The Americans returns tonight with its third season debut at 10 PM EST/PST. While the FX series humanizes undercover KGB operatives working in the U.S., the show illustrates the ruthlessness of Soviet communism and how the American Left in the 1980s advanced Soviet interests.
The drama is centered around a husband and wife KGB cell (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as “Philip and Elizabeth Jennings”) who live with their kids as ordinary Americans in suburban Washington, DC when Ronald Reagan becomes President.
The third season picks up just after Soviet dictator Leonid Brezhnev dies in office in November of 1982. FX’s preview video for season three.
Some highlights from the first two seasons:
> Sounding remarkably like American liberals and journalists at the time – not to be redundant – a second season episode included a scene in which the KGB’s “Elizabeth Jennings,” working in the United States, sputtered in disgust at President Ronald Reagan on her TV: “Look at him. He’ll do anything. He doesn’t care. Kids, nuns, journalists – he doesn’t care.” (Details)
> An educational illustration of the alliance of interests between Soviet communists and the Left in the West during the 1980s, when both worked to undermine the Reagan administration’s defense policies. The “Jennings” are outraged their teen daughter, “Paige” played by Holly Taylor, has joined a church youth group, prompting her dad to go into a rage in which he grabs and tears up her bible: “You respect Jesus, but not us?!”
When “Paige” later asks them about joining a church trip to protest nuclear weapons on Air Force bombers, she’s taken aback when her mom quickly agrees. (Details)
> A season one episode dramatically ended with a scene showing the horror realized by KGB operatives at the Soviet embassy in Washington, DC when they learn (by bugging Caspar Weinberger’s home office, after the KGB operatives kidnap his maid’s son and force her to plant it) President Ronald Reagan intends to build “a ballistic missile shield” – aka the Strategic Defense Initiative. (Details)
> In the next to last episode of the first season, at a scene in a restaurant sometime in 1982, a source tells “Elizabeth” she can trust a U.S. Colonel, who wants to pass on information about the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), because “he’s completely disillusioned with the Chicken Hawks in the Reagan administration.”
In the season finale aired the following week (May 1, 2013), “Philip” meets the Colonel in a Washington, DC park. The Colonel says the anti-ballistic missile program is “not credible” and, “at best, it’s 50 years from being remotely operational.” He asserts “the damn thing’s a fantasy,” prompting “Philip” to wonder: “Well, if that’s true, then why the commitment from the Reagan administration?” (Details)
> Joe Weisberg, a former CIA staffer who created the show, conceded to TV Guide that “this series, to a large extent, is told from the perspective of the KGB and the Soviets. We’re making them the sympathetic characters. I’d go so far as to say they’re the heroes.” Yet, in the pilot, there were scenes which should have heartened conservatives who believe in Reagan’s righteousness and the superiority of the United States: (Details)
# In a scene set in 1981 at a KGB safe house in Bethesda, Maryland, “Elizabeth Jennings” meets with her KGB superior whose attack line against Reagan sounds remarkably similar to that of Reagan’s left-wing domestic critics.
# During a meeting of the FBI’s counter-intelligence unit to address the kidnaping of a Soviet defector, the Deputy Attorney General walks in to announce Reagan’s desire to thwart the Soviets.
# In a flashback scene set at a Northern Virginia motel in 1965 when the couple first arrive in the U.S., they marvel over the cool air blowing from an air conditioner, with “Elizabeth” exclaiming “oh my God!”
Excerpts from the three scenes in the video below:
> ”‘Conservative’ Journalist on Reagan: ‘I Hope the Bastard Bleeds to Death on the Operating Table’”
> “Successful KGB Operation to Discredit an Anti-Soviet Polish Priest Portrayed on FX’s ‘The Americans’”
The Americans left off season two with the KGB wanting the teenage Paige to start working for them and next week, in a drama inspired by The Americans, NBC’s Allegiance, picks up on that concept. Set in current days, it imagines a CIA officer whose parents were Soviet operatives in the 1980s: “This high-octane thriller revolves around the O’Connor family and their son, Alex (Gavin Stenhouse), a young idealistic CIA analyst specializing in Russian affairs. Unbeknownst to him, both of his parents and his sister are part of a dormant Russian sleeper cell that has just been reactivated.” (Show summary)
Ronald Reagan will feature prominently in another upcoming prime time show from FX, the same channel which carries The Americans. USA Today, on January 19, reported on a fresh Fargo series, to likely run later this year, which “jumps back in time, from 2006 to 1979, and to a new town, Luverne, Minn.” Gary Levin relayed:
“It’s big, sprawling (and) in some ways more comedic, although a very serious show,” FX Networks chief John Landgraf told the Television Critics Association Sunday. Lou, a Vietnam vet, is a detective. (Molly is a toddler). It’s set against the backdrop of the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan and “Reagan is a character” in the show, he says. “A lot of it is about cultural transformation going on in America at the time.”