The new FX drama “The Americans” reenacts the cold war, mix-matching scenes of serene suburbs family life with KGB ‘agentry’. The brand new TV series premiered this Wednesday.
This is the kind of series you don’t buy into from the very beginning but you cannot stop watching either, eager to figure out if the story will take a turn for the average cable classic or develop into something truly special.
The plot starts in 1981, roughly at the same time President Ronald Reagan deemed the USSR an “evil empire”. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys portray Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, two sleeper KGB agents embedded in the “heart of the enemy” as an ordinary suburban couple living a common life in Washington, D.C.
The opening scene shows Elizabeth seducing a Department of Justice agent shattering whatever secret wish one might have had regarding the truthfulness of the sham marriage between the two KGB agents. Russell seems determined to smother any and all memory of her years as the ingénue Felicity, the role that made her famous.
The couple seems odd, their interactions outside their house feel stiffly normal, like one would expect them to reveal their alien true nature at any given moment. However, it could just be the way the suburbs worked during the 80s. As for the life as an agent, the details are scripted by writer and creator Joe Weisberg, a former CIA employee himself, so we’ll give the man some credit for knowing what is what and more importantly how everything should feel.
On one side, we have Elizabeth, a true believer in her role as a sleeper agent, loyal to her Russian origin with all her heart and soul. She is the bad-ass professional of the couple, always on the look out for a soft spot. On the other, we have a husband more prone to embrace the comfort of the consumerism oriented life he is supposed to fight against. However, he is more than ready to take out the FBI agent “neighbor” snooping through their garage on the look out for incriminatory evidence of wrongdoing.
Every now and then the show throws in certain details that feel either too much of a coincidence, like what are the odds a counterintelligence agent assigned to the Russians decides to live precisely on the Jennings’ street, or a bit stretched. For example, the couple has been working together for 20 years, yet some details that should have been already dealt with, namely their intimate restrictions, feel like they are only now addressed. For a couple that has been living under the same roof for two decades, the two main characters seem oddly unaccustomed to the other’s presence.
All in all, the series is off to a promising start with well written suspense scenes and a great cast that promises a new addition come the third episode, when Margo Martindale will join the team.