With rumors of Russian involvement in American politics dominating the news again today, the excellent penultimate season of The Americans feels chillingly much closer to the bone than last year. Debuting on March 7, Season 5 of FX’s Reagan-era spy family drama starring the stronger-than-ever Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys has more tricks and schemes up its narrative sleeves than a Cold War intelligence case officer, which as I say in my video review above is why one of the best shows of the age of Peak TV is feeling more passionate and compellingly convoluted than ever.
Set to end after six seasons, the 13-episode fifth season of The Americans, from what I’ve watched, is simply not prepared to go gentle into that good night without showing how much fight it still has. Amidst the perils of teenage dating, agricultural warfare, new families and faces, and corruption on the shelves and among Moscow’s Soviet elite, one blow of many that The Americans brings in this increasingly darker cycle is a new poignancy.
For those of us who grew up when the Soviet Union existed, the tale of Russell and Rhys’ ruthless but conflicted KGB agents posing as travel agency-owning D.C.suburbanites has always had a masterful touch, playing into the paranoia of the ever-simmering superpower conflict (real and imagined). While written and filmed months in advance, this season of the series executive produced by Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields has found new lifeblood as the real-life relationship between former Cold War adversaries the U.S. and the Russian Federation as ruled by Vladimir Putin, bringing spy craft, deception and intentional interference in the American way of life to the fore.
You can see more of why I think this new season of The Americans is so good by clicking on the video review above. But let me give a shout-out to the performances of the better-than-ever Holly Taylor, Costa Ronin, the never-to-be-underestimated Noah Emmerich, Frank Langella and Emmy-winning Margo Martindale. To play on as high a level and high a wire as Russell and Rhys do is a challenge for the best of the best, and these cast members rise to it.
This review first ran on March 2