The Americans: Season 1
DVD | Box Set
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Secrets can be deadly in this suspenseful thriller about undercover Russian spies in 1980s Washington, D.C. Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) seem to be a typical suburban couple, but they're actually lethal KGB agents plotting to bring down America. As the Cold War escalates, Philip and Elizabeth must take extreme measures to continue their mission and keep their true identities hidden. But when an FBI agent moves in across the street, they become ensnared in a pulse-pounding game of cat and mouse.
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This show is amazing. If you were alive and aware during the early 80s, you will love this show. You will be amazed at how you unquestioningly find yourself rooting for the KGB "bad guys", even while watching the damage they do.
One of the most stunning contrasts to me is that Philip, the KGB agent posing as an American, is a far more sympathetic character than Stan the FBI agent. When Philip does something that is morally questionable, you can see the toll it takes on the man. Stan, on the other hand, seems to be a man without conscience. Whether killing or threatening someone, the dichotomy between these two men exists.
But the real spotlight in this series is on the marriage between Philip and Elizabeth. Here again we see the contrasts between the two men. When Philip has sex with women who are not his wife, it is (almost) invariably in the line of duty and you can all but see the distaste written on his face. When Stan steps out on his wife, well, he really steps out--and appears to have no moral qualms about it whatsoever.
Watch it. You won't be disappointed. This is one of those shows that will have you hooked from the first minute of the first episode. And if you aren't hooked immediately, make sure you watch that first episode long enough to make it to Philip and Elizabeth's bonding moment. Incredibly television featuring incredible acting.
The only downside: It's really hard to believe the tough-as-nails agent "Granny" now that I related to her mostly as Carol over on The Millers!
There are no blatant good or bad guys, just shades of grey in a world where the two biggest kids on the block are too proud to work together and may just annihilate the whole neighborhood if one pushes the other too far.
The scope of the setting is amazing, early 80s... the cars, the hair, the clothes and the quaint spy gear. The show is realistic so you won't be seeing any James Bond style shenanigans but that doesnt make it any less mesmerizing. Any spy fan will love this drama.
As for the show format, it is a somewhat outdated story telling method where not every episode ends in a cliffhanger and the episodes are not just 1/10 of a story written to span 10 hours. There is some of that, definitely but this more reminds me of the X-files years after the show hit it stride where you still had self contained episodes but an overarching plot began to develop in the background. Thats how this show works. Each episode (at least in the first season) has it's own little crisis which the spies battle against and overcome all while building towards a larger narrative. The show starts really slow for those who are used to the way HBO or AMC does things, it took me 6 episodes to get my girlfriend interested (through much pain and suffering I got her into it). However once things start rolling, they don't stop and the stakes get higher and higher.
To all history buffs out there, there's lots of real events which impact the show, as they rightfully would have back in the day... ie the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan left the Soviets paranoid they'd be blamed and urged them to mobilize a first strike team just in case. If you're a fan of period dramas, this show is a gold mine of "the way things were" and really reminds me of the first season of Narcos.
I can't recommend this show highly enough, if you're not getting hooked immediately, do yourself a favor and try to watch (and I do mean WATCH, this is a pay-attention type of show) the first season, guaranteed you'll be hooked before it ends.
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screwed up regime in Moscow.