Debuting on FX in January of 2013, ‘The Americans’ is a familial espionage-centric drama trudging into its fourth season, with a critically acclaimed season 3 in its rear view.
‘The Americans’ is set in the early 1980s, a tumultuous time when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a nuclear chess match otherwise knows as the Cold War. Enter Elizabeth (played by Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (played by Matthew Rhys), two transplant Soviet KGB officers posing as Americans covertly tucked beneath the guise of marriage, family, and church. Fast forward to aesthetically pleasing and cerebral third season, and we pick-up with Elizabeth as she encounters a CIA operative who is allegedly willing to divulge the identities of covert US agents operating in Afghanistan. At the same time, Elizabeth and Philip are forced to make a decision as to whether or not to indoctrinate their daughter Paige into their spy games, and reveal to her their true identities. With the stage set for friction, and littered with real world historical tie ins, the third season of ‘The Americans’ proves to be their best yet.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Etc.) – 4.5
Cinematically speaking, it is hard to find fault with the 3rd season of ‘The Americans.’ Keri Russell continues to provide a nuanced, calculated and multifaceted character, walking a dangerously thin line between two ideologies and two worlds. Her character is constantly placed in the center of heated situations and the net results are so very pleasing to watch play out. While I am admittedly not a fan of extremely graphic material, which is likely well documented in the collection of my past reviews, I am somewhat lured in by the gripping and often stomach turning moments in this series. I would say that, at times, the methodical and slow approach adequately builds the anxiety of the audience, effectively taking them on the ride with the characters on-screen (it’s like ‘Pulling Teeth’… watch episode 3, entitled “Open House,” and that reference will make more sense.)
If you are reading this review, I am assuming that you have already have seen the previous seasons and I highly doubt I need to rehash the production teams perfection when it comes to casting. If you have not scene through the first two season, the WHAT THE H3LL are you thinking!? Go watch the 1st two seasons, it is well worth the build up. While you do that, I will touch on a few of my favorite episodes from the season.
Episode 1 has to be one of my top three from the season as it sets the tone and the season-specific story-arc into motion. And boy did it set things into motion. The entire conversation on whether or not to indoctrinate Paige, and that whole side story is beyond entertaining. The episode constantly leaves you with a desire to know what comes next for the Jennings family. We also see the pressure put on Elizabeth, and to a lesser extent Philip, to concede to the will of The Center.
I already briefly mentioned Episode 3, which is my hands down favorite episode of the season. I don’t want to say too much but, as for this episode in particular, every moment of screen time counts. What I will say is that this episode culminates with one of the most excruciatingly savage scenes in the show’s history. This hour of brilliant espionage was masterfully scripted by Stuart Zicherman and directed by television veteran Thomas Schlamme, whose credits include mega hits like ‘The West Wing’ and ‘Mad About You.’ If you watch only one episode this season, which I would not recommend, this is the one to get you onboard… or sink your ship if you have a weak stomach.
Saving one of the best for last, I present to you Episode 13, or the last episode of the season. While this may not have packed the punch of episode 3, it does tidily package the prior twelve episodes into one cohesive bundle and settles into to setting up the fourth season – which premiered earlier this month.
Entertainment Value – 4
The acting is superb, the tone is highly-intelligent, the dialogue is methodical, and each frame is visually gorgeous. All in all, this is as close to perfection as one would think possible on Cable television, at-least for ‘The Americans’ anyway. This is the pinnacle of intelligent espionage-based television, and judging by this season, it will only get better from here (I hope).
I challenge you to watch the third episode an not get sucked in or feel some type of way within the first 10 minutes of the episode. And if by the end you are not 100% immersed in the Jenning’s stressful world, then I suppose that political thrillers are not your cup of tea, or in this case, shot of vodka.
Re-Wachability – 3.5
Yes, yes and yes. What am I saying yes to three times? All of it! This is one of those shows that has so much complexity and development, that it is an easy choice for a repeat viewing. I would say that this series is worthy candidate to adorn your media shelf or virtual media shelf, if you prefer streaming/digital downloads.
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The acting is superb, the tone is highly-intelligent, the dialogue is methodical, and each frame is visually gorgeous. All in all, this is as close to perfection as one would think possible on Cable television, at-least for ‘The Americans’ anyway.