The Americans 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 / One of TV's greatest character studies, where thrilling spy intrigue meets densely written family drama


It may have never reached the heights of popularity that other prestige antihero dramas of its time did, but The Americans stayed true to itself for six incredibly consistent seasons. In the vein of “real” spy shows and films, it’s much more deliberately paced, with the bulk of the drama taking place not through shootouts or technical wizardry but through the gradually fraying relationships between characters and their respective beliefs. As the Cold War stretches on for Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (played by real-life couple Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), the former begins to feel increasingly drained by all the violence he’s committed, wishing for a mundane American life; while the latter maintains a steely dedication to her mission, which also puts her loved ones in harm’s way.

Throughout The Americans’ run, it creates a stunningly detailed tapestry of both Soviets and Americans agents giving themselves over to causes that they still don’t fully understand. But perhaps even more so than a story of loyalty to one’s nation, it becomes a story about the constant demands of marriage and of making connections in a dangerous world despite the risk of betrayal. It never announces its themes loudly, but by the end the weight of these characters’ isolation and disillusionment is unlike anything else you could experience on TV.

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