With the third season debuting on FX on January 29, I look back at the second season of the cold war drama that is The Americans, starring Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell.
I'm going to start this review by saying that actually haven’t yet seen The Americans’ first season, diving into the second last year and despite a few problems once I worked out who everybody was I got into the series pretty well. Unfortunately, I never managed to get back around to watching the first season, which is something that I intend to remedy when I can – it’s looking likely that it’ll be after the conclusion of Season 3, however. Because this show is one of the best dramas on television, with a captivating cold war period drama that showcases the lives of two Russian Agents living undercover as part of an American family, with their lives so secret that their own children don’t know who they really work for, Matthew Rhys plays the husband, Phillip, whilst Keri Russell impresses as Elizabeth, the wife. Their children are 10 year old Henry and 13 year old Paige.
FX is rapidly turning into one of the most reliable networks for me as of late, giving us some awesome shows like southern cop drama Justified, biker/family saga Sons of Anarchy, comedy You’re The Worst, crime anthology Fargo, and horror anthology American Horror Story. In fact, The Strain remains the only disappoint from the network that I’ve seen so far, but even that had some good moments such as the eighth episode. And it says something that on a network with shows like the ones above, The Americans manages to come out on top, with a stunning second season that knocks it out of the park and makes it one of the best series on television period, not just on FX.
The first episode of season two gets us into the swing of things pretty fast when Elizabeth and Phillip quickly find another family in the same situation as them murdered. And to make matters worse, Paige, their daughter, is quickly growing more and more suspicious of her parents, whilst at the same time become more distant herself. The child actors of both Henry and Paige, Keidrich Sellati and Holly Taylor especially, put in a good job in their respective roles. It’s hard to get a good child character across on a show dominated by adults, but Paige’s storyline this season has been pretty good.
The atmospheric period setting of the cold war is pretty great. There are very few shows on TV that explore the Cold War nowadays and even fewer that explore it from the Russian’s POV. Yes, Phillip and Elizabeth may be technically the ‘bad guys’ in this situation, but both Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell deliver captivating performances so that you can’t help but get behind them and want them to succeed. Their performances are among the best on television right now, which is in part what helps make this show so good, with everything about it being very strong indeed.
Yes, The Americans may not be an all action blockbuster, with many slow moments that separate it from the fast paced action of the likes of James Bond. However, the slower paced moments often allow for greater character development and the end result is very awesome indeed. The perfect blend of attention to character and story with little information dumping to be found makes The Americans one of the more compelling shows on television.
Taking place over thirteen hour long episodes, like most shows on FX, The Americans’ second season is mostly serialized and there are hardly any standard ‘case of the week’ episodes that you would typically find on CBS or NBC. It’s an all story approach here and that makes this show perfect for binge watching, because you’ll want to move onto the next episode as soon as possible.
It’s hard to pick out a standout episode form The Americans’ second season. They all blend so well together with some good pacing structure that will keep you invested. Whilst Stan (Noah Emmerich), the FBI Agent’s storyline struggles at the beginning of the season, there isn’t many problems with this show that remains consistently good. There’s just enough time to start catching up on Season 1 and 2 if you start watching now, provided you don’t have anything else planned until January 29, because let’s face it, there are many worse things that you could be spending your time watching instead.