At the height of the Cold War two Russian agents pose as your average American couple, complete with family.At the height of the Cold War two Russian agents pose as your average American couple, complete with family.At the height of the Cold War two Russian agents pose as your average American couple, complete with family.
By the first episode, the emotional complications of their own arranged-in-a-KGB training camp marriage are starting to take their toll on 'Catherine' and 'Philip' with the latter showing signs of a flagging fealty to the Motherland and a deepening emotional bond with his de facto wife. Catherine, for her part, while still the mentor-pleasing star pupil of her Soviet special agent training academy maintains her stealth focus on the mission. If her heart is with the former Panther she had recruited years earlier, her body is a machine that belongs solely to the state, functioning simultaneously as a sexual weapon and a shape shifting, blow- deflecting device that can pack a school lunch. Kerri Russell, even in her '80's 'mom jeans', could serve any Bond girl her dinner in a dog dish.
Long story short: I'm just loving the s#*t out of 'The Americans', which could have just as easily been another 'Homeland' - in other words, more paranoid post 9/11 agitprop about the heroic government agents doing battle against a stealth enemy and his prayer beads. Unlike the aforementioned 'Homeland' that centers on Carrie Mathison's bug-eyed certitude of a turned 'evil-doer' in her imaginary-seeming cross hairs, 'The Americans', with the "blink and you'll miss it" sly humor so emphatically absent in the 'counterterrorism' genre it subverts, tells the story of subterfuge on American soil through the eyes of a Cold War nemesis. Where Homeland's Claire Danes channels Ann Coulter playing a Gena Rowlands 'woman-on-the- verge' protagonist you want to shoot with a horse tranquilizer, 'The Americans' - both husband and wife - dispenses with the Emmy-baiting histrionics, allowing the complexities of their characters to take shape through their interactions with each other, their children and the Americans they emulate. 'Catherine' can't seem to pronounce the A-word without revealing her contempt for her adopted homeland, while 'Philip' is at pains to conceal his love of hot dogs and a burgeoning middle-aged complacency at odds with the escalating danger of their missions. The perverse nature of their facades is encapsulated in a few second shot of the family appearing at the doorstep of their newly arrived next-door neighbors, bearing cake to welcome Mr and Mrs Beeman. The viewer gets a glimpse of the inner-turmoil behind their overly-rehearsed, "American" smiles with the knowledge that there is a near fatally wounded man bound and gagged in the trunk of the family sedan. Carrie Mathison would have pounded down their door at 3 am, brandishing a pistol and screaming about birthday cake until someone from Homeland Security dragged her back to her rubber room with a warning.
Their friendly neighbor Agent Beeman, whose backyard barbecues they attend as a family, pursues them via a beautiful Russian consulate employee he has managed to 'turn' through blackmail, murder and sex, not realizing of course, his somewhat doofus neighbor 'Philip' and his lovely wife are the chimeric KGB phantoms responsible for the growing body count among his ranks, which in time will include his own partner. In the meantime, 'Philip' has honey trapped a plain Jane clerical worker in the FBI who thinks her new beau works for the Vice- President. Non-American actor Matthew Rhys as "Phillip" disguised as "Clark" the bumbling suitor brings levity and a lovely pathos to the otherwise heart-stopping drama.
'The Americans' despite its Cold War, espionage-based story-telling and often stomach churning violence is at heart, a very human drama about the charades involved in maintaining an 'identity' (we are all implicated as impostors), while highlighting the futile, tit-for-tat end- games played by nation states all claiming a non-existent moral high ground.
- Apr 26, 2013