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The Americans

The Americans

Sat June 1, 10-11.20pm, ITV

By Gabriel Tate
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Series one, episode one
Already commissioned for a second series, this gripping post-‘Homeland’ thriller gets off to a blistering start. Three KGB agents in 1981 Washington DC bungle a snatch for a Russian defector, leaving one wounded, the other two at odds and the Soviet traitor tucked up in a car boot.

The two unscathed spies happen to be married: Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, both excellent) have been undercover in the States for almost two decades, juggling Kremlin diktats with two kids and suburban family life. Then Philip’s loyalties begin to waver, especially when an FBI agent (Noah Emmerich) moves in over the road and a game of cat and mouse begins…

The balance of tension, melodrama and action is well-judged, while the era is effectively evoked without being fetishised. It’s a bit baffling at first, and Philip’s run-in with a paedophile seems nakedly designed to curry our favour, but this is an opener to be reckoned with. At the very least, dual Baftas for Best Use of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’ and Worst Use of Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’ seem secure.
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