The Americans Season 2×01 "Comrades"

I return to my coverage of episode-by-episode reviews with ITV’s The Americans second season’s premier, focusing on two KGB spies posing as Americans during the Cold War, starring Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. Potential Spoilers!

More often than not lately, I’ve been jumping on board series without watching it right from the start. Stargate Atlantis I jumped on with series three, and The Americans now I’ve jumped on with Season 2. This strategy so far seems to have paid off, with this season turning out to be a pretty good jumping on point, as it deals with Elizabeth (Keri Russell)’s return to her family, following something that happened last season, just in time for her son’s birthday. However, almost immediately she and Phillip (Matthew Rhys) are called into action on what should be a routine mission. However, the key word there is should, and nothing quite goes according to plan. And to make matters worse, their daughter – Paige, has growing suspicions that her family might not all be as they seem.

It took me a few moments to work out what was going on and who was who in this episode but I quickly got into the sway of things and I ended up really enjoying this episode. It aired on Saturday in the UK and I was able to catch it live, and based on what I’ve seen here I will certainly be sticking around for more. Comrades is dark, gritty and paints a side of the Cold War that we don’t normally see – from the Russian’s perspective. However, I’ll always enjoy a good spy thriller, whatever the genre – Ed Brubaker’s Velvet for example is among my favourite comic series, and I really enjoyed the Andrew Scott starring BBC 2 Legacy film that aired exclusively on the channel last year – and then there’s of course the James Bond movies, which are always entertaining.

The Americans has just joined that list. Both Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are good actors in their lead roles as deep-cover agents Phillip and Elizabeth respectively, and the fact that their own children don’t know their true lives really helps create a dilemma that is only waiting to go off – and especially with the investigations of Paige, you only get the feeling that it will be a matter of time before she stumbles across something important.

Phillip has to put his son at risk as the stakes get more personal. 

This program is dark, gritty and unpredictable. In this episode, Elizabeth and Phillip meet a family like them – where the parental figures are KGB spies. However, the manner in which they are dealt with caught me by surprise and shows that nobody is safe – which should create a very interesting atmosphere for things to come. And to make things more interesting, we have the people who we’re meant to be rooting for are effectively the villains – they’re a bit more sympathetic than the brutal Frank Underwood in House of Cards – but still, don’t expect them to be your squeaky-clean protagonists that lesser shows are often filled with.

The Americans has got off to a fantastic start in its second season and it’s made me want to go back and binge-watch the entire first season before the next episode next week. It’s certainly a great start that will of course be even more enjoyed by those who have seen the whole series, but for me – it’ll be very interesting to see where The Americans goes from here and I can’t wait for more. I can certainly see this being one of the best shows of 2014 – especially after such a stellar premiere.

VERDICT: 4.5/5

EPISODE GUIDE: S2x01: Comrades (****1/2), S2x02: Cardinal, S2x03: The Walk In, S2x04: A Light Night Music, S2x05: The Deal, S2x06: Behind the Red Door 

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