Spy Factor: Looking Back At THE AMERICANS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Spy Factor: Looking Back At THE AMERICANS

В предыдущих сериях в Американцах.

The Americans was lorded with praise from critics, picked up a strong loyal audience of fans, and bestowed multiple awards across its six seasons. However I firmly believe if it had arrived, perhaps, five years sooner those awards would've been ten fold and the fandom would've exponentially multiplied. But arriving in 2013, just as long-form television was reaching its first peak phase, The Americans often slipped under the radar for many viewers. I've heard people say "I just can't fit another show in" and that's very much where we are now, so many great series' pass us by because, let's face it, there are only so many hours in the day when we can realistically commit ourselves to taking on another series. And The Americans is certainly one that needs taking on. Casual viewing is not an option here.

Set during the Cold War, The Americans follows the story of Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), two Soviet KGB officers posing as an American married couple living in Falls Church, a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. with their children, Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati). The six seasons ultimately tell one story, splattered throughout with deep espionage and undercover missions for the Jennings and their various operatives. As Clark, one of his multiple identities, Philip romances Martha, an FBI secretary, to obtain classified information. As Stephanie, a home care nurse, Elizabeth nurses the ailing wife of an American nuclear-arms negotiator so she can bug his conversations and extract information.

The Americans also explores the conflict between Washington's FBI office and the KGB Rezidentura by following the perspectives of agents on both sides, including the Jennings' neighbor Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), an FBI agent working in counterintelligence. The series begins in the aftermath of the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in January 1981 and concludes in December 1987, shortly before the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Perhaps the genius of The Americans is that it is first and foremost a family drama, with added spy elements. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are entirely believable as the Jennings, with perhaps one of the strongest displays of on-screen chemistry in recent years (helped in no small part by them becoming a couple in real life and marrying during the early years of the show's production). Fitting in raising a family in between their 'work' commitments is no easy task, but then when is it for anyone? Ultimately, their eldest child Paige is drawn into their life of espionage, yet Elizabeth, initially an unwilling mother but now a protective matriarch, shields her from the harshest elements and the realism of using sex as a weapon to further their cause.

Rhys' Philip Jennings is punching above his weight in the marriage department, largely as the two were paired together solely for this deep undercover mission and not organically, never slowly falling in love, just thrust into their new roles as husband/wife and told to blend in by starting a family and running a business. Yet Philip clearly loves Elizabeth from the word go, he's also not aghast by the consumerism of American culture, something Elizabeth can not accept. Growing up with nothing, starving and grey and cold and empty, this western way of life is uncomfortable for her and will never wear her down to a point where she enjoys the creature comforts this new life is offering her. Elizabeth's allegiance to the KGB and the Soviet Union, as well as the ideology of communism, is stronger and more straightforward than Philip's. As although he is loyal to his cause, Philip holds little animosity towards the United States.

Having the FBI agent tasked with the job of tracking down Russian spies, Stan Beeman, move in across the street from the Jennings adds unlimited degrees of tension to the proceedings. The long cat and mouse chase is further confused as undercover agent becomes friend with counterintelligence agent and the Jennings, especially Philip, live in heightened state of not knowing when their truth will be uncovered.

The realism behind the espionage is not only helped by the fact that it's set against real world events from the 1980s but also because series creator Joe Weisberg is a former CIA officer. He based some plot lines on real-life stories and integrating tactics and methods he learned in his training, such as dead drops and communication protocols. Weisberg also found himself fascinated by stories he had heard from agents who served abroad as spies, while raising their families. At the end of the day, sometimes, when you're struggling in your marriage or with your children, it can feel like life or death. For Philip and Elizabeth, it often is.

Music plays a key role in The Americans. From the pilot episode using Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, and the inclusion of Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight, to the finale's blisteringly emotional beet-perfect timing of U2's With Or Without You, and (in what should feel like near-cheesy overkill, but never for one second does) Dire Straight's Brothers In Arms.

And it's that song which is perhaps the perfect summing up of The Americans. The international relations depicted throughout the series are simply an allegory for human relations. There's no "evil empire" as Reagan once said. Sure, I'm not idealist enough to think there aren't evil individuals (and, sadly, they often rise to the top and end up in powerful positions) but most of us are just people. Doesn't matter where we're from we're all the same, struggling through life and our daily routine and living together on one planet. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The western way and Americanisms are no more right that the Soviet way. Just different that's all.

Maybe the biggest impact of The Americans is that after everything friendship trumps all. The most unlikely friendship of them all between Philip and Stan was genuine, to the point that even after Stan discovers the Jennings' secret he can't bring himself to harm his friend. As the song says, we're fools to make war on our brother's in arms as, ultimately, there's no winner. Just people. Living, working, struggling, often doing as we're told to make ends meet while we raise a family and, perhaps, leave some kind of impact on the planet. It's made easier with friendships, harder by building walls and barriers and having a them and us attitude.

No matter what espionage work the Jennings did to further the cause, it was the friendships they made and raising their children together that bought them closer and eventually saw their love for one another grow. We'll remember them for that.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad