Soviet KGB officers Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) Jennings are posing as an all-American family in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. in the 1980s. With their two unsuspecting children, the Jennings appear to be a regular, American family but really Elizabeth and Philip are carrying out secret missions and passing intelligence back to the USSR. They must battle to keep their true identities secret when FBI counter-intelligence agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) moves in next door and starts to snoop around.
The Americans was created by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg and is a character-driven drama that weaves actual events into its narrative. The show is much more than a spy thriller instead exploring and developing the relationship between Elizabeth and Philip whose marriage and family was arranged to give them the perfect cover in the US. At times unsettling and violent, The Americans is an intelligently written show packed with superb performances particularly from its leads Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys.
The first season of the show unfolds over 13 episodes revealing glimpses of Elizabeth and Philip’s pasts as well as focusing on the missions they have to carry out in the present day. From the first episode we see that cracks are appearing in the marriage with Elizabeth and Philip both having different ideas about how they should carry out their missions as well as their futures as KGB officers.
Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys really do carry the show and give incredible performances. They are required to play a variety of characters throughout the first season and don various disguises to conceal their true identities. Russell has been seen on many a TV show over the years but we’ve never seen her give a performance as strong as she does here. Elizabeth is perhaps the show’s most conflicted character and she’s definitely the edgiest. Rhys on the other hand is best-known for his role in Brothers & Sisters but here he plays a character completely different. His chemistry with Russell is believable and his performance is utterly compelling.
Also worthy of a mention is Noah Emmerich as next door neighbour and FBI agent Stan Beeman. Emmerich plays the part really well and his character creates plenty of tension when he befriends the Jennings family but remains suspicious despite his wife insisting he’s paranoid. Will he find them out? Well you’ll have to watch the show to find out won’t you!
The boxset is packed with special features including deleted scenes, commentary on episode The Colonel, behind-the-scenes featurettes and a gag reel.
The Americans: The Complete First Season is a gripping show and one that has just returned to our screens for a second season. Packed with strong performances, gripping storylines and plenty of twists, the show is a fantastic addition to your TV boxset collection. Don’t let the fact that it has been buried in the UK TV schedules fool you into thinking it’s not worthy of your time. The Americans is a show that slowly wins you over and once it has you refuses to let you go.