• Network: FX
  • Series Premiere Date: Jan 30, 2013
  • Season #: 1 , 2
User Score
8.5

Universal acclaim- based on 265 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 11 out of 265

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  1. Jun 25, 2014
    3
    Before 9/11, the primary villains on politically themed film/TV thrillers were neo-Nazis, environment-raping capitalists and (especially during GOP administrations) the CIA. Now, like a ricin-tipped assassin's umbrella on which the poison has passed its expiration date, comes the Cold War retro-drama "The Americans"; and as usual, the main villains are us.

    The fictional ("factually
    Before 9/11, the primary villains on politically themed film/TV thrillers were neo-Nazis, environment-raping capitalists and (especially during GOP administrations) the CIA. Now, like a ricin-tipped assassin's umbrella on which the poison has passed its expiration date, comes the Cold War retro-drama "The Americans"; and as usual, the main villains are us.

    The fictional ("factually inspired") story of two Russian-born KGB moles living and working as a married couple in Washington during the Reagan presidency, the series arrives a quarter-century since the Venona Papers and other documents from behind the former Iron Curtain confirmed that the worst things suspected of the KGB were true. Yet that doesn't stop The Americans from recycling the familiar tropes, and Moscow Center-trained agents Phillip and Elizabeth (Mathew Rhys, Keri Russell) are licensed both to kill and to play the moral equivalency card to the hilt. Thus, in Season 2, before stealing access codes to the main gate of a Contra training camp in Nicaragua from a truck driver whom they then leave to die, Elizabeth justifies their acts as righteous retaliation for the CIA's efforts to oust the Sandinista regime.

    Yes, this is familiar stuff: liberals in the film/TV industry typically have trouble discerning a difference in kind between "Coca Cola Imperialism" and the mass-murdering totalitarianism Reagan called an Evil Empire. And The Americans routinely exploits its audience's presumed ignorance of the real record in order to rationalize Phillip's and Elizabeth's ruthless deeds ...while taking gratuitous shots at Reagan that feel motivated less by the needs of the plot than by the director's animus. (In a sex scene shot on a desk in a government office, there's a pan-and-push to Reagan's portrait.)

    The show's creator Joe Weisberg reportedly changed his initial plan to make his KGB lovebirds conspicuously more appealing than their FBI adversaries. But there's no sign he forsook the revisionism that's clearly meant to demonize Reagan and preempt the visceral loathing US viewers might be expected to feel for a leading man and lady who cold-bloodedly murder our fellow citizens. But I confess that I'm reactionary enough to heartily despise Phil and Llz, and wish the worst for them in every episode. And that makes watching The Americans maddening, since I know I won't get to see them get their comeuppance, if only because they need to stick around for next season. Yet for the show's more adoring critics, the historic background is merely a plot device, provoking no more loyalty for "our side" than they'd feel for one of the 7 Warring Kingdoms in "Game of Thrones".

    Such can't be said of Elizabeth, whose fiery devotion to her "Mother Country" is offered to contexutalize her fanaticism and support the premise that while both sides did awful things, ours probably did worse. And for viewers who miss the card-stacking, or are indifferent to it, or dislike but can ignore it, The Americans does deserve praise for its insights into the modern paradoxes and problems of sex, parenting and marriage. And yes, it's just a tv show. After all, 12 years ago Russell was the lovesick co-ed in "Felicity Porter"; and if Elizabeth's post-Freudian conflict with iron-willed mother figure/KGB controller "Claudia" (Margo Martindale) helps even one adult daughter face up to her own abandonment issues, who could object?

    It's not that the action's realism makes it hard to suspend disbelief. In fact, when Elizabeth dons her hit-suit and starts bounding around slaughtering Enemies of Socialism, the show verges on parody. And when Claudia tazers then cuts the jugular of a CIA man in a DC hotel room, we can try to bear in mind that the actress playing her is also the laugh-a-minute ├╝ber-mom on the CBS comedy "The Millers". And yes, that particular CIA man was a hateful SOB. But he was our SOB, and the thing The Americans gets away with is using creative license to drive one way on a two-way street: putting US actions in the worst light, to give the show's co-stars lots of synthetic fuel for MA-rated retributive mayhem.

    Stalin and his heirs, and the "cause" to which The Americans' play-acting KGB agents constantly reaffirm their devotion, piled up a body count equal to six Holocausts. Which makes it hard to understand SLATE critic Sarah Carlson's explanation that she roots for Phillip and Elizabeth because, after all, it's "never easy to be completely on one side of a conflict".

    Maybe historic truth and nationalist fervor can't easily survive in a video game culture where a coin flip decides whether you play Patton or Rommel, Rickenbacker or the Red Baron, the cop or the car thief. Yet, not long ago, US college kids were climbing light poles and setting bonfires to celebrate the killing of bin Laden, and having no trouble being "completely on one side".

    So maybe we'll be okay. But if not,The Americans' popularity may prove to have been a canary in the Siberian salt mine.
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  2. Mar 6, 2013
    2
    Another one bites the dust, great premise but lacks all heart. It went for an hour but I literally felt like I was watching it for days, so tedious and dragged out boring. The casting is horrible, Russell is completely miscast in the role and does not ever come across as being able to defend herself, let alone beat up someone bigger than her. Her acting is flat and lifeless. It's trying toAnother one bites the dust, great premise but lacks all heart. It went for an hour but I literally felt like I was watching it for days, so tedious and dragged out boring. The casting is horrible, Russell is completely miscast in the role and does not ever come across as being able to defend herself, let alone beat up someone bigger than her. Her acting is flat and lifeless. It's trying to ride the hype of the recent terrorist shows out at the moment and in this case no amount of Phil Collins music will help it succeed. Expand
  3. Feb 17, 2013
    1
    Watched most of the first episode and then just gave up. Can't buy that these supposed native Russians are as American as apple pie. They're depressing. Kerry Russell is boring. Her character has no personality. Her ability to beat the crap out of big thuggy guys with no response on their part is laughable. The family life seemed out of place. The early 1980s is too recent to be a periodWatched most of the first episode and then just gave up. Can't buy that these supposed native Russians are as American as apple pie. They're depressing. Kerry Russell is boring. Her character has no personality. Her ability to beat the crap out of big thuggy guys with no response on their part is laughable. The family life seemed out of place. The early 1980s is too recent to be a period piece and too old to be interesting. I just couldn't get into it. Collapse
  4. Feb 13, 2013
    1
    I was looking forward to the show but felt really disappointed. Although the acting is fantastic it was just so boring to watch. Maybe it is a slow burner and more is to come but I just did not enjoy the story line either. Also there is something wrong with Rhys' mouth, I think his teeth have been capped and it made him look weird. Because of this I could not take him seriously. RussellI was looking forward to the show but felt really disappointed. Although the acting is fantastic it was just so boring to watch. Maybe it is a slow burner and more is to come but I just did not enjoy the story line either. Also there is something wrong with Rhys' mouth, I think his teeth have been capped and it made him look weird. Because of this I could not take him seriously. Russell gave some terrific acting but I did not feel she could save this program. Expand
  5. Jan 31, 2013
    0
    Weak show a version of Alias meet Homeland without the good parts. Russel and Ryhs are flat and not believable and Emmerich scares the audience with every appearance on screen. All in all a must miss.
Metascore
78

Generally favorable reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 35
  2. Negative: 0 out of 35
  1. Reviewed by: Sara Smith
    Feb 1, 2013
    80
    [A] smart espionage drama.
  2. Reviewed by: Tom Long
    Feb 1, 2013
    67
    The Americans has potential. The way it uses recent history as a reflector of modern deceits while bouncing the concept of patriotism around mixes nicely with the hang-by-your-fingertips story turns.
  3. Reviewed by: Tom Gliatto
    Jan 31, 2013
    75
    It's tense, engrossing, mildly ludicrous--and worth checking out before the Cold War melts. [11 Feb 2013]