay undercover. It’s seriously fraught with so much suspense, it’s sick.

The whole vetting by way of interrogation isn’t really the real reason for the episode, it only serves as a catalyst to all the drama that comes about, and opens up wounds still healing from the pilot episode. Simply put Elizabeth’s mistrust of Philip in lieu of their kidnapping of the defector, and her questions of whether or not, he’ll defect. It’s great that they do this because for as much as they struggle to keep their married life strong, they still falter in regards to their mission, and put themselves on shakier ground, and this sends Elizabeth back to Gregory (even if it’s in a strictly professional sense). It’s noteworthy for many reasons, one of which that this episode is a flat-out standout for many reasons, Matthew Rhys being stony and cold during the many interrogations and tortures that he receives during the first half of the episode and everything afterwards. His outburst at Elizabeth after they escape their captors is great, because he is falling for the new country while Elizabeth isn’t, and this alleviates the fears of their bosses at the Rezidentura, and makes her question him.

Equally more so, it’s a great showcase for Keri Russell. They’ve made Elizabeth too much the powerhouse fighter versus Philip’s thinker (although he’s capable of handling himself). Her fight scene with the man in her house was some nice choreography, and ups the ante the sheer craziness ante by having her pummel Claudia after she learns that they’ve been getting played this whole time for fools. So, the best part is that we learn that Elizabeth is shaken by her government’s mistrust in her, and Philip is shaken by his “wife’s” mistrust in him. It’s such a great angle to cast on their mission.  And you’ve got to love Philip’s dig at Elizabeth using Martha to get a dig in at her. And take some of her jewelry. It’s a deep cut, but it makes total sense.

There was a brief plot involving Henry and Paige, and it’s great to see them brought to the foreground because they’re always overshadowed by anything involving Philip and Elizabeth. Because they’re believable kids, they’re not annoying like most children on televisions (especially dramas) and they’re smart. The hitchhiking subplot could’ve gone a million different ways but it did one thing well, it reaffirmed their bond as brother and sister. You knew that something wasn’t on the level with the young guy driving the car, but the best part about it is, they keep his intentions vague. He could’ve just been a guy blowing off steam at the park before work. But, Henry and Paige don’t know that and that’s where the brilliant conceit lies in the episode. They can’t trust him. So, Henry breaks a bottle over the guy’s head and they flee. And then when they finally meet up with their parents at the end of the day, they lie to them about how they got home. There’s no trust from anyone anywhere. It’s  great simply because it brings the children into the fold a little more.

The other half of the episode, namely the stuff with Stan and Nina and the Rezidentura was fraught with tension. The thing of it all though was that it was quietly done, and handled again in a way that doesn’t dumb down the resolution and treat the audience like an idiot. It was smart that Beeman used Nina’s tactics to slip in the contraband and the pictures of the documents to get Vasili ferreted out as the mole, even as we know he’s not. It was a smartly executed plan and one that still could have gone any other way right up until the scene where we see Vasili being taking on a plane, just as Nina said, no questions asked. Judging by the scene where Beeman tells her to take the pictures in the museum, he’s clearly coasting towards his compassion for Nina (even Gaad sees it, delivering the call telling him his misdirect from the real mole worked) and that scene was executed quite nicely as well because how the performers handled it. I’m a firm believer that it’s all about what isn’t said that sells something for me, and that scene worked because of their faces. Although Stan tries to open up for his wife, it seems that he’s drifting away further and further each time we see them. All of it rests on how Emmerich sells Beeman to us, he’s lonely and he’s devoted. He sells the great chemistry that Beeman and Nina have, and you believe that he wants her to get out.

THE AMERICANS 1×05 – “Comint”

The Americans is a show all about nuance. It’s the glances and the taut dialogue that keeps the suspense fueling at any and every turn. ‘Comint’ is an especially thrilling piece in the overall puzzle, and it becomes all thrilling without any car chases and shootouts (although someone shoots a gun, and someone is on the receiving end of that bullet). There’s tension riddled throughout from all fronts both on the side of the good guys and the bad guys. It’s a key example of how being a spy can weigh on you everyday throughout your life and just how easy it is to lose sight of your mission.

It’s a stark example here of just how the job can affect you. Look at Elizabeth and her dark situation with Kurt Schultz, the violent sociopath she vets to determine how the FBI is keeping tabs on the Rezidentura’s agents. She gets beaten by him, although it doesn’t go as far as it can, and buries it down inside because it’s the job. She gets all the information (they’re stowing their radios in the trunks of their cars). But, it’s nice to see that Philip is dogged to go and seek vengeance for his wife getting hurt by this mongrel of a man, even if he doesn’t. He uses the same tactic in getting all his information from Martha, the woman from the FBI in getting the name of the FBI’s surveillance consultant. But he leaves it at just an informant. The idea that he cares more about the marriage than Elizabeth does, that’s something that’s been a line through the series thus far.No, he doesn’t sleep with Martha because despite the facade of their marriage, he cares for her as much as she does for him, and that’s where the strength lies in it all. It’s a brilliant tactic by the writers to employ this gambit. They fight just like any married couple would and lash out when they aren’t getting their ways, like Philip does at Henry when he loses his thermos. But they feel strong and that’s what makes it believable.

All the chess pieces moving around involve the FBI keeping tabs on the operatives, and Elizabeth and Philip tasked by Claudia to get the encryptions of the radios so they can beat the Feds at their own game and stay one step ahead. Because the real risk of it all, is that all operatives don’t know they’re being followed. That presents it’s risks tenfold. The set piece where Philip and Elizabeth try to sneak into the trunk of the Feds car to get the codes is another stark suspense set piece that this show does so very well. Plus, it allowed Matthew Rhys to show off the fugliest disguise yet. The only downside of it, is that there wasn’t any real danger. Elizabeth gets trapped in the car, and just walks out untouched. That’s not to say it wasn’t supenseful as hell. Oh, man it was intense.

Beeman’s marriage is crumbling all around him, maybe because he either devotes himself to much to the job, or he’s just lost that loving feeling. While he’s busy learning his Russian to perhaps endear himself to Nina, his poor wife is trying to save their union. And she’s not succeeding. Because unlike Philip and Elizabeth, the union of Stan and his wife aren’t for show. It’s real. And the real reason why Beeman is feeling distant from his wife is because he’s becoming closer to Nina, his informant in the Rezidentura. The scene where he learns just how she got her information from Vasili, his reaction (and hers too) is all silence, but says everything it needs to and dammit, that’s what is so powerful about what Noah Emmerich does as Stan. It’s also important to mention his relationship with his partner, that’s more like a relationship that he has with his wife. And the rapport between himself and Amador, is just funny.

It’s easy to falter when you lose everything despite just how key your position is the grander scheme of things. Look at Udacha aka Adam Dorwin. Yes, he’s the inside man for the Rezidentura and has all the intel about the ballistics shields that’s got everyone scrambling like chickens with their heads cut off. We see that when Elizabeth vets him at the episode’s beginning, he’s clearly ready to crack, or as his handler Vasili (it’s nice to learn more of him throughout ‘Comint’) says, he’s got the “jitters.” His wife is dead and the logline of his existence is harboring secrets for a dangerous orginization. You really feel the sympathy for Vasili, he recruited Udacha 23 years earlier, and anyone in either man’s situation could feel the nervousness that comes with the work they do. The moment where Vasili goes to meet his agent was fraught with tension, and it wasn’t real clear how it was going to come out, but it still unfolded as naturally as it could’ve in that situation. Of course, Elizabeth had to kill him. He was a risk. Plain and simple, and it shows that this line of work keeps anyone with blood on their hands.

THE AMERICANS 1×04 – “In Control”

The Americans is a quiet show that can put you through the suspense ringer in many, many ways. It’s a strong show that while set in the past, still manages to put many tight twists in to put our anti-heroes through hell to further their cause. We know how it all plays out. History’s been written since the fall of the Wall, but that still doesn’t mean that it’s making for a compelling hour of television week in and week out. In Control’ plays like lit fuse television, in the sense that once the plot starts it burns fast and strong until the quiet, albeit explosive finish. Like “Mad Men” before it, ‘In Control’ plays out a very important time in our history, namely the attempted assassination of President Reagan. Now, we know in the sense of history that Reagan was shot by John Hinckley and that there were not KGB leanings on the attempt on his life. But, despite the knowledge of what comes, it still remains tense throughout as Elizabeth and Phillip follow their next steps prodded on by Moscow’s attempt to strike their coup in lieu of Reagan’s possible death. Actually, Reagan’s shooting only plays on in  the background, it’s all about the reactions to what’s happening to every player in the piece.

The reaction that Moscow takes in the wake of the shooting propels all of the tension throughout. Phillip and Elizabeth’s dogged persistence in fighting whatever may come from whomever may take over for Reagan if he were to die creates and maximizes all the tension. We only see Claudia for the briefest of moments but it’s long enough for Margo Martindale to make a mark, even when it’s just her telling them to initiate ‘Christopher,’ a chilling plan to strike terror into the hearts of the Americans. We get a little glimpse into the inner workings of Directorate S and how they operate through old fashion means of communication (like Morse code) or setting up a bank of phones to communicate in case of a situation arising where their covers need to be checked out. Things even turn violent when an everyday neighborhood security guard catches Elizabeth and Phillip snooping on the Secretary of Defense’s house and Elizabeth kills him. That’s the strength of the show, putting our leads in the corner and watching them fight their way out through whatever means necessary.

Even though it ends the way history tells it, with Hinckley acting alone (and quite funny is Beeman’s non-knowledge of who Jodie Foster is, it’s not acted as a joke but a real statement) the division between what course to take in the matter worked because after all of the Gregory mess last week, the couple are working on trying to be united, to be a real married couple. The smart thing the writers did is to start the couple out broken and distant, and then allow them to start to cohere after all the hell they go through together. Because Elizabeth’s strong headedness coupled with Phillip’s would lead you to believe that they quarrel because they’re all about the job. But it just isn’t true, the marriage and the job intersperse with one another almost without a single easy to find thread. It’s compelling to watch them to see if it begins to work out for the both of them.

The children are usually relegated to the background but here it’s all about how they react to the shooting of the president, which feels realistic even by today’s standards. Paige’s reaction about seeing the shooting replayed over and over rings especially true given all the madness we see on television today, especially politically motivated attacks. It’s interesting to see how Phillip and Elizabeth act around their children when any mention of Russian politic is mentioned. It’s smart because of all the strong dramatic implications therein. The parts of all of it show you just how the parents feel about their children, how Henry and Paige were born out a need to seem like a real married couple and not because they loved each other. But, the fear of what this all means when Reagan is shot seeps into the household like a poison and this is even more evident over in Stan’s household.

Stan’s a compelling character just as Elizabeth and Phillip are, he’s just on the other side of the law. He’s pushed to nearly get his contact in the Rezidentura caught, and shows that he may have a closeness to her. That’s part of Emmerich’s charm as Beeman. He sneaks in and infiltrates without so much as flinching. His relationship with his partner is strained but any partnership usually is, the worry comes from him and his wife. There’s always that common fear in every drama where the spouse and the person in law enforcement begins to split because the cop or agent is too devoted to his work, but here it felt fresh because it isn’t that he’s too devoted to his work, it’s because he came back from his latest case different. That clicks because it’s while being an overused trope, it spins it in a whole new direction. It keeps the fear alive. Beeman’s a strong character and this leads to many more possibilites to whom he could become.

THE AMERICANS 1×03 – “Gregory”

The Americans is such a damn fine cloak and dagger thriller that sometimes it’s a little hard to believe that it’s a television series. It resembles at a closer glance a spy novel by John LeCarre, or something that wouldn’t lead you to believe that it’s a series on FX alongside their programming docket. It’s strong stuff that could destroy competition come Emmy time with all the writers and actors drawing blood to win that coveted golden trophy. And it would be such a warranted win for all involved.

‘Gregory’ shows that just because you try to tie up all loose ends, there’s always a wonky straggler hanging out there to bite you square in the hindquarters. It would’ve been easy to leave behind Elizabeth and Philip’s cohort in the wind after he died from his knife wound in the pilot. And yet, it gets pulled back in like that thing you fear will always get you, the storm cloud on the horizon, if you will. It felt so high stakes learning that Robert, the dead agent, had a wife and child who may have learned all of his deepest and darkest secrets. Philip and Elizabeth involve her former lover to find and procure the wife and vet her to see if she know anything about Robert’s deeds. She doesn’t, at least in the beginning but comes around to the realization that he’s a spy along with Philip and Elizabeth.

The smartest thing that happened is that they did allow the wife to figure it out. Sure, she was in the dark for all of their marriage but it takes a few beats for the wheels to start rolling and she figures it out. And that makes it dangerous for all involved. There was a sense of dread when she’s sent away to a new life in Cuba because it was all too neat and clean. And because we met the new boss of the organization, there were to be higher stakes involved. Margo Martindale seems like she would be a nice and cuddly woman, Rhys even calls her “granny.” But after her performance on “Justified” as Mags Bennett, it’s clear she’s way more at home as the scary bad guy, and she does it all so well. And when they showed her baby in Russia with Robert’s parents, you just knew that she would end up dead, and sure enough she was staged to look as if she’d died of a heroin overdose. That ending kicks like a firecracker to the heart, and shows that just because Philip and Elizabeth are getting softer to the dangerous stuff, the people they answer to aren’t exactly as squeamish.

Another great thing the writers are doing is trying to show fissures in Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage. They even set up parallel stories with the operatives having their secret lives. Yes, the idea behind this sleeper mission from the KGB is to show them having this domestic bliss, and yet they shake it up by having this wild card in Gregory. We learn all about the past between Gregory and Elizabeth, and the clear indication that she had more in common with him than she ever did with Philip. And that’s where the real meat of it all comes from. Rhys is always at his best when he’s unhinged and this stress from his “wife” lying to him all these years is hitting him hard. The idea that they may be falling in love with each other regardless of their mission statement is very interesting and is allowing them to grow and maybe even foster some sympathy to the wetwork that they’re doing for the Motherland. With Gregory, the show had someone who has eyes all over the street, and the scene where he captures Robert’s wife was just kinetic. It was edited and paced so strongly, it could’ve waltzed right out of the cinema and on to the television screen.

The scary thing about a show like this is the willingness to throw in grenades to blow up the status quo. Everyone in the show from the FBI agents to the Directorate S operatives seem to know they’re in a spy series. They’re smart as hell, and watching Beeman’s brain rattle around trying to figure out how they managed to sneak away with a targeted FBI mark is great, just as equally fun watching Amador work his way through his wheelhouse. Beeman’s so damned smart and his banter with Rhys at the episode’s start during their racquetball game could equally be taken as vetting or otherwise. Noah Emmerich plays it so vaguely, and yet not because his steely gazes are just as damning as getting his confession.

I’m so enamored with this show.

THE AMERICANS 1×02 – “The Clock”

In the pilot episode of The Americans we learned about who Elizabeth and Philip are, but not necessarily how they operate. We learned briefly about the ins and outs of the operation, and why they’re here. In ‘The Clock,’ a little bit more of the curtain is pulled back but not too much, because there’s no fun in seeing it all right away. We learn most certainly that they operate out of their travel agency, the front being a means to an end.

If there’s a takaway from this episode, it’s that the procuring of a clock can be nerve-racking and intense. It allows us to show that Philip and Elizabeth aren’t above harming others or using innocents to get exactly what they need. This is where the show falls into a tricky grey area. Yes, Philip and Elizabeth are threatening the life of Viola’s son so she can nab the aforementioned clock, but they’re following their orders all the same. Does this make them bad? Yes and no. That’s exciting to see from a series, because they seem at ease with harming others to serve the purpose of the KGB Rezidentura and yet they don’t. The scene where Rhys beats down the uncle of the boy that they’ve poisoned is flat-out brutal and raises all stakes. It’s a great character study for both husband and wife in this instance. Philip has a quiet conversation with Viola about God, and his lack of belief. And the way that Elizabeth pleads with Viola to do the right thing and get her to place the clock is great too. It’s a stark contrast to the woman we met last week who could barely restrain her apathy for the man who raped her all those years ago. In the end, Viola relents and places the clock back after Philip has bugged it. But as we’ve learned by the episode’s end, the bug in the clock tells the Rezidentura all they need to know, that ballistics shields and nukes are in play and that makes the war a little colder, no?

It’s made all the more enthralling by the fact that Henry is such a frayed nerve with all going on in his personal life, with the woman he’s seeing threatening to go to the police. Rhys plays the scene with such strong menace, and his facial tic from all smiles to glowering when she looks away is chilling. Rhys is menacing at all times, and there is a sense that he could kill and feel no sympathy. The scene where he tells his son to brush his teeth and responds to his son’s protestation’s with a glare tells you everything you need to know about how he can just terrify with a glance. Rhys is going to be a breakout here, and his sense of detachment is damn powerful even as he is attached. Now, in the pilot it seemed that Elizabeth wasn’t feeling that she could attach to this family, here in ‘The Clock,’ she seems to be coming around to this notion that this family is hers whether she believes it or not. It has to do with the torture of Viola’s son, but the scene where she pierces her daughter’s ears shows the growth of Elizabeth, it shows she’s clinging to the family, to her daughter and not refusing them as a mirage or a cover for whatever purposes her and Philip are doing and Russell sells it expertly.

Beeman’s quite the interesting character too. He’s got a smooth veneer over his face, almost like a poker face that he’s just as easily able to put on as easy as one would put on sunglasses. He’s always ferreting out the people he talks to, and that makes a conversation about hockey or caviar unsettling, because of the way that Noah Emmerich sells the perfomance. The tension in the scene between him and Rhys is electric because you can still sense the wheel spinning behind Emmerich’s eyes. He can ask a question and it webs out into many different places. Sure, his fears about Philip were assuaged last week but there’s still that sense that he knows something, just not what that is yet. That’s because Emmerich sells it so well. The dogged persona is dragged into his work as well, in the way that he gets all the information that needs from the people he’s after. The scene where he’s talking to the woman from the Rezidentura at the fruit stand, and just lays out all the facts and gets her to relent is amazing, just by pressing her with hard time. He sniffs it out like a dog after a bone, except when he gets the bone, he destroys it. You get the sense that he could you just as much harm as Rhys could.

THE AMERICANS 1×01 – “Pilot”

There’s this plot conceit that many shows, especially thrillers have. Call it a ticking timebomb conceit to perhaps call to mind a sneaky metaphor. It’s the idea that someone, has a secret, perhaps a dangerous one, brewing way beneath the surface. A secret worth killing for. Look at Walter White. He’s a meth chemist. A profession not exactly on the legal side of business. Or Dexter Morgan. He’s a serial killer. There’s no underlying anything there. If these men had there cats come crawling out of the bag, they’ll be up that creek we all go up in our lives, and they most certainly don’t have a damn paddle to cling to. The Americans is ticking bomb television. And the secrets that our anti-heroes cling to are most certainly a terrifyingly pandemic one. It’s terrorism. The global fear of communism has been a mass scare that has been clung to for as long as time can tell. There was the Cold War in the 60′s and then it railroaded on through to the 80′s. We all remember the Berlin Wall, and Reagan demanding that Gorbachev tear that monolith down. But, what if there was this covert cell, an group hellbent on infiltrating the United States and spreading communism throughout the land?

At first, the pilot is a little hard to track, there’s a lot going on in the fore- and background. It’s like picking up a novel, and zipping through the pages. Sometimes you have to turn back and pick it up, but like a great book, it’s intricately plotted. Things tie in to each other strongly. Moments that don’t make sense a few moments earlier, take on a whole new meaning when viewed at this other angle. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it, actually. The idea of this couple, seemingly normal, as normal as apple pie, carrying on this insidious plot to spread a cause throughout another country is a hook that digs in so very strongly.

The performance of Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are what really sell the idea of these covert operatives. Russell plays the doting wife so well, but underneath her persona, she’s a detached cold soul. It’s quite shocking, when you tie in her previous work on “Felicity.” The dark secret she shoulders, is a painful one and seeing her restrain herself from killing the Russian defector, is quite brilliant. The mere fact that she communicates with her commander and essays that she had fears towards her “husband” shows that she was harboring some tenuous conflict towards him. If that goes south, it’ll go messy.

Now, Matthew Rhys is where the spotlight really shines. I’d never seen too much of Rhys before this, but I can certainly tell you that the world will know his name long after this. A career defining role straight up and down here. Whereas Russell plays her part in the covert spy as cut and dry business at hand, Rhys is the shakier of the two. He’s clearly wanting to just give up the life and defect, it’s the easier way out. These are his children and he deeply cares for them, not that his “wife” doesn’t but they’re all a facade. Even with the threat of getting caught (very suspenseful, even if it’s the first episode) they worry for their children. They don’t treat them as human shields. His dogged determination to his false wife and children, is sweet, even if it is a falsity. As he confronts the sick bastard pedophile in his backyard and skewers him with a barbeque implement is quite the triumphant moment. It endears you to him in a very strong way. The scene where they kill the defector who raped Russell back in the Motherland, is a twisted scene, seeing the bad guy getting his head slammed through the wall is quite awesome. And the closeness of murdering this dark defector does bring them together (as I’m sure it usually does) but do they wish to keep the facade? Is this an act they’ll grow tired of? Time will tell certainly. But, as the element of danger slowly seeps it’s way up, will things escalate fast and bloody?

I also like Noah Emmerich and his FBI agent, Stan Beeman. This idea of an agent able to suss out people, to read them in an interesting idea. When he moved in next to our anti-heroes, a deep gulp lurches in your throat. It presents a delicious sense of danger, a real threat. Maybe there are words that Rhys says to Beeman, that would make him suspect but they are just suspicions. Never has a scene with jumper cables and a stowed away prisoners been so tightly dramatized. I sincerely hope that they’ll not put forth the wife’s strife at Stan not being able to turn off his abilities to sniff out imminent danger. And if they do, I hope it’s done with a freshness that hasn’t been seen. The final scene in the pilot with Beeman breaking into Rhys’ garage and seeing that his suspicions are just that, and the light in the darkened revealing Rhys hiding in the darkness with a loaded gun really perked me up. It’s so hard not to burst out of your skin at the intensity.

One thing to mention, since the show is set in the 80′s, they’ve got a great soundtrack to crib from. Hearing ‘Harden my Heart’ by Quarterflash, or in the body disposal scene, the immortal Phil Collins classic, ‘In the Air Tonight.’ The best use of a song has to be credited to ‘Tusk’ by Fleetwood Mac during the intense chase scene at the beginning of the episode while Rhys and his pal hunt down the dastardly defector. My qualm, a minor one, is that they don’t overload on 80′s imagery, don’t think one doesn’t notice Keri Russell and her form fitting Guess jeans.

The Americans has very strong promise, not to mention a premise that, if handled right could mine some seriously strong drama. If there’s no sense of getting painted into a corner, then this could go anywhere. Then, it could become a dangerous show, and that kids, is a scary and exciting thing.

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