January 31st, 2013
10:03 AM ET
[Editor's Note: This post contains spoilers for the series premiere of "The Americans" -- you've been warned.]
Let's get this out of the way from the start: "The Americans," the most anticipated FX series since "American Horror Story," is the real deal.
Wednesday night's episode was the most gripping series premiere of the season (at least since the sadly canceled "Last Resort").
So here are just a few things we liked about it:
1. "The Americans" dares you to sympathize with Soviet spies
Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) are spies who've been living as a married couple under assumed names for nearly 20 years, and are out to sabotage and ultimately take down the U.S.
They're not exactly portrayed as saints, but they are sympathetic to some extent, if only by virtue of the fact that they're the main characters and get the most screen time.
But you also wonder if they'll eventually be discovered, which brings us to the next point.
2. Noah Emmerich is great in everything
From "The Truman Show" to "Super 8" to "The Walking Dead," Emmerich is truly one of our most underrated character actors.
He's terrific as Stan, the FBI agent next door, who has recently been told that the agency is in an all-out war with the KGB.
For a good while, you can't tell if Stan is on to the Jennings or if he's oblivious (again, a testament to Emmerich's performance). It turns out he's somewhat suspicious, even going so far as to check the Jennings' trunk, where a man had been held captive.
Unfortunately for Stan, a gun-wielding Phillip caught him snooping around, but didn't do anything about it when it happened.
3. Keri Russell is a revelation, again
Russell has surprised us in role after role, and I'm already hoping she'll get an Emmy nomination as Elizabeth.
J.J. Abrams based "Alias" on the idea that Russell's "Felicity" could be a spy. We never got to catch a glimpse of Russell in action until "Mission: Impossible III," though (spoiler alert) her character didn't last long.
On this show, Elizabeth is ruthless, at times committing more acts of physical violence than her "husband." It also appears that she's more committed to the KGB than he is, which brings us to the point that ...
4. The stakes are high
At one point, Phillip suggested getting out of the spy game, and living their lives in the U.S. as they had, minus the work for the KGB.
Elizabeth squelches that idea right away. It's clear that the only real way out for these two is imprisonment or death.
5. This show knows how to use its 1980s soundtrack
Period TV shows can be a tricky thing, especially when it comes to music. "The Wonder Years" and "Freaks and Geeks" did a great job with it, and I would argue that "That '70s Show" (as well as the current "Carrie Diaries") used it as a crutch at times.
"The Americans' " opening chase scene had a brilliant soundtrack, and the songs chosen tend to fit with the scene. The most memorable example was "In the Air Tonight," which coincided with the Jennings disposing of that body in the trunk and then getting frisky (and yeah, that was a bit disturbing as well).
Here's hoping they continue to downplay the 1980s-ness of it, and only bring it out where it fits.
So is "The Americans" the next big cable series, as the promos seemed to promise? Only time and ratings will tell, but I'm eager to see future episodes.
What did you think? Share your thoughts on video or post a comment.
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