Yet another episode of The Americans proves to be too slow-moving an uneventful for my liking. This is a show that can be entertaining in a unique way given its premise, but the episode chose to focus on the unflattering efforts of going undercover, and some of the odd relationships the Americans and the KGB agents are involved with.
I was browsing the internet the other day and found out that somebody called "the "
Americans" a period drama, which I guess is what it is. A period drama for me would be something like "Barry Lyndon" or a Sherlock Holmes story in 19th century London, and yet "The Americans" is a period drama. It is a great spy story reminding us of John Le Carre's novels with sex. To make things even closer to heart, it is a spy story of another era, a story when spies could assume they were fighting for a cause, whatever your opinion on the cause.
The reality is that what is truly gripping about this series is the balanced view between the Russians and the Americans. They both believe in something, and they are both entitled to believe in something, even when they fully contradict themselves. This is the first spy story I ever followed where there are no good or bad guys, just people on opposite sides doing their jobs. In the previous episode both sides panicked after John Hinckley tried to assassinate Reagan. Neither wanted to be involved, and both were relieved when they realized the other side was actually not involved or plotting something. You get this magnificent feeling of spies fighting for peace, on both sides.
Ever since the pilot, this geopolitical ambiguity has been duplicated into a private environment. Kevin Walker and Keri Hunter have been married for years, they have two perfectly normal kids, and they have been spying on America, rather successfully for nearly two decades. They are true James Bond type of spies, licence to kill, sleep with whoever you need, and protect Mother Russia. As for their private lives, well it has obviously been nearly not-existent, safe for whatever is required for appearances sake.
Just like Tony Soprano became human, those two are just falling in love. The idea is actually wonderful. A married couple, working together are finally falling in love. Over the previous four episodes, we have had hints of this coming, the latest episode (Nr.5) just made it official. The husband wants to protect his wife, not his colleague, but his wife. The sex scenes are not there to show us flesh (or maybe a little bit) but mainly because they are the only way to open up the dilemma those two are heading into.
On the other side, the real Americans have also their issues, and are also fighting for their private lives and their beliefs. But the "heroes" are the Russians, whatever they do. How do you manage to make your hero murder another Russian spy whose only sin is that he is not needed any more, without disliking her even a little bit.
I admit I am still confused, but that is what a good story well told, will do. Welcome to the first story where everybody cheats on ever body, everybody kills and tortures everybody, and yet there is not a shadow of a moral judgement. And this is the period drama of the Cold War. I lived that period, I remember the Evil Empire, I remember that it was a true war, we were truly scared some idiot on either side will try to prove that there was no point in being capable of destroying the planet 1000 times more than your adversary if you did not try it. "The Americans" is not of that period, not the one we lived through, but it is a great love story, and a great spy story. .