The Americans TV Show Review: Introducing FX Answer to 'Homeland'


Spoiler alert! The Americans has the feel of Homeland with its idea that spies are in our midst, and that a traitor could live next door and you would never know. But that is where the parallels stop. The Americans is completely original, capturing the climate of early 1980s Cold War America from a unique perspective.

In spite of the premise, there is an innocence that existed during this time that we don't recognize today. The show is set in 1981, set around two married KGB spies, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. Ronald Reagan has just been inaugurated as president of the United States, and Cold War tensions are at fever pitch. Phillip and Elizabeth seem like regular Americans living in their cookie-cutter house with their two children. But appearances deceive, as the audience instantly discovers.

An ex-KGB general, who has turned, is kidnapped by Phillip, Elizabeth, and another KGB agent. The general is carefully hidden away in the trunk of Phillip's and Elizabeth's car.  Interestingly, this ex-General is supposed to give a speech to counter intelligence officials the next day, warning them about the presence of KGB spies in their midst. But he never shows, heightening the tension. 

The Americans parallels many issues we face today. Many of the FBI counter-intelligence officials are skeptical of the KGB, wondering if it even exists. Just like many people today truly wonder if there are terrorists living and working among us, our neighbors, our friends.

A complex history is revealed involving Phillip and Elizabeth, from their arranged marriage, to their complicated relationship in the present day. They were first introduced in 1962, and by 1981, their relationship has evolved. Phillip truly loves her, and he appears to appreciate what America stands for. She is his wife. Elizabeth unadulterated love for Russia never waivers, even if her commitment to Philip does. She doesn't see him as a husband.

Complications ensue when the KGB general is killed byPhillip, who learns of the abuse Elizabeth suffered at his hands. Before killing him, Phillip wants to turn him into their new FBI neighbor Stan Beeman, played by Noah Emmerich. If they turn him in they can leave this life behind. Elizabeth will not relent in her commitment to the KGB.  While Phillip, in turn, won't let go of her.

One issue that has to be cleared up at some point is how their children have no clue what their parents do, amidst the banging around in the garage, and odd behavior they demonstrate. Phillip is clearly a more caring parent, while Elizabeth is distant, trapped in her own mind. Something is off with both of them, and the kids have to recognize this.

If the pilot is any indication, this series shows promise. The threat the KGB poses is sinking in, and their FBI neighbor senses something isn't right. It will be captivating to see how the story of an imposter American family plays out.