In the evening, my husband and I like to unwind by watching a little TV together, but it is so hard to find shows that we both really enjoy watching. He probably gets tired of watching HGTV with me and I can only take so much political news commentary. And while we could go watch TV in separate rooms, we like hanging out together. So it is always a treat when we discover a new (to us anyway) show that we both look forward to watching. We recently discovered, The Americans, which is currently on FX. Since we are several seasons behind, we are catching up on Amazon Prime.
The Americans stars Keri Russell (who plays Elizabeth) and Matthew Rhys (who plays Philip) are two KGB agents posing as a married couple living in suburban Washington D.C. It is set during the Cold War beginning in 1981. Shortly after the start of the show, the couple gets a new neighbor who happens to be a FBI agent newly assigned to the counterintelligence unit. The show was created by a former CIA agent turned author. So, despite my skeptical husband trying to tell me that he does not believe there were really all those spy networks, maybe some part of the series is based on truth.
Not only is the show about spies which is exciting and full of twists and turns including double agents and some interesting plots, it is also a story about marriage and family. Elizabeth and Philip from all outward appearances seem like a happily married couple with two children. As the season develops, you learn more about their personal relationship. They act like any married couple with affection, intimacy, and emotional connectedness. They also have their share of hurt feelings. Although they were just put together as part of their job, by the end of the season you do wonder whether their marriage is just a front, or if there is something more to it despite any protestations.
Similarly, the FBI agent has to deal with his own relationship issues after working deep undercover for his job, then getting a little too invested with a source. So while he and Elizabeth and Philip have vastly differently interests politically, at home they are dealing with the same issues.
It is is also an interesting look at patriotism and identity. Elizabeth and Philip are Soviets. They were born in the Soviet Union and were trained to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, if it comes to that. However, their children have been born in the United States and are being raised as Americans and at this point have no idea of their parents identity as Soviets. There are other characters as well who are confronted with the question of patriotism and how far they should go to protect their country, or do they betray their country for their own self interest?
The show also brings us back to the early 1980s, a time that I remember well. I recognize a few of the fashion choices including argyle sweaters, perms and over sized eyeglasses. One episode centers around the response of the KGB agents after the attempted assassination of President Reagan, an event I remember when it happened (I also remember that Pope John Paul II was shot a few months after that date, and both made an impression on me). I also remember when the Soviet Union was a superpower and an enemy of the United States. The show has many car chases, people getting put in trunks, kidnappings, sex and murders. There are subtitles for the Soviets when they speak Russian, and there are a few characters that flip from spying for one side to the other, so pay attention. Plus, who doesn’t love Keri Russell? Remember watching her on Felicity?
We just finished Season 1 and are looking forward to watching the next two seasons on Amazon Prime, and then the current season. Hopefully it will keep us entertained for a couple of months. If you are looking for a complex action filled drama, and especially if you and your significant other like to find shows to watch together, check out The Americans. –June