An excerpt from an essay published by Public Books. The complete story can be found here. Previous All the Russias posts on The Americans can be found here and here, along with more distantly related posts here and here.
Now nearing the end of its fourth season, The Americans is a confounding success. It’s hard to figure out which of its triumphs is the most unlikely: that it has millions of Americans rooting for KGB agents to outsmart our country every week, or that the FX network has produced a critical darling that is not entirely awash in testosterone.
The show, which stars an impressive array of ugly wigs worn by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, achieves a masterful balance between the slow burn (how long before someone close to them discovers that Elizabeth and Philip Jennings are more than simple travel agents?) and the explosive disaster. The Americans is not a program that frustrates its audience with its unwillingness to mess with the status quo (as daughter Paige’s knowledge of her parents’ activities this season certainly demonstrates). But as both a professor of Russian culture and a fan, I have come to a perverse conclusion:
It’s time for The Americans to jump the shark.
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