This is certainly the best show I’ve ever seen. Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad are up there, but, in my subjective little opinion, nothing even remotely compares to The Americans. It begins with quite an impression—and only continues to improve and improve all the way to the finale (which is the best episode of the series, followed by the episode before it). What struck me first is the acting. Matthew Rhys’s lead performance as Philip is, again, the best I’ve ever seen—though his co-stars Keri Russell and Noah Emmerick aren’t far behind. Little did I know how captivating and excellent this tour de force of television at its absolute finest gets.
The next thing that stood out is the plot. The Americans revolves around the Jennings, a seemingly normal suburban family in 1980’s Washington D.C. But the parents, Philip and Elizabeth, are top secret Russian spies. Born in the Soviet Union, they trained for years under the KGB and were placed in an arranged marriage, where they had to have kids to blend in and hide their identities—even from the kids, Paige and Henry. The nature of their marriage causes problems; we see its ups and downs each episode, as the question of whether it is “real” is tested. They pose as travel agents, but at night they gather intelligence, eliminate targets, sleep with important people (FBI, CIA, State Department, contractors, scientists, diplomats, defectors, double agents) to gain intel, and do countless other things. The story gradually expands to the hundreds of people intertwined with the Jennings—and their own lives. A prime case is Stan, an FBI agent, who coincidentally moves in across the street. The families become close, but Philip & Elizabeth can’t afford to get caught doing anything suspicious (a nearly impossible task, indeed).
The density, scope, and expansiveness of the plot take viewers into all sorts of wild, tricky, and unforeseen situations. Set in the Reagan era and based on real events—from Reagan’s “Star Wars” to the fall of the Soviet Union, including various summits and arms agreements—the show gradually exposes other factions from around the world too. Likewise, it covers the many factions fighting for power in the Soviet Union. And for either side, allegiance is rarely black and white, as love and friendship often blur the lines. Moreover, from the disguises used to the veracity of the historical operations, the show boasts widespread acclaim from experts (the main writer Joe Weisberg is a former CIA officer). The show is quite intellectually stimulating too, as we see the clashing of ideologies like marxism & atheism with U.S. evangelicalism. *Check out Matthew Rhys’s brilliantly acted scene below.*
In the end, The Americans is excellent in every possible way. The set design is thoughtful, realistic, and consistent—enchanting us with all of the little details, ambiance, & characters needed to facilitate a convincing setting. The costumes, makeup, and outfits are true to the time and place. The camera work, panning, and shots are novel and artistic. The score and soundtrack are absolutely magical. The stunts, fights, etc. are always executed perfectly. The acting is insanely good all around. The philosophical and religious contrasts, as well as the actual historical events taking place in the show, are stimulating; they engender provocative conversations. Most importantly, the show sucks you into its universe. You get so invested in so many characters, regardless of allegiance. You get attached. The first season is great, the second is even better, three is when the show reached its unanimous rating of 100% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and from three to the finale in season six it’s almost too good. You can’t stop watching, you can’t stop thinking about it, and it sabotages your life in the most beautiful way. Plus it’s free to stream on Prime Video! So, check it out. One day it will certainly be considered one of the greatest shows ever not just by critics, political & history savants, and other snobs—which it is—but by the public, too. If I could give this show more than a 10/10, I’d do it in a heartbeat; The Americans is a masterpiece that I’ve seen all the way through literally five or six times, and I never get tired of it. I always want more.