It seems nowadays that any espionage show on television is always focused on some extremist nutjob from some dead patch of land somewhere in the Middle East. Eventually said psycho will make his way into Uncle Sam’s backyard and plot to blow some shit up, along with himself. All the while he is monitored with hi-tech GPS surveillance and what have you. I’m sorry, but that shit is boring. Especially since 2001 was so long ago. For a long time I’ve been hankering for something more substantial, spies vs spies, some Cold War era meat to chew on (or, Cold War V2.0). Then The Americans came along…
The Americans is about a pair of Soviet spies, living in the USA as man and wife, deep embeds. Keri Russell (still hot) plays wife Elizabeth Jennings and Matthew Rhys plays husband Phillip Jennings. To spice things up a bit, they live next to an unsuspecting FBI agent (Noah Emmerich), who comes around to dinner and such. The series is set in 1983, at least the first one was. How much further we’re in by now isn’t really specified, but I’d guess 1985.
What’s to like about this show, it is oldschool spy craft. Clandestine meetings at the park bench, wigs, fake mustaches and bugging the local FBI office. It makes a refreshing change overwrought shit like NCIS. And the 1980s theme also works very well. It’s slower television. No flashy pounding of the senses with slick montages or nightclub music fuelling things like CSI.
Here, in season three, I only have one or two complaints. The couple/spies appear to be extremely active. Too active, given how serious things were. It seems that they are on operation day and night, which will only expose themselves. It’s hard to believe that someone, somewhere in the Reagan administration intel community hasn’t closed the net, even just a bit. 1983 was also a year that saw the planet almost destroyed, but it has never been mentioned on this show. WW3 has a hair away, but evidently they didn’t feel the need to go there with this, can’t think why, it would’ve made great TV.
That said, the pressure rose in season three more than the somewhat lazy second season. Longterm threads are starting to pay narrative dividends. The whole bug in the FBI office arc came full circle, which meant that the Martha Hanson affair also came around to add to the fire. I’d feared they were going to drag those things out, but I was impressed by their sense of pacing. I found these scenes to be fine television, even if it felt it was going to be predictable. I would’ve given this season a seven, until it did the unpredictable with the final phonecall, with daughter Paige. That’s how to end a season.
Oh, and the Commodore 64 makes an appearance… c’mon, the C64!