As of right now, I will be recapping the entire first season of The Americans. If the quality sticks, that is. I’ve been disappointed by almost every new show this season, except for Elementary (which has only been getting better with every episode, right?) so let The Americans stay good because after last night’s pilot, I’m sold.
I decided to blindly go into the premiere. We know too much about everything these days because there is so much press being done for TV shows, movies, etc because no one can risk their product failing that they expose too much and then I stop caring. Also: not having FX in Canada (well, we kind of do but it’s like OWN – good luck finding it) helps because I was barely bombarded with any promotion for it unlike, you know, The Following which was shoved down my throat (everyone is telling me to watch but I need to be convinced and I won’t until I see a second season order/the reviews are consistent).
The pilot comes out the gate swinging and doesn’t stop until the 10 minute mark for it’s title sequence, making this feel much more cinematic than I was expecting, but I am pleasantly surprised. The Americans’ either takes you or leaves you within those first 10 minutes because a car scene set to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” is not for everyone but really, really should be.
Here’s what sold me on The Americans and it happened early on: it’s confidence. The Americans knows exactly what it wants to be, what’s selling to you and it balances the tone from light to dark beautifully and it’s never awkward. There were rough spots (the bedroom fight I needed none of) but they were brief and it kept moving. The two main characters and their roles seemed to have been swapped by gender here. Though Keri Russell’s Elizabeth is a housewife (and also, naturally, a soviet spy) she seems to have a dominant position in the relationship. Phillip, played by Matthew Rhys, is lost in his own marriage and is detached from his wife. I love that the show presents these archetypes through reversed genders; especially given the time period the show is set in. As much as this show is about two spies, it’s also, at it’s core, about a marriage and the struggle. Think Mr. & Mrs. Smith meets Kramer Vs. Kramer (that’s a bit extreme but you get my point).
The acting is fantastic. Matthew Rhys is going to shine if this series continues, and Noah Emmerich is great as always. But, of course, the star here is Keri Russell. Whenever a series takes a frail, impossibly sweet looking actress like Russell, it’s a little harder to believe them in a role that is as physical as the one she plays here. Keri has proven herself in this genre before (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and sheds any doubt the viewer may have had midway through the episode, giving off a Sarah Michelle Gellar/Buffy vibe. And, for the record, she pulled of The Mom Jeans look so any debate can stop here.
So, are we watching The Americans together? Does it get a full season order from you? Let me know!