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The Americans, first 5 episodes…a Threedonia review

A few short weeks ago I posted a link to an article about a new show on FX called The Americans.

The Americans is (in case you don’t know) centered around two spies from the Soviet Union living in the United States as a family in the 1980′s.

In the article quoted in National Review the executive producer of the show says:

“It might be a little different to believe and get used to, but we want you to root for the KGB,” said EP Joel Fields. “They’re going to try to get the Soviets to win the Cold War.”

Keep this quote in mind as I describe the show and what I see as its pluses and minuses.

The Americans a quick synopsis

The story begins showing us a couple living in the suburbs of Washington D.C. with two kids in the 1980′s soon after Ronald Reagan had been elected. We find out that they are also Soviet spies. Their children (one a teenager the other in grade school) are unaware of this situation and are as American as any of us. Across the street from them an FBI agent has just moved in, he works in counterintelligence (hunting Soviet spies operating in the USA). Each episode attempts to show the spies doing their work and the FBI agents trying to catch them. After the first few episodes the FBI appears to always be one step behind the bad guys.

When I watched the first couple of episodes I thought that this show might not be so bad and even though it centered around the efforts of the Soviet Union to infiltrate the DOD and the Government of the United States during the time of the Cold War it didn’t, in my opinion paint these people in a favorable light. However as the series has continued I have noticed a trend, that if continued will force me to stop watching this show. Now I’m sure nobody at FX will be up in arms if I stop watching this, but as someone who joined the military right at the end of the Cold War, I still remember who the bad guys were and who was bent on world domination…because their leaders told us so.

As the series has continued there is a sort of moral equivocation taking place, that I am frankly offended by. The Soviet spies in the show (and real life for that matter) regularly participate in a scheme that is called “The Honey Pot”. As regular viewers of Archer know, that is a ploy where an agent seduces the target using sex which then turns into a way either to blackmail the target or entice them into revealing or giving away secret information. This was the Soviet’s favorite method of obtaining information during the Cold War and they were quite successful doing it. My problem is with the FBI agent and his interaction with his contact from the Soviet embassy. She is a beautiful woman and he pressures her to get essential information. She complies and relates to the agent during their information exchange that she resorted to sex to obtain the information. At first the FBI agent seems remorseful in his role of causing this woman to prostitute herself in the service of the United States, but it doesn’t stop him from asking her for more. While I have no doubt that things like this may have occurred, the more likely scenario and the thing that happened much more frequently was that we paid informants HUGE sums of cash. Sex was the Soviets thing, ours was money. What offends me is it seems that the writers of the show are trying to show that WE are just as bad as THEM and we all do the same things…which nothing could be further from the actual truth.

The FBI agent is shown to be distant from his family, his wife isn’t happy and he’s not involved with his kids. The Soviet spies (even though their marriage is an arranged one) are shown to love their children and at least the male in the relationship has shown that he has feelings for his wife.

Where I see this going

I hope that I’m wrong but here’s what I see happening: the Soviet spies continue their slap-happy ways, harvesting tons of secret information from corrupt members of US society, their children blissfully unaware that their parents are out all night running around doing things to undermine the government of the United States of America. Meanwhile the FBI agent who is becoming increasingly distant from his wife, falls in love and sleeps with his contact from the Soviet embassy. She gets found out by the KGB who turn her and then use her to get info from the FBI agent, blackmailing him for info.

What I’d Like To See
I’d like to see the Soviet spies caught and frog marched off to the federal pen; the girl from the embassy given her freedom in the USA as a reward for services rendered and the FBI guy getting his family life straightened out…but we all know that isn’t going to happen.

My verdict
I’ll give this show a few more viewings but if the bad guys keep on winning, I’m not going to be watching too much longer. I fully understand if the bad-guys totally lost, the series would be over…but considering we won the Cold War, we weren’t totally inept at this stuff. By the way, be thankful I have spared you from the technical malfunctions and inaccuracies that I have spotted while watching this. I can tell you they bother me to no end, but most if not all of you are blissfully unaware and it really means nothing plot-wise…so I didn’t let loose.

21 comments to The Americans, first 5 episodes…a Threedonia review

  • Ken in NH

    Nice poster. Rules 2* and 3 violation.

    * Unless he really is willing to kill his partner/wife.

  • voz

    This is why Justified is a better show.

  • What, the Soviet agent getting gutted in the pilot episode not enough for you? ;-)

    Excellent points and agree about the USA agents constantly looking the fools. Wondering if the moral equivocating running rampant in Harlan County the last couple seasons hasn’t fully infected producer Graham Yost’s head for The Americans, too.

  • Rufus

    My comment will include spoilers from “Skyfall” so stop reading now if you care.

    Outlaw’s description of this show reminded me of my feelings watching the latest James Bond movie. It was well made and held my interest, but when I left the theater and spent time breaking down the plot it reeked of moral equivalency. The bad guy is not only justified in seeking revenge on “M,” he’s likely correct. “M” not only sacrifices him unnecessarily, she does the same with Bond, nearly killing them both; unrepentantly believing she had killed them both.

    Then, when you analyze James’ plan for a last stand against the villain; it’s a failure. The mission is to keep “M” alive. Bond’s plan fails.

    It’s a good movie, but it concerns me that we are continuing with these story arcs in film and on TV where the ideals of the West are equal, and equally destructive, as the ideals of our enemies.

    • JimmyC

      I didn’t see Skyfall as having moral equivalency at all. The whole “being sacrificed by M” thing serves as an interesting character motivation for the villain, but sacrifices are portrayed as necessary for God and country. M may have felt guilty for having to sacrifice her subordinates, but there is no implication that it makes her evil.

      • Rufus

        Oh, c’mon! There was nothing sympathetic about her character at all! The opening scene has her unemotionally ordering a hit on Bond to save a computer drive!

        She couldn’t have given the villain a heads up that she was outing him? His vengeance was completely justified. She was a cold-hearted bitch.

        • Daniel Crandall

          Maybe because she was a “cold-hearted bitch” is why this ‘M’ had to go and a new ‘M’ installed. … oh, sorry, ‘T’ – SPOILER ALERT ;-)

          I can see your criticisms ‘R’, but I still like the fact that man is back in ‘M’s’ chair and Moneypenny is back… it’s like watching Doctor Who but way cooler.

          I also like the idea of adopting letters for names. I lay all claim to ‘D’ as in Dashing, Debonair, Doofus … oh, wait a minute… on second thought…

    • Texacalirose

      Dad gummit! You know I never listen to you, so I ignored you and read your comment. Now you’ve ruined the movie for me. Dad gummit! :)

      (But seriously, how complex can a Bond film be at this point? And didn’t someone around here posit that there is nothing new under the sun anyhow?)

  • Rufus

    I haven’t seen “The Americans,” but the promos set to “Eminence Front” are well done!

  • Yup, that’s right, we won.

  • Dr. Schplatt

    So, basically it’s a 1990s sitcom about Russian spies where the spies are the mother of the family and the FBI agent the derping dad?

  • JimmyC

    The FBI agent you mentioned is played by Noah Emmerich. For some reason, he’s become Hollywood’s go-to guy when they want someone to embody their liberal moral equivalencies: he played a racist soldier in Windtalkers, a corrupt cop in Cellular, the cop who harrasses the “sympathetic” pedophile in Little Children, and the soldier who tortured the alien in Super 8. Not sure why he keeps getting those roles, but given the current state of Hollywood, that kind of pigeonholing means he’s got some pretty solid job security.

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