Phillip Jennings

Five Reasons Why You Should Start Watching The Americans

Midseason television has arrived and while there’s plenty to watch, none can be compared to FX’s espionage drama The Americans, which returns January 28th. With only two thirteen-episode seasons to watch, here are five reasons why you should catch up. 

1. It’s based on actual events. 

If you’re not familiar with The Americans, the show follows Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), who are undercover Soviet spies during the 1980s Cold War. They live, work, and raise their American-born children together. Believe it or not, this sort of thing actually happened! The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service had these kinds of operations. FBI Counterintelligence attempted to foil their plots with Operation Ghost Stories. Although effective, some of the Soviet spies were never caught. 

2. There’s a bountiful amount of top-notch acting.

This show is never short on fantastic acting. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys give career-best performances as the complex and darkly sympathetic leading couple. Character actors Noah Emmerich (who plays FBI agent Stan Beeman) and Margo Martindale (who plays Phillip and Elizabeth’s KGB supervisor Claudia) have finally found roles they can call their own. On top of that, The Americans offer a slew of fresh talent. Annet Mahendru really shines in the second season as Russian Embassy worker and double-agent of sorts Nina. Alison Wright offers up some comic relief as a government worker who falls for one of Phillip’s traps. And young actors Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati step up to the plate in two of the best-written child roles on television. Along with numerous guest performances, you won’t find much better acting currently on television than The Americans.

3. The story continues to intensify. 

It’s more common than not for a television drama to stumble in its second outing after a solid first-season start. Not The Americans. The show doesn’t trip up. In fact, it picks up speed. Phillip and Elizabeth’s missions become increasingly difficult. Their relationship as co-agents and as husband and wife are put to the test. Their daughter Paige is growing more suspicious of their strange activity. Nina risks being caught of committing treason as she aids Stan and the FBI. This is just the tip of the intensity iceberg. 

4. The show’s themes are important and are still relevant today.

There are very few shows that are as thought-provoking as The Americans. Perhaps it’s because the show’s themes pack such a punch. How far are you willing to go to fulfill your obligations despite your morals being questioned? Where does your allegiance truly lie?  Will you do whatever it takes to protect your family or your country? These are the types of heavy questions addressed in this show. 

5. It’s the best drama on television. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Americans can be the next Breaking Bad. The terrific acting, the superb writing, the remarkable production value (it’s wigs'r'us!), and high-wire intensity put this show on a level above all else. It borrows elements of such beloved shows like the family dynamic of Breaking Bad, the thrilling action of Homeland, and the period-piece elegance of Mad Men, and combines them together to form this phenomenal drama. It continues to be criminally overlooked at the Emmys, but it deserves the gold. 

Do yourself a favor and start watching The Americans

TV Shows of 2015

↳ 6. The Americans

The Americans is one of the most confident shows around, it knows exactly the story it wants to tell and doesn’t hold back on revealing big secrets. The Paige storyline for instance could have been dragged out for a couple of seasons only for the truth about her parents to finally be revealed in a season or even series finale. Yet The Americans let that huge moment happen midway through its third season and added increasing tension to a series that is already full of dread and leaves the viewer constantly worried about the impending doom that faces the Jennings.

Every season I wonder if Elizabeth or Phillip will either defect to the US or just completely and utterly have a meltdown. There is more pressure on them than ever before, the state of Phillip in season three made me fear for his life. Matthew Rhys makes the character looks so damned tired of everything and in the final moments of the season it seems like Phillip may be ready to crack.

The Americans has also been a great example of how to handle teenager characters and make their troubles relevant and interesting rather than a hindrance to the plot. Paige’s curiosity about her parents has been part of the series for a while now but also the sense of justice she feels for causes makes her ideal for recruitment to the cause – at least according to her mother. In reality Paige is horrified by the truth and her actions seem to be setting up the endgame for the series which sadly probably only has a season or two left.

Wherever The Americans goes and however it gets there I am always completely in awe at its storytelling choices and acting. Once again it needs to be said but if you aren’t watching this show you really are missing out.