First Impressions – The Americans: Pilot & The Clock


Set against the backdrop of the Cold War in the 80’s, two KGB sleeper agents are sent to the US to pose as American citizens.  Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) appear as an average married couple on the outside but they secretly carry on mission for the motherland.  Even their kids Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati) are unaware of their parents’ double life.

Aided with a rockin’ 80’s soundtrack, the pilot kicked off the series with an exciting start.  Out of all the new shows this season, I have been looking forward to this one the most.  The previews made me curious about how they would pull it off but I have to admit that I didn’t know too much about it before the premiere.

It is certainly a reality that the KGB sent their agents to live the life of an American citizen all the while spying for the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  So the premise is not only intriguing but I’m curious to see how all the old Soviet spy gadgets will come into play as they were known to have some really fun but deadly toys.

However, what made me love the first episode was the character-driven plot.  By the end of the episode, you knew who the characters were and what drives them.  Seeing Elizabeth’s backstory made you understand why she’s so focused but guarded even towards her own family.  You’re also privy to Phillip’s emotions which made you understand why he was wavering in his devotion towards his country but not his family.

I really enjoy seeing the family dynamic of the Jennings household.  Even though Phillip and Elizabeth did not come together in the traditional sense of falling in love before marrying, there is clearly some loyalty between the two of them which has nothing to do with their nationalism.  Elizabeth may not have always been aware of her loyalty to Phillip but it’s there.  While Phillip has no problem showing affection towards Elizabeth, there was no hiding the true nature of his emotions when he realized the connection between Elizabeth and Timochev, the Soviet defector they were holding captive.

Then there are the kids.  Despite the fact that the kids are part of their cover, their kids are real and they love them.  Apart from the usual family drama, they constantly worry about what will happen to their kids if they are caught.  So the lines between the fakeness of their cover and their real life is clearly blurred.

Meanwhile, I was thrilled, even though it was a bit contrived, to see intuitive counterintelligence FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) move in across the street.  He’s got a hunch about Phillip but no proof.  Unfortunately for the Jennings, his suspicions won’t be abated easily.  I’m eager to see how Phillip and Stan will play their cat and mouse games because it’s obvious that neither Phillip nor Stan will stay consistent about their role as the cat or the mouse.

It’s a very promising start.  There’s something about the Cold War spies and the delicate craft to way these people went about their business.  You have intrigue, sex, danger and it spawned how we envision spy culture in the entertainment world today with James Bond and Jason Bourne.  It’s very different from today’s terrorist sleeper cells and their impact on culture even though they both essentially have similar beginnings.  I hope each new episode ups the game more and more.



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