The Americans: Covert War, Review

Our favorite russian spy family continues its impressive debut season.

The Americans is one of those freshman shows that just seems to get better and better every week. It is unapologetic for its brash violence and totally non-politically correct manner. This is a time of war that is starting to impede on all of the United States. Times are changing and the past seems to be catching up with the Jennings family faster than they expected. Russia may be their home but living a double life is taxing and you can see it all over Liz and Philip’s face. Everybody has to sleep but I doubt these two get more than three hours a night the way they burn the midnight oil. Parents and travel agents by day, Russian Cold War spies at night complete with disguises and aliases. Very cool. Plus they never speak Russian so you really buy that they are Americans.

FBI Agent Gaad opens with a very impressive speech about the Cold War being anything but cold. He lets his men know that the the Russians have killed some of their men including some citizens. In Russia there are three high-ranking KGB officers and Generals are being targeted to be taken out. Most notable is Liz’ mentor and Granny’s old flame General Viktor Zhukov is one of the targets. This is the fallout of the killing of both our scientist and agents some episodes back and of course the loss of Stan Beeman’s partner Chris Amador. He was a terrific character and the comic relief and heart of the show in my opinion.

Ad – content continues below

Liz takes out Sandra for a girl’s night out and they genuinely seem to be enjoying themselves. Sandra most definitely needed a distraction as she has been having so many domestic troubles with Stan. She tries to let loose but her mind is on her son and Stan. When she gets home she continues to drink quite a bit and waits for Stan to walk in the door after another night “working late.” Sandra knows something is fishy because she calls the office every time Stan is late and they assure her that he is not on a stakeout or that he left hours ago. She is rightfully very pissed at Stan as he continues he liaison with the Russian Embassy’s Nina.

Liz learns that the person responsible for the hit on Zhukov is CIA Agent Richard Patterson, Director of Operations and Planning for the Soviet Union division.  Granny has given that information to Liz with the caveat that he is not to be touched. However Granny has been in this game a long time and knows that Liz will go against her wishes. At a local bar and in disguise, Liz propositions Agent Patterson to meet her in the restroom of the bar.. After some foreplay, Patterson sees that he is about to be stuck with a needle by the Russian operative and a fight ensues. Pete Townsend’s “Rough Boys” escalates in sound and the scene hits a fever pitch when Patterson fights back showing that he has some skills of his own—but not Liz’ skills. Fortunately she knocks out the CIA Agent and Philip is at the window to get him to their destination. Blindfolded, he tells Liz that he is a bureaucrat. He laces into her continually telling her that she does not stand for anything in her life. That she is just a hired gun incapable of love, no heart and no soul whose hands are only covered in blood. I did not think he would be able to get under her skin so easily but because this is a personal hit for her clouded with emotion, she collapses under the weight of what she has become. She drops him off blindfolded at a random location.

Afterwards, Patterson is questioned by the higher ups including Gaad and the CIA agent believes that it was not just the woman that was involved but that she had a partner. Through deductive reasoning he presumes that they are KGB couple on American soil! Yikes!

Ad – content continues below

There are a lot of cutaways to years before in various countries where Liz and the now dead General Zhukov met. He was a very paternal influence on young Liz and the flashbacks actually work very well in learning about Liz and the deceased General. In 1976 Rome, Zhukov and Liz are strolling and the sage gives Liz the advice that he wishes someone had told him years ago. “I have no more stories to tell you Liz, I lost my way a long time ago. I have lived for my work and my party and I miss what I never had.” Subtly telling young Liz that she needs to press on no matter how strained her relationship with Philip  gets. After the botched hit on Patterson, Liz goes to visit Phil at the motel and brings a “thank you” 6-pack of beer for helping her after she lost it during the Patterson incident. Liz wants to get back together without saying as much but in Philip’s defense, he got himself an apartment. She is surprised and walks out defeated.

CIA Agent Richard Patterson was the architect of the hits on Zhukov and the other two Russian Generals killed in Moscow. The only one that they show is Zhukov’s and it is great to see the old Russian bull still has some life in him before taking a slug to the head. Stan’s inside woman, Nina has been promoted to senior lieutenant at the Russian consulate. Her boss divulges that there is a bug in Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger’s home and he wants to know if she hears anything about the assassinations in the USSR. Stan tries to break it off with Nina but come on; look at her!

Granny gave her Patterson’s name and knew that she would act on trying to kill him. Liz wants to know why she would mention his name knowing full well that she would go at him full force. Granny discusses her love of Zhukov as well but Liz does not believe anything she says. She tries to tell her that if she has to be tough with Liz & Philip, then so be it. Then the insults start flying as Liz laces into Granny and you are not sure what she is really trying to do. Liz has yet another meeting with Granny and she is worried that she is being used; farming out the assignments she tells her not to do but really wants her to do. Get that? “This isn’t going to go well for you old lady,” Liz says as she exits the car.  It was awesome.

Ad – content continues below

The show has just a few more episodes left and I wish there were more because we are just getting started. The narrative is a web of lies, deceit and double-lives. Basically a great deal of fun. 1981 never looked so exciting and people were never as hopeful as they were then. You had to actually converse with real humans to talk—no computers yet. Which would you pick? Tough call. I was only 5 in ’81 and I remember having a hell of a time. The adults were all doing cocaine, though; I was eating Reggie Jackson Bars.