Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Americans

Has anyone else been watching this new series?

I have to say, I'm kind of loving it. Sure, it's a spy story, set around 1980 that could quickly devolve into repetitive missions and near misses of being caught... But I think the reason it's working so far is that, at it's core, it's a marriage of convenience romance.

And that's such a hard trope to pull off in a contemporary (or near contemporary) setting. But here it works. It's plausible.

The set up/backstory is that the two main characters, a man and a woman, join the KGB when they are in their teens. Both are separately trained to speak and act like Americans and trained to be spies. Then, when they are in their early 20's they are introduced to each other for the first time, given cover stories and moved to the US to start their missions, working undercover as spies while posing as a married couple.

Neither is allowed to tell the other anything about their real pasts -- not even their real names. They are never allowed to ever speak Russian, even to each other. They only know each other by their fake American names and only know each other's cover stories. They live together and, to be more plausible as a couple, they have two children together. But having sex to conceive is merely part of their jobs. Then about 14 years later, (as the series begins), their relationship remains purely professional, even though they are living together and raising two children.

Both often have to have sex with other people as part of their jobs. Both have to pretend to be in love with other people to gather intelligence. We find out that he had a love in his past whom he had to leave behind in Russia. We find out that she found love with a man in the US (whom she also recruited and turned into a KGB informant), but the they are only posing as a couple. They don't love each other. Or even fully trust each other. In fact, we get the impression that she, in particular, (the harder-edged of the pair), barely tolerates her husband. He's just the dude she has to work with as part of her job--something she really believes in. And he's a big risk to her if he turns.

And then something happens. Someone appears in their lives whom the Keri Russell character knew back in Russia. Someone who hurt her. And when her husband/partner finds out that this man hurt her in the past--hurt a woman whose real name he doesn't even know,  effectively hurt a woman who no longer exists--she (and we) instantly see by his reaction that he loves her. In spite of how tough and cold she is, he has fallen in love with his wife of 14 years. And then as the series progresses we get to see her fall for him too.

It's kind of awesome.

Speaking of awesome. Did anyone else see the Bates Motel premiere? Wow. Rape and multiple murders in episode one. And Vera Farmiga is pretty amazing. I honestly don't know where they go from there. But I'm excited to find out. Poor Norman.


smittenkittenorig said...

My husband & I are loving The Americans! It's everything you've described. My husband was around the age of the characters' son (I wasn't verbal in '81) so he's enjoying trying to fit in his memories with the things that happen. In the ep where Reagan was shot, he said he didn't remember James Brady being reported as dead (when obviously he wasn't). I also am just fascinated at how much everyone gets done & how long information takes to circulate since there's no email, 24 hour news or mobile phones. They use phone booths all the time!!

I definitely have Bates Motel on my must see list as well as Top of The Lake (Sundance Channel).

Molly O'Keefe said...

I was just talking to my editor about this -- she was saying the same thing. She's worried about where it's going, but for the moment it's very engaging. Will check it out!!!

We just got Apple TV, so I will FINALLY watch Sons of Anarchy, if I don't get lost in a total series rewatch of West Wing first...

Maureen McGowan said...

Smittenkitten, I'm a little older so was actually in my late teens when this show is set and while I haven't been watching for mistakes, so far I've seen so many things they've done right in the set. Down to their son's clock radio. I know that exact clock radio. And the photocopier last night. Wow. I certainly remember when photocopying was a job because it took so freaking long. One page at a time.

I wonder where they're finding all this stuff.

Last night... they put some conflict back between the fake husband and wife. And I'm not 100% sure I believe she'd turn on a dime so quickly. But maybe. Still finding it delicious.

And of course I'm starting to get interested in the pretty female Russian and the FBI guy and whether or not she's going to turn into a double agent and get info from him...

smittenkittenorig said...

I have to agree with wondering where they find everything. Ebay? lol

Hubs definitely has assumed that since he was so young, it is his perceptions & memories that are lacking (the Brady thing surprised him but he did say that he was quite annoyed that the news preempted his favourite shows & then his parents put he & his brother to bed, so it was a bad day all around in his child mind. lol). He remembered having the same multicolor jacket as the son. And I've seen that owl lamp (hideous thing) in pictures of the den of one of my aunts. I think I wanted to believe the decor of the 70s had clear deliniation from the 80s but I must be wrong. It's all brown, orange, chevron & animal everywhere.

The photocopiers are ginormous! I can imagine needing one person to handle all that just for an office.

Maureen McGowan said...

Yeah, fashion and decorating trends (and music) never have those clean cut-offs at a decade like history tends to remember them. :)

Anonymous said...

I have some TV catching up to do, but based on what you've said, I really want to watch this.

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