The Americans is a look into the tail end of the red scare in America. Here are the The Americans’ best episodes to help heal the wound it’s leaving behind.
Could Russian spies be living next door to you? Probably. In fact Russian spies were detected and uncovered as such as recently as 2010. Yikes. But no worries, The Americans has made one of the best handbooks to Russian spying ever.
Let’s list the The Americans’ best episodes to figure out if your neighbour is fighting for the hammer and sickle.
10 – Pilot (S01, E01)
In ‘Pilot’, we’re introduced to two Russian spies who chase down and gag a target in order to put him on a ship back to Russia. When things go awry, they have to stuff him in the trunk and deal with him later. For now, our spies have to get their two children off to school and tend to their travel agency. And thus, The Americans was born.
Phillip & Elizabeth Jennings (real life couple Matthew Rhys & Keri Russell) then meet their new neighbor, FBI agent Stand Beeman. My oh my, what a predicament.
To make matters worse, Phillip wants to defect to the States. To do this, he wants to hand over their tied up target to Beeman. Elizabeth tries to get him to reconsider this, saying it can’t be done. This is a thought that only gets through when Phillip realizes the target abused Elizabeth while she was training to be a spy. So he breaks his neck.
Then the above scene happens. YOWZA. And the episode isn’t even over! Phillip then extracts revenge on a creep that tried to hit on his very own daughter.
To end this roller-coaster ride, we see Beeman’s FBI spidey-sense tingle making him break into the Jennings garage. He pops open the trunk to find its empty. What he didn’t know was there was a fully loaded Phillip lying in wait nearby.
This introduction is a masterpiece and a great foreshadowing of events to come.
9 – Baggage (S03, E02)
WARNING: Not for the faint of heart. Seriously don’t look if you’re squeamish. But here’s a link to the scene in question just in case. You were warned!
After turning a prostitute into a would-be spy, things go awry. She falls in love with the Jennings target and confesses her plot. When her lover loses control, he brutally strangles her in a fit of rage. Phillip himself almost kills the target but composes himself and thinks of something else that may benefit them. In exchange for information, he’ll get rid of the body.
And what, prey tell, is the solution? Oh simple: they fold the body into some luggage. Case closed. Easy peasy.
This has to be the most gruesome way ever to start an episode. It revealed the lengths The Jennings’ would go to further their cause and then some. It’s also a good cautionary tip when travelling. Someone else’s luggage may be luggage containing someone else.
8 – Safe House (S01, E09)
When the Jennings inadvertently kidnap an FBI agent and the FBI have done the same with a KGB agent, we get to see how each side handles interrogation techniques. Here we see the mind games that are played and how the stakes are evenly matched between the FBI and the Jennings.
It’s also a race of who can break who first. The other’s life literally depends on it. If the FBI kill the KGB agent, the FBI agent will be killed as well and vice versa. It’s a mental game between the coldblooded killers in the Jennings and the careful law enforcement tactics of the FBI.
In this episode we see that Stan Beeman is no one to play these games with, especially when his FBI brother is involved. One of The Americans’ best episodes with intensity to match.
7 – Darkroom (S05, E10)
In ‘Darkroom’, we find out that Phillip & Elizabeth genuinely have feelings for each other and decide to get married for love. This emphasises what we’ve only seen in glimpses: for once they do something for themselves and not the party. It’s a sign that they have a moral compass, one that doesn’t leave a trail of blood behind.
Almost all of the best episodes of The Americans deal with the matter of the heart and not of the pure brutality they have to administer to get what they want. Sometimes, in order to have a full heart, you don’t need to break bones. Just make vows.
6 – Comrades (S02, E01)
Well, there’s always a first time for everything. The first time you kiss a girl; first time you go to a new city; the first time your parents use you as a prop for a spy mission.
For the first time, we see Henry Jennings used as a cover for Phillip. When their contacts are later found dead in their hotel room, Phillip & Elizabeth both agree that their kids are out of bounds going forward. Additionally, they decide to protect the young boy whose parents and sister were brutally murdered.
It shows a certain affinity Phillip & Elizabeth have with the boy and shows that they can kind of atone for their sins when they want to. This is also one of The Americans’ best episodes that kicks off what may have been one of the best seasons of television ever aired. More on that later, dear patriot.
5 – The Day After (S04, E09)
The warnings of nuclear war with Russia in America was everywhere in the early ’80s. To really drive the point home, a movie called The Day After premiered on TV around the country. In this episode, we see the entire cast watch the movie unfold before their eyes. It’s haunting really.
The best episodes of The Americans really entered the psyche of the time from both points of views, and this episode exemplifies that with precision. One of the characters even relates a true story of how a Russian intelligence agent didn’t report what seemed to be a missile strike from the US. It’s a good thing he didn’t because what it turned out to be was clouds. The world almost turned into the Fallout video game over some damn clouds.
4 – Jennings, Elizabeth (S06, E09)
Spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t caught up yet.
In what was this season’s best episode yet, the walls are finally closing in on The Jennings. Beeman finds out that the Jennings don’t even exist. They’ve got Oleg dead to rights, who’s also Phillips contact. And because Elizabeth finally shows some compassion and doesn’t murder anyone (for once) it comes back to bite her on the butt with Paige.
Paige finally realizes what has to be done in order to keep the Motherland happy when she finds out her mother was sleeping with one of her college classmates to get info. Phillip was also made by FBI agents and can’t go back home because of the heat.
It’s the precipice of how it all ends and was done surprisingly quick and efficiently. It harked back to the very first episode, but with role reversals. The mirror is starting to crack.
3 – Chloramenfinocal (S04, E04)
The fate of Nina Sergeevna was sealed the minute she defected and started helping Agent Beeman. The whole episode leading up to her shocking death made it seem like she would dodge a bullet. Especially after helping the Russians get what they wanted out of another prisoner scientist.
And the way they did it was completely jarring, catching everyone off guard. They made her think that she was going to live too only to put a bullet in the back of her head. Even though she knew what she was getting into, falling in love with both sides of the Cold War, no one was ready.
2 – Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep? (S03, E09)
Another glimpse into Elizabeth Jennings’ ‘humanity’ created this gem. When encountering an elderly woman, who catches them bugging the FBI’s office robot, Mrs. Jennings has no choice but to put her down. But before she does the deed, why not have a conversation?
Alas, this is the very essence of what The Americans was to television. Framing days gone by so eloquently as to give this woman her dignity of last words with no violence. A fragment of collateral damage treated with care even by her enemies, or lack there of. It truly pains Elizabeth, but anything for the party. Speaking of which…
1 – The Best The Americans Episodes is Echo (S2, E13)
“It’s the cause… that’s what matters.”
Remember how we said Episode 1 of Season 2 was a precursor of things to come? Well we weren’t lyin’. Turns out the kid Elizabeth had been protecting for ALL OF SEASON 2 had been the actual murderer the whole time. The kid murdered his own family for communist Russia. Watching this episode you realize that there’s more to everything you see on screen.
It also could be an echo of how it all wraps up. After all, Paige is now entrenched in this whole mess and could wind up being a traitor herself, for the good of her comrades.
These are just some of The Americans’ best episodes but we’d HIGHLY advise taking them in for yourself if you haven’t already. If not for the entertainment at least so you could get to know your Facebook friends a bit more intimately.
If you have a penchant for all things ending in nuclear warfare, check out 75 Fallout 4 mods to improve your gaming experience.