Red Scare: The Americans

The uncanny ability to capture the interest of a viewer in a quick 15 to 30 second clip, to really draw someone in is what separates good shows from great ones. F/X drew myself and countless others in with the clip of Jackson Teller riding side by side with Chief Hale and uttered the following: “We’re all free men, protected by the Constitution. You look any way you want, Chief.” Based on the success of Sons of Anarchy I decided to give the next show released by F/X  a try. The network quickly captured my interest without using words at all in their next promo. It was simply the image of the American Flag transforming into the USSR flag.

4 seasons later, “The Americans” continues to be one of my favorite tv shows to watch yet remains relatively unknown to the mass audience. The premise remains simple: The KGB has implemented a program where their spies infiltrate American intelligence as a married couple, living the typical American life — but how long can they get away with it before they are caught? What kept me drawn in through this past season (S4) were the characters more so than the “will they be caught” angle. Matthew Rhys, the main male lead is a general unknown but plays the role of Philip very well. He toes the line of Russian Patriot versus defector that wants what is best for his family in America. Keri Russel plays a very strong female role as Elizabeth. Always focused on the mission but shows glimpses of humanity when joining Philip in their lone fight to make sure that their missions for the Mother Land never take precedence over their family. Their struggle to force their marriage to work is an intense drama in of itself. Every time you see  their connection rekindle or grow, something steps in to push them further apart. It’s an odd dynamic I’ve never seen explored, but captivating none the less.

The reason for the write up on S4 in particular is that televisions’ better stories seem to peak at this point which I believe to hold true for The Americans. Breaking Bad and The Wire are prime examples of shows that know when the story is tapped. Character exploration has reached it’s highest point as Philip and Elizabeth’s origin have been shown in greater detail than any previous season. Obstacles to conceal their identity have multiplied immensely to the point that it begs the question: is it time for the show to end? Prime examples of shows that stuck around for a season or two too long would be The Office or Dexter. I would rather see The Americans revered in the same discussion with the Breaking Bad’s and Wire’s of television and separate itself from good to great. The opportunity to do so has presented itself, will the writers follow suite?

*Side Note: The Character of Martha is quickly rising in the ranks of the Sklyar White: Hated Women of TV shows scale at an exponential rate

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