Hit spy thriller The Americans has received a lot of critical acclaim since it began in 2013. The series, now on to its third season in the US, tells the story of KGB agents Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) Jennings who pose as an all-American family whilst spying for the Russian government. At the end of the first season Elizabeth was shot during a confrontation with the FBI that almost cost her life. Viewers also save Philip and Elizabeth struggle with their relationship and it was revealed that their ‘marriage’ was a cover for their jobs.
The second season picks up months after the first season as Elizabeth returns home after making a full recovery. As far as everyone is concerned, she has been looking after a sick aunt who had a nasty fall but not everyone is buying the lie. Philip and Elizabeth’s daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) grew increasingly suspicious of her parents in the first season and her suspicions continue to grow over the course of the second season.
One of the core themes of the second season is that of family and we get an even deeper look at Philip and Elizabeth’s relationship. They address the fact that their relationship never really progressed into a genuine loving one with Elizabeth beginning to feel jealous over Philip’s marriage to his informant Martha (Alison Wright) who is oblivious about who Philip really is. Outside of Philip and Elizabeth’s issues, they both have to deal with Paige’s change in behaviour when she joins a local church group and continues to try and find out what her parents are hiding from her.
Outside of the family storylines, Philip and Elizabeth get dragged into the murders of two fellow KGB agents who they were working on a mission with. They discover that American navel officer Andrew Larrick (Lee Tergesen) may have had something to do with the murders and try to get close to him to find out what his involvement, if any, actually was. The Jennings also get a new handler after their relationship with Claudia (Margo Martindale) crumbled during the first season.
Elsewhere in the season Nina (Annet Mahendru) continues to tread a dangerous line after coming clean about working as a mole for the FBI. At the end of the first season she presented a file to her bosses on FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) and throughout the second season she plays both sides whilst dealing with new KGB agent Oleg (Costa Ronin).
At the heart of The Americans are fearless performances by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. The two actors have a sizzling chemistry and they make a fantastic on-screen duo. They play conflict as perfectly as the couple’s more tender moments and their ability to play a variety of different characters in various guises is superb. Noah Emmerich is strong too as FBI agent Stan and Holly Taylor really comes into her own as the Jennings’ curious daughter.
Special features on the DVD release include a selection of deleted scenes, a gag reel and 3 behind-the-scenes featurettes taking you deeper into the show.
The Americans is a complex and gripping series. There is a lot going on and it takes all of your attention to keep up with the various plot strands. Once you get into the show though it sinks its teeth in and you’ll find yourself addicted in no time. The second season of the show is stronger than the first with the stakes higher and the characters of Philip and Elizabeth further fleshed out. The Americans is one of the most under-rated shows currently on TV and we hope it finds a new home here in the UK after being dropped by ITV.