Pin It
Favorite

TV — The Americans 

click to enlarge Fake love: Soviet style.
  • Fake love: Soviet style.

By now, we’re used to seeing the main character as the villain on television: the mob boss, the dirty cop, the meth-cook mastermind. Simply by sitting on the throne of “protagonist” they become somebody we root for.

Yet, The Americans (10 pm Wednesdays on FX) experiments with that formula by pushing it one step further. The horrible things the protagonists on The Americans do aren’t in service of America, or preventing crime, or protecting their family or even lining their own pockets: They do it for the Soviet Union.

Elizabeth (Keri Russell, Felicity) and Phillip Jennings (Matthew Rhys, Brothers & Sisters) seem to be a generic 1980s suburban couple with a thriving marriage and children. In reality, they’re longtime Soviet sleeper agents. Their idyllic lifestyle gets a little more complicated when a counterintelligence agent happens to move next door.

The Americans excels on the scene-by-scene level, featuring cleverly constructed, thrilling, devastating and agonizing moments that, unfortunately, are confusingly organized. Prestige cable shows seem to conflate viewers struggling to follow the plot with great writing, but here it drags down the pilot episode.

Television, of course, has a long tradition of telling spy stories, from the intentionally ridiculous (Chuck, I Spy) to the unintentionally ridiculous (Alias). For the most part, The Americans, heavy with dark shadows, moody music and the static of ambient sounds, aims to be serious. The first two episodes deal with very serious issues — rape, blackmail, treason and torture.

But to a younger person like me, a kindergartner when the Soviet Union fell, the one-time superpower seems more like the province of Yakov Smirnoff jokes and campy Red Alert videogames, not a genuine threat to national security. So when Elizabeth speaks of love for “the motherland,” unironically, it’s hilarious in all the wrong ways.

You can see The Americans struggling with its identity: does it stay loyal to Sopranos-style “quality television,” or defect, becoming fun Prison Break-style pulp?

I recommend the latter. There are enough great dramas out there, and not enough purely enjoyable ones.

  • Pin It

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • In the Line of Fire
  • In the Line of Fire

    The Spokane Firefighters Memorial Project reminds us of those who died in their duty to protect
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Through His Eyes
  • Through His Eyes

    Dean Davis' show at the MAC is a survey of the region's artistic talents
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • For Your Consideration
  • For Your Consideration

    Creepy games, financial podcast pick and an important book
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue
All is Calm

All is Calm @ The Modern Theater Coeur d'Alene

Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 21

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Daniel Walters

  • For Your Consideration
  • For Your Consideration

    Creepy games, financial podcast pick and an important book
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Game Changer
  • Game Changer

    Since David Condon became mayor, Jan Quintrall has been responsible for some of the biggest changes in the city of Spokane — and some of its biggest controversies
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Captain Planet

    Recycle Man is making the world a little better for people and mascots alike, one bottle at a time
    • Dec 10, 2014
  • Neighborhood Feel

    The Backyard brings a cozy bar to West Central
    • Nov 25, 2014
  • More »

Top Tags in
Culture & Food

Culture


Digest


last word


Food


for your consideration


© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation