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Sunday, March 07, 2021

TV Rewind | The Americans: The genre-defining spy thriller

The Americans, starring Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, can easily be called as one of the best spy thrillers of the decade. Set against the Cold War, the series promises nail-biting suspense and delivers almost all the time.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: December 15, 2019 2:23:44 pm
tv rewind the americans The Americans has a total of 75 episodes.

Set during the Cold War in the 1980s, The Americans is a show about two Russian spies who have been living as Americans in Washington DC since the 1960s. Starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in lead roles, The Americans is a spy thriller that holds your attention from the pilot episode and forces you to binge-watch through its six seasons.

What is the show all about?

The Americans opens with a mission gone wrong by the hands of Russian spies who have established a cover for themselves as an American family with two kids. Things change as an FBI agent moves in next door and they now have to constantly keep their guard up.

With the Cold War setting, their job requires them to disguise themselves and find ways to get intelligence back to Moscow. They are required to infiltrate high-security areas, con people with information, steal technology, and also murder when their people expect them to do so. Since the show is set in the 1980s, we see a lot of old school spy methods like coded messages and surveillance that would allow them to stay hidden in plain sight.

the americans tv show tv rewind The Americans had the lead characters dressing up in various disguises.

Matthew Rhys’ Philip and Keri Russell’s Elizabeth are Russians who were arranged to live together in the US like a family. Along with these two, the show also stars Noah Emmerich as FBI agent Stan Beeman.

Creator Joe Weisberg was inspired by the Illegals program that was exposed by the FBI in 2010 and decided to set it in the 80s at the height of the Cold War.

Best bits of The Americans

The Americans had a fantastic run through most of its seasons. The Season 1 track of Nina Krilova as she turns into a double agent was exactly the kind of stuff that we had expected out of a spy show and The Americans delivered.

the americans tv show Nina was never the strong-headed girl and the show kept pushing her further into her madness.

Philip and Elizabeth’s storyline with their daughter Paige was further developed in subsequent seasons which saw her trying to fit in with her new surroundings. Her involvement with the church as well as her struggle to accept her parents’ truth started to get repetitive after a while, but it was the kind of threat that maintained high tension.

The bio-weapons program that forced Philip to reflect on his actions and the track following Dylan Baker’s William Crandall provided an engaging storyline where the viewers, as well as the characters, were clueless about the next move. It was here that Oleg Burov’s character managed to shine the most.

While the show had many interesting tracks, the one that stood out was the one with Martha. Her story is a slow burn at the start, but as the show progresses, her storyline evolves wonderfully. Her reaction after she learns the truth of her husband and her subsequent exfiltration from the US was the culmination of probably the best track on the show. Alison Wright gave it all as Martha and watching her in glimpses in Moscow in later seasons made you miss her character even more.

martha tv rewind The episode where Martha calls her parents to say goodbye was as heart-wrenching for the viewers as it was for Philip.

What does not work for The Americans?

While most tracks managed to pan out in an engaging way, it was the fifth season of the show that disappointed the viewers. Unlike the previous seasons, the looming threat of poisonous grains was resolved quickly, and the subplot involving Mischa and Irina’s son was not the stuff that the audience expected out of The Americans. Moving Oleg to Moscow was no help either.

Since the show had a reputation for being fast-paced, this season felt odd and disrupted the overall pace of the show. In hindsight, it was here that Philip’s character actually started to transform and without his arc here, the final season would have made no sense whatsoever.

The impressive finale

Not all successful shows can pull off a convincing finale, but The Americans managed to do so and how. Halfway through the episode, the sense of mystery holds you and the character development that you have witnessed in the past few seasons actually pays off.

the americans finale tv rewind The finale of The Americans was the perfect send-off to the show.

The Philip-Elizabeth vs Stan dynamic was always going to be the big conflict of the show and while you are taken aback by the hastiness of it, it also feels like something that was in the works for six seasons.


Through its run, The Americans was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards and won 4 awards. For the first three seasons, neither Matthew nor Keri were nominated for their roles, and this was considered as a major snub by the Emmys. They received nominations for the subsequent seasons with Matthew winning an award in the show’s last season.

TV Rewind | Mildred Pierce | How I Met Your Mother | Boston Legal | Death Note | Heroes | Felicity | Small Wonder | Breaking Bad | That 70s ShowAHS Roanoke | Friends | The West Wing | Sharp Objects | Patrick Melrose | AHS Murder House | Arrested Development | Two and a Half Men | Girls | The Good Wife | Dead Set | Dexter | Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip | The Office | Parks and Recreation | Fringe | Broadchurch | Seinfeld | Lost | Mad Men | Sex and the City

The Americans is streaming on Hotstar.

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