One of my late-night activities during this prolonged shutdown is to rewatch all 6 seasons of The Americans.
The series ended in 2018, and that had been the last time I’d seen any of the episodes.
Two years isn’t a long interval, for rewatching a movie or TV series, or for rereading a book. My general rule of thumb is to wait at least five years before consuming any story content a second time. (And I prefer to wait more like ten years.) But The Americans is simply that good.
This Cold War period drama depicts the clandestine activities of two deep cover Soviet KGB agents, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, during the Reagan years.
Back in Russia, Philip and Elizabeth were Mischa and Nadezhda. But they don’t use those names anymore, as part of maintaining their cover. They speak perfect English and they’ve spent decades in America. So they’re American, and simultaneously Russian/Soviet.
The Jenningses have two children, Henry and Paige, who were born in America and don’t know that their parents are KGB officers. (Philip and Elizabeth run a travel agency by day; most of their espionage work takes place at night.)
The Americans is suspenseful storytelling par excellence. I don’t remember a single boring episode. The pacing is extremely tight. Every character is a complex, living human being.
(There is a lot to unpack in The Americans. I’ll probably write a longer essay about the series after I’m done with my rewatching.)
Is there anyone who shouldn’t watch The Americans?
Possibly. This is, I repeat, a Cold War period drama set in the 1980s. If you aren’t familiar with that decade, if you aren’t really sure who Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev were, then you’ll miss a few things here. The Americans takes much of its suspense and tension from the final years of the Cold War. The more you know about that time, the more you’ll appreciate the plot lines, themes, and authenticity. (The producers of this show went to great lengths to nail various aspects of daily life in the 1980s.)
I didn’t struggle on this one, as the 1980s are my stomping grounds. I’m the same age as the Jennings’s daughter. She is 13 years old as the first episode opens in 1981. I was also 13 in 1981.
Finally, I’m rewatching The Americans for free as part of my Amazon Prime membership. (Go here if you’re interested in Amazon Prime.)