The Americans – The Best Drama on TV

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FX Networks
Matthew Rhys (Philip Jennings) and Keri Russell (Elizabeth Jennings)

The world’s environmental climate has gotten warmer and warmer, but the world’s political climate has only gotten colder and colder. With allegations of ties between President Donald Trump and the Russian government, the story of The Americans is more relevant than ever.

Set during the Cold War, the show centers on two Soviet KGB officers (Elizabeth and Philip Jennings) living in Falls Church, Virginia in Washington D.C. with their children, Paige and Henry. A new neighbor, Stan Beeman, moves across the street with his family in the first episode. Unfortunately for the Jennings, Stan happens to be an FBI agent working in counterintelligence.

Craig Blankenhorn/FX Networks
Richard Thomas (Frank Gaad) and Noah Emmerich (Stan Beeman)

Throughout the series, Philip and Elizabeth carry out covert intelligence operations for the Soviet Union while simultaneously dealing with their marriage, their children, and their relationships with the ill-fated people they manipulate.

Helping the Jennings are the KGB agents working at the Soviet embassy and in Russia, most of whom the Jennings don’t ever meet. With such a complex operation, there is no wonder why the extent of Cold War tensions reached so far.

On the side of the Americans is Stan, oblivious to the fact that there are KGB spies right across the street. He and his FBI colleagues do their fair share of manipulation to get whatever information they can.

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Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in wigs and costumes

Although the show’s premise is simply one of a spy thriller, the show is actually much more than that.

The Americans is at its core a marriage story,” said show creator and show-runner Joe Weisberg in an interview with Slate. “International relations is just an allegory for the human relations.”

Fortunately, the show has what critics are calling one of the most realistic depictions of marriage ever portrayed on television.

In addition to marriage, The Americans is about devotion. Philip and Elizabeth regularly come across reasons to question their cause. Philip especially has become more Americanized since arriving to America. Elizabeth, however, has always been passionate about the cause. She says that she does what she does to “make the world a better place.”

This theme encompasses other parts of the show too. Stan has had his devotion tested many times. KGB agents Nina Krilova and Oleg Burov and KGB scientist William Crandall have questioned their devotions as well to name just a few.

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Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor (Paige Jennings), and Keri Russell

The Americans serves as a nice history lesson of the Cold War. Topics such as the war in Afghanistan, the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, and the American bioweapons program are extensively explored.

Weisberg, a former CIA agent, was inspired to write the show by the Illegals Program, in which the FBI found and arrested ten Russian sleeper agents in an investigation on 2010.

He and co-showrunner Joel Fields have been given six seasons in total to write their story. The show is currently at its fifth season, stronger than ever.

The Americans has the rare quality of getting better and better every season. Although season one of the show is some great television, the season five tensions have an absolute stranglehold on the viewers and the characters that are incomparable to season one.

Nonetheless, the show has ridiculously low ratings. The only things that have saved the show from cancellation years ago are widespread critical acclaim and mercy from FX CEO John Landgraf.

One reason the show might have such low ratings is the show’s tendency to humanize its Russian characters. All sides of the Cold War are shown in shades of gray with very few exemptions.

“What better time to humanize Russian espionage than the time that we’re the victims of it?” said Fields in an interview with PBS NewsHour. “That’s the time when you’re most inclined to dehumanize . . . One of the most dangerous things we can do when under attack is to dehumanize the enemy.”

At the end of its run, The Americans will be considered one of the greatest shows of all time, but one does not have to wait until then to watch it.

New episodes of the fifth season are on FX every Tuesday night at 10:00 PM, and seasons one to four are available on demand on Amazon Prime Video.