In 1981 life is not as easy as it once was for a couple of KGB spies. Reagan is rattling sabers and threatening the Soviet Union as it hasn’t been threaten since the Cuban Missile Crisis. On a more personal level, other KGB agents are defecting to America and making a lot of money for doing so. One such traitor to the Mother Country causes problems for our KGB heroes.
Also in 1981 a movie called Das Boot came out. It was the story of the heroic crew of a Nazi U-boat doing it’s best to sink Allied ships during WWII. There was a good deal of debate as to whether or not American audiences should feel good about rooting for Nazis who were, after all, ‘just following orders.’ So how much should I be rooting for godless Communist spies?
To be fair to The Americans, our evil undercover spies don’t seem all that evil in the first episode. The man wants to defect and the woman wants to kill a man from her past who deserves to be killed solely for his personal actions. And The Soviets have always had a slightly softer image than the Nazi ever had. I remember reading a couple of books by ‘Ex-KGB’ agents in the early 1980s. They talked about the training and the skills and the otherworldly organizations that demanded undying loyalty from it’s members. While they didn’t exactly make you want to run out and join the KGB, they did give it a very James Bond kind of polish.
The Americans has a lot of familiar faces and the soundtrack did a good job of setting the time. Who’d have guessed that Tusk by Fleetwood Mac would be the perfect song to play while dealing with traitors? But you have to wonder how long it’s going to take for The Carrie Dairies and The Americans to run out of old songs from the 80s.
There were a few predictable moments, such as when a skinhead flirts with our hero’s 13 year old daughter, you knew that he was going to live to regret it. But for the most part the story was well paced and there were enough time cuts here and there to break up too many straight and narrow plot lines. I do think the FBI Agent living across the street seems a bit over the top.
I liked The Americans-a spy story pining away for the good old days of the Cold War.