The Americans

Pilot + Episode 2, "The Clock"FX's latest series by ex-CIA officer Joe Weisberg stars Keri Russell of Felicity fame, and Matthew Rhys, last seen on "Brothers & Sisters". As I watched the first two episodes concurrently, I must say I kind of got a better sense of the series than if I were to just catch the Pilot alone. The pilot, like most pilot, has a job to do: sell the show to a network, and it did it perfectly. Great directing, tight pacing, taut tension, fantastic acting and a general plot as to what this show is about. But the second episode, though it still deals with spycraft, puts more emphasis on the characters and moral dilemma. Their dynamics were strongly explored in the pilot, but it is the second episode that both Russell and Rhys add layers to their roles. Topped that with lines filled with subtexts and innuendos, and you end up with more a character study rather than a procedural like spy romp a la "Alias". Speaking of which, Russell is essentially what happens if you mix Felicity with Sydney Bristow and dump her onto a Cable channel. Both she and Rhys really shine in their roles, and they deliver their multi-faceted emotions through their face and their voice. Noah Emmerich is the only other outstanding supporting cast, and his portrayal of their FBI neighbour is both terrifying, intriguing and strangely the anti-villain of this drama.

Episode 3, "Gregory": This spy drama is really more heavy on the drama than the spying. Russell and Rhys are the main reasons to continue to watch this show. Their acting is superb. Their last scene was quiet and powerful and heartbreaking. As is new recurring actor Margo Martindale, she is sufficiently menacing and intriguing. Gregory on the other hand is really just a plot tool to develop the leads' characterisation. Plot-wise, still a yawn at most times.

Episode 4, "In Control": A tense spy-game with great acting again by Russell, Rhys and Emmerich. Old school spying is so much more exciting than the new fangled tech-heavy shows of contemporary times. When information is not gleaned with just a few keystrokes but through doggedly hard work. This show employs flashback much more efficiently than the batch of shows recently, without sacrificing narration and pace. Now that it has been renewed for a second season, it will be quite interesting to see how they are going to end this season.

Episode 5, "COMINT": This kind of old-school spy shows are so much more interesting. And the producers smartly focused more on the drama rather than the espionage. Margo Martindale seems kinda wasted here, hopefully her role gets expanded. Similarly, Emmerich's family life, although meant to be a contrast to Russell's and Rhys', is falling very flat and seems extraneous. This show is a keeper, and I can't wait to see how it all ends.

Episdode 6, "Trust Me": A standout episode in this series so far. Predictable plot but bolstered by strong acting from Russell and Rhys. Exploring their dynamics and their ever evolving relationship between each other and their government is really what "The Americans" is about. The B-plot about the FBI is veering on tedious as is the X-plot between Stan and his wife. The C-plot about the kids is just plain silly. Sure, a bit of characterisation about the children of spies, but kind of stupid and hamfisted, no?

Episode 7, "Duty and Honour": This show is really steadying improving and getting me addicted to want to watch it every week as it rolls out. The relationship between Rhys and Russell is fascinating, but at this half-way point, I wonder how this show will continue on to next season. And how it will grow and mature beyond there. The writers have nicely dovetailed the B-spy-plot nicely into the storyline and kept the Stan-FBI-Russian-chick to a soft C-plot just to remind us of their continued existence.


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