No doubt, someone in your life has repeatedly encouraged you to watch The Americans, a series they likely described as “amazing,” “must-see,” “the best show on television,” et al… You’ve heard it all before, I know, but humor me for a moment.
On Tuesday, March 7, the FX Cold War drama kicks off its fifth and second to last season—and, surprise, surprise, I’m going to encourage you to watch it.
Since the very first episode, The Americans has brought its all in every conceivable way. Brilliant writing, incredible performances, and impressive period costuming and sets only scratch the surface of the series’ greatness. Despite it all, the show has been unfairly overlooked when it comes to awards season—though frequently nominated, the only Emmys the series has won are for Margo Martindale’s stunning guest performance. Maybe fifth time’s a charm?
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For the reasons above, and those below, The Americans really shouldn’t be missed. Catch up on the series’ four seasons on Amazon Prime ASAP!
1. Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) is television’s Baddest Bitch
Sorry, Khaleesi, this is one throne that The Americans’ matriarch has most definitely earned. Elizabeth balances her family life, an action-packed and life-threatening career, and still manages to rock the most wonderfully nostalgic ‘80s ensembles EVERY. SINGLE. EPISODE. Plus, OMG, Keri Russell’s range as an actress is incredible—if you’re a Felicity fan, keep in mind: Elizabeth Jennings could not be more different than Russell’s WB heroine, newly relaxed hair aside.
2. THE SHOULDER PADS. THE MOM JEANS. THE WIDE-RIM GLASSES.
Speaking of ‘80s style, this show’s era-appropriate costumes and set design is truly worthy of some Emmys love. The two main characters are spies, so in addition to having their own retro look, Elizabeth and Philip also adopt just about every trend of the decade while undercover. Sadly, in the grand tradition of The Americans, the show’s Mad Men-level costuming feats have yet to receive recognition from The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Perhaps the most disillusioned of The Americans’ savvy crew, Martha, a low-level government worker, unknowingly aids the KGB many times throughout the series, spurred on by her secret lover, Carl (one of Philip’s many aliases). Though Martha’s existence is bookended by her interactions with FBI Agents and Russian spies, the character herself is perhaps the series’ most pure. An innocent secretary driven by “true love,” Martha is both hilariously and tragically naïve, a quality that provides The Americans with a necessary humanity.
4. The Children Aren’t Just One-Dimensional Trouble-Makers
Unlike most TV kids (i.e.: Whitney on The Affair, Parenthood’s Sydney, and The Sopranos’ insufferable double-whammy of A.J. and Meadow), Elizabeth and Philip’s daughter, Paige, is thoughtful and intelligent. Okay, she can be pretty annoying, too, but her parents are Russian spies so we’ll cut her some circumstantial slack. Personal shortcomings aside, Paige is undoubtedly one of the most well-rounded and well-written child characters on TV today.
5. The Music
Fleetwood Mac! Phil Collins! And that’s just the pilot. The Americans’ soundtrack is a super-cut of the ‘80s at its finest, a definite foil to the dark slice of history the series reimagines.
6. The Romantic Dynamic Between Elizabeth and Philip
What could be more complicated than an arranged marriage between Russian spies posing as parents in a D.C. suburb? We’re drawing a blank… While their union was less than rom-com worthy, Elizabeth and Philip’s marriage thrives on their shared isolation and professional partnership. Though they’ve been married for years, they’re still uncovering each other’s true identities, which makes for an incredibly compelling ongoing story arc.
Also, their love is REAL: the actors behind the characters are dating IRL and welcomed a baby boy together in spring of 2016.
7. The Twists! The Turns!
The writing on this series is INSANE. Just when you think you know where a storyline is heading, it veers in the opposite direction. Granted, the show’s unpredictability is ridiculously stressful (especially if you err on the neurotic side), but the payoff is always worth it. Fans of Alias or Breaking Bad—you’re going to love it.