'The Americans' Season Finale Review: Brilliant Acting Keeps Show Strong


The Americans season one finale is Wednesday. Originally, the show was thought of as FX's answer to Showtime's Homeland. Over the course of the season, it has proved that it is not another Homeland. The only area where they overlap is in their similar story lines of espionage.

The Americans has stayed consistent throughout its first season, with its premise resting on KGB agents in an arranged marriage, pretending to be the All-American family. In this, it has not faltered and the facade remains in place. Will this optical illusion survive multiple seasons? This remains to be seen, but I have faith in the shows actors and producers.

In season one, we have seen Philip and Elizabeth Jennings commit numerous atrocities in their service to Russia. They have murdered for their country, taken on numerous identities, and entered into illicit relationships all for the sake of gathering information to aid the KGB. They do not waiver in their devotion, nor would they hesitate to die for the cause.

The strength of the show lies in its main characters, played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. Their marriage, though a fraud, is conflicting for them. It is on one hand quite loving, but on the other extremely brittle.

Keri Russell makes a steely Elizabeth Jennings, a woman perfectly capable of handling the demands of her dual life. Matthew Rhys is her perfect counterpart. The pairing of these two accomplished actors makes the show believable and engrossing.

While there have been a few implausible plot developments over the course of the season, the central focus has not been lost. The pair live across the street from an FBI agent fighting the KGB, and their bizarre activities do not arouse much suspicion. This is more than odd. But once the FBI agent's personal problems overtake him, this inconsistency has less relevance.

Another element making this show tick along like a well oiled machine is the constant element of surprise. Within the KGB spy unit, Phillip and Elizabeth encounter a formidable opponent in Claudia, played by Margo Martindale, who oversees them. But whether she is a friend or a foe remains ambiguous.

It seems that Claudia, Elizabeth, and Phillip are on a collision course with each other, even though they are all working for the good of the KGB. Not only do they have the FBI to contend with, they cannot trust one another. Up to this point, the FBI is several steps behind them. But steadily, they are catching up, nipping at their heels ever so subtly.

Will the FBI finally apprehend the Jennings's, or will they run afoul with their fellow KGB spy? All of these answers remain to be seen, as this could play out for any length of time.

Ultimately, the heart of the show is Phillip and Elizabeth. Separated right now, their personal relationship still has palpable heat, fraught with a mixture of apprehension and like-minded devotion. The Americans has all the right components to keep it going for the foreseeable future.